All 200 bad poems (1-236)

In the month of March, which is a tough month because it is the end of winter and winter is bad, I discovered, in a file on my computer, 36 bad poems that I had written in 2017. I had no memory of writing these poems but I thought that they were good and I wanted to write more of them. I thought I would do 200, after Anthony Clark (who invented the 200 bad comics challenge a million years ago). To make it harder I said I would do them in two weeks. I almost did that but I did not thanks to a stressful trip that I took in the middle of this journey. Anyway, they have already been posted on this website, but here are all 200 poems I wrote in March together with the initial 36.

too sad to think
I am too sad 
but I am writing poems 
poems don’t need thought

a poem about economic insecurity
economic insecurity sucks
there’s a moth
always crushing your brain

tips for managing yr workload
throw your task list 
into the garbage can
no one will ever notice

a crisis for office managers
dave said he couldn’t work Thursday
but shirley booked Thursday off
well, someone needs to be here

when your boss hates your life
with a wink and a grin he says
you don’t have to come in Monday
“come in only when I want you”

he brags he’s never been called a fag
I wouldn’t say he leads a privileged life
but someone should go back in time
and kick him in the pants

why don’t you
why don’t you do this?
this has always come easy to me
or you could do this instead?

remember when money was real
when money came from god
or depravity or violence
there was no need for illusion

when you keep checking your phone
the flowers stop blooming
a gust of wind blows through an alley
I’m waiting for you

it’s not fun being fun
when everything has to be “good”
what are you?
a libertine of others’ kindness 

you make me second guess myself
I wish I could be pure and free
riding on a motorcycle
gunning it through god’s will 

I wish God existed
it’s so hard living without Him
no one ever says hi to me
peering from my hole

wait what’s depression
is it this
or this
or maybe this

when you can’t get out of bed
there’s an owl perched on your shoulder
now it’s walking down your back
now its head is turning around

is there something wrong
i’ll ask you this now
since it’s just us here
is everything okay?

I just want to complain
I want to talk about this
and this
and this, and this

when you have a bad attitude
it’s like you’re drunk
in a forest
and everyone’s there

the city hates me
what would it be like
to perch comfortably
on the city’s shoulder?

trust the lake
there are few things more honest
than large bodies 
of churning water

when you’re melancholy
make yourself a sandwich
dance in your bedroom
bury yourself in flowers and dirt

are you tired
there’s a supplement
one or two pills a day
it’s just orange juice

on the edge of the world
look how much
over there 
and there too

I’m in a cave 
I’ll sit in this corner
now on this stalagmite
boy the lighting sucks

hungry for rivers
what could be better
something so cool and fresh
and twisty

if only
if only I could fold my attitude
into a kite, or a paper airplane
or a job

seven dollars
is that what it costs
well alright
you cleaned me out

fun for two
look at them frolic
they’re tangled and twisting
like two angry snakes

the mirror’s broken
I lean this way 
now this way
now I’m ducking my head

god I’m so erratic
but it’s important
to say what you feel
’till you part from life

when you keep dropping the ball
hi friends
me again
my third apology

what is it
what is it
what is it
what is it

a bad mosaic
let’s try something new
give me those tiles
I’ll glue them to the wall

everyone’s insufferable
I’m so rude
I forgot
about our bomb

let’s have a party
who’s coming
are you coming
are you

another party
what if
neither of us
ever comes

without hope
what’s endearing about you 
is that when you look up
you see something

without hope 2
but at least I know
when there’s nothing

yes I’m hungry
I know I should eat
I just don’t want to

they said
they said he would never do it
they said he would amount to nothing

are you serious
you can’t be 
come on guy

I pretended to be 
an authority, this morning
for about six minutes

listen I do really want to eat
it’s just when I think about it
it makes it even worse

have you met crystal yet
she’s really cool
I like her new owl

yeah I gave it up
just like that
cold turkey

cold turkey
I just don’t think about it anymore
it’s totally out of my head

today a pedant
I’d like to explain something to you
now to you
excuse me—do you have a minute?

good exercise
it’s good exercise 
you know?
where are you going? 

sitting alone 
in the locker room
with my shoulders locked up

excuse me
I’m in a bit of a hurry

you’re terrified
look, I get it
everyone feels this way
now box the owl

once again
one day, frank, I swear
someone’s finally going to beat 
this stupid bird

what do you want
I’m looking out the window
the city is gleaming

how we read
if that poem’s in a book
maybe it’s a poem 
maybe it’s a bird

only lowlifes do this
today I stayed in bed
a car honked outside
then another car

charming glow
god I love to order breakfast
from a self serve terminal
bathed in a charming glow

remember your youth
stuck on a bus
slinking around corners
waiting for a bell to release you

coat on a chair
from this angle, a stranger
a cold stranger
who doesn’t want to join us

a dark mood
all day I feel it 
but I can’t describe it
someone is following me

I was alone in that room
when the door opened I jumped
then I was alone again

my friend LeBron James
proably an a-hole?
but he cries under a towel
that’s nice for a king

my sin
when you choose to do bad
it’s a sin. and if you didn’t choose
maybe you just forgot

I thought I was going to run
I could see it coming
not too far off
then it veered away

a polite phone call
they tell me they can hear someone 
speaking and not speaking
but not the words

derek beaulieu
a nice beard on video chat
but he blocked me 
on twitter

mutual friend
I think you know him
about yea high
eyes like pools of water

mutual friend 2
paul! you’ll never believe it
our mutual friend
drowned in himself

looking away
you know when you feel
someone trying not to look
hey! just close your eyes

going places
you ever go somewhere
and realize
you are too tired to leave

I’m doing well
look at all of these nice things
all piled up around me 
in grocery bags

I’m ok
while I was shelving 
my heart stopped
then it started again

the heart
a lot of blood moving
this way and that
really makes you think

the perfect poem
came to me in bed
“I’ll never 
forget this”

to the moon
where do lost things go
like poems
perfectly formed

dogs in little coats
who put your feet 
those tiny balloons 

owners of small businesses
love to talk 
it is how they “get the word out”
about their carpet shampooing

it takes a lot
to imagine yourself speaking
how does anyone do it

on the moon
hey Kim 
check this out
pretty funny poem

this poem is out of control
it is not going to the office
it is not going to grocery store
it isn’t walking the dog

after three days of warm temperature
and then rain, all of the snow is hard, and grey, and thick
perfect for keeping your bowling ball out of the gutter

here’s the truth: my voice
keeps rising, and I keep saying more
and soon my head will lift from my shoulders

it’s hard to talk to me in the winter
when every thought
I deflect with a stick

Miriam told me she knows she needs to start writing
when she follows her partner reading the news
angry at everything she has seen 

is waiting in front of a Paris bakeshop
and there are rows and rows of skeletons
and they all want a pistachio danish

high snowbank
the dog perches neatly on the huge snowbank
somewhere high above 
an owl watches him poo

I keep rubbing my face
as if I’m trying to take it off
I’m not sure what I’m trying to say

a car splashed me with water
I shouted “fuck off”
it sounded like a little bitch

wrong parallel park
four sheets of drywall in the car I park behind
the guy says c’mon you idiot move your car
can’t you see this is a real construction zone

real construction zone
two pickup trucks and a broken piano on the front porch
every time I pass I think about how the man 
threatened to beat me up with his “guys”

his guys
when he came back he was telling his guy 
the guy said “no worries, we can move them”
I’m sure he’d have preferred otherwise

night walk
the dog wants to go out 
I’ve been asleep for two hours
in the morning she says he pooed three tiny sticks

murder mystery
my character had three accents
and someone killed me
but not the right person

the accents
are accidental! where’s my voice
literally any one

sex cards
you’re supposed to trade them
they signify that you “did it”
but I only have two 

if you don’t know what to say
sometimes you can just stand there
and the conversation will leave you

I’m worried I don’t care about anything
where’s my zest! 
I watch an episode of Russian Doll

first meeting
when I first met the dog I thought
oh god 
imagining it was too much to grant

I didn’t want to know a dog
come on
it sounds like the beginning of a holiday movie

the truth
it seemed exhausting
all that enthusiasm! 
but the dog generates it himself

a literary solution
there are two ways of solving your problems
one involves getting your hands dirty
the other, turning things around in your head

3D chess
sometimes it feels like I’m playing 3D chess
with God
and God doesn’t care if he wins or loses

big magazines
you have to “play the game”
and “get off Twitter”
and “read a single book”

go to dinner
why didn’t you go to dinner
with the big editor
or kiss his hand when he put down the breadsticks

the office
the fidget spinner came apart in my hands
and I explained what it was 
as it spun wobbly with only two balls

the office 2
as I screwed in the third bearing she asked me
how does it work? —I had no idea
“bernoulli’s principle” (I’m dumb)

that’s terrifying 
Zak messaged me after I sent him notes from a lecture 
Gordon Lish had given on July 14 2018
“I’m still terrified,” he wrote me, half an hour later

I saw my friend’s “friend” walking in front of Shopper’s
they were lovers but not for a while now
their eyes flashed in the rain

tri-corner hats
yeah I ate three of those cookies
as soon as she pulled the bag out
I’m proud of it

we’re moving books from one section of the library
to another section of the library
it’s like they’re taking a little trip

in the tunnel the train stops completely
someone’s sleeping with his hand covering his face
I think he must be faking

Carson was already hitting the ball
when I arrived at the court and apologized
he said “no, you released me”

none of the photos I have seem good enough
the water is either too shallow, or too deep
no one’s going to believe I’m water polo MVP

for a long time in the office I think
I’m the only one who is going to be here
the loneliest of all outcomes

quiet 2
shortly after my colleague arrives
it starts, just a little bit, to rain
I get up and look out the window

the side door
most people buy their cars either through 
the front door (dealerships) or the back door (stealing)
I wait in parking lots and say “please?”

if I ran a queer burlesque or was myself a performer
and I’m not saying this is happening 
my show would be called “Daddy Augustine”

when I’m holding the book in front of me
I say what I like 
“I think I’m at least a deist now”

the side door 2
I love my new range rover with 4×4 and a v6
thanks Val in the parking lot who thought it was sweet
to ask so politely

if you want to go back in time 
just open Apple’s “iMusic” app 
and put on the Fiery Furnaces’s I’m Going Away

Google says the above-mentioned Fiery Furnaces album
didn’t come out until three years later
regardless I maintain my initial point

Gordon Lish 
I tell Zak I think Lish will never die 
living long enough to bury us both. 
but I quickly retract it: he’s old as fuck and I want to live

thank you Val
I drove over to Val’s house 
—she still had a trunk full of groceries—
and pet her dog and wrestled her kids

another office poem
every thirty minutes one of us gets up
to go to the bathroom or refresh our water
I try to close the door as silently as possible

if you get two beers in me I will tell you about God
here’s what I think God is: wild injustice, 
and certain perfectly-worded poems

André Alexis
every Wednesday I sit in a room with André Alexis
and about eight or nine others
which used to vaguely upset me because we have the same name

Neil shows me his new baby carriage
he got it used, a sweet deal
the “Indie” model, for parents with $800, and beards

I keep rescheduling 
and thinking I have lost you
then the dam bursts and I get overwhelmed

comedy show
it’s packed and I have a headache
people keep pushing past me to buy drinks
“I’m going to kill myself,” says a performer

I’ve been thinking 
I see the whole world through these things
that’s gotta count for something

Tintin is hiding behind the corner
Snowy is crouched behind a bush
Milou is descending from a rope

street cats
now that it’s warmer it’s time for them to come out
parade their little furry haunches
take elaborate shits

tuna salad
pickled onions and lettuce and maiyonnaise 
and capers and bay leaves and dragonflies
tarragon, sunsets, and rivers

my soup
it’s been almost a week since we ate it
but I still think about it fondly
my soup

wreckage pile
here we have one tractor trailer 
a jar of old peanut butter and
your old man’s favourite gloves

someone says they can’t be sustained
more than three or four times in a book
but what if you make them the point

sci-fi bro
it’s an unkind nickname for someone who thinks 
about constraint, and automatic writing, and god
but still: he lifts and he likes sci-fi

his bed
meme lord posts on facebook: she cheated on him
in the apartment he paid for, in his bed
that he paid for

Aunt Becky posts on social media her recipe
for chickpeas: just add olive oil, salt,
cayenne, pepper, and roast! xox

a lot of people think emotions are just 
content but it’s our job to use them 
like bombs

owl party
hey man hoot hoot
hell yeah check out that rat
oh perfect pellet dude

owl party 2
yeahhh woo heck ya
uh huh uh huh
we’re the silent killer baby

get it under control
here hand me that rope and those bungee cables
okay now the scotch tape
now the hair gel

skeleton dad
they joked that his middle name stands for a pile of bones
this was eight or nine years ago
a pile of bones and thick glass frames

git boy skit
we don’t want you around no more
god I love you so much

grocery daddy
hard to feel like a cool guy
when you approach the checkout
with paper towels and almond milk

two models of teaching: constructivist and revelationary
I don’t always understand what he’s saying
but then something reaches me like the voice of God

a letter
dear graduate student does your work
contain any references to Justin Trudeau, or field mice
or a moose gently chewing a bullrush

my white friend
I never thought the snow would leave
which is why I trusted it with all my secrets
now it’s gone, my white friend

a great model
in Berlin they’re seizing all units above 3,000
owned by corporate landlords and renting them below market value
I just think it’s a good idea

tiny apartment 
the last tenant lived here for four or five years
after she left we gutted the place and put in all new fixtures
and jacked the rent two or three times

jacking the rent
if your whole family works in real estate 
it doesn’t matter how many fancy dinners they make
or mimosas they prepare or hugs they gave you

surefire investment
at night I enter their apartments and turn on all the taps
and in the morning I walk back and forth outside
renting mops

studio available
I take a photo of the placard 
while an old man watches, aghast
later, the number is too blurry to dial

for more than a week I stopped making these
it was too much, to do this and imagine myself flying just one hour away
to deliver a fifteen minute talk to a seven-person audience

excuse in an email
“I’m sorry, I thought that I could that I could see past
it, but it turns out I can’t, this stupid talk
keeps circling in my head”

anticipating things you’ve never done
some get excited
others anxious, imagining every possibility
I stare, like a snake has captured me with hypnosis

modern academia
I should have known it was no big deal
when the conference kept sending me emails
advertising discounted rooms for $200 a night

your final ultrasound
in this appointment there are three possible outcomes:
first, a healthy baby; second, a baby, maybe, not so healthy;
third, you are carrying a tiny dinosaur in your womb

wand in the jelly
okay here we have what looks like an arm…
so far so good… that flesh looks pink and fat to me…
oh… bad luck… this claw says you’ve got a Deinonychus 

nature finds a way
when you’re carrying a dinosaur you’re flown
to a remote island compound where a man in a white lab coat
sits you down in a makeshift nest and urges you to “complete”

literary readings
oh how I love to see writers walk up and down
to the microphone, up and down from the podium,
where they read from a few pages and sit back down again

standing in a large crowd paths form between the people milling
and you are forced to wonder as you plot your maneuvers
why it seems so intolerable to talk to any person

pause for thanks
the next time I read I am going to pause after every paragraph
and wait for such a long time that people think I am finished
and begin speaking again and again through their applause

wine glasses are not for that
when you are finished with your wine glass do not
put it on the floor, do not step on it, do not squeeze it 
in your hands until the delicate glass shatters

more things you should not do with wine glasses
do not take a bite out of your wine glass like it is 
a cake or a delicate pastry, do not grind the wine glass 
slowly into your palm, do not throw it suddenly against the wall

after every poet 
I am first to the bar table, where I get another glass:
pointing first to the cab, then the superior shiraz, 
then I guess the pinot, then the shiraz again

professional dog breeders
they took a test in Mississauga
now they’re on a flight with us to Washington
they talk loudly and seem horrible: their idol is Warren Buffet

when is it time to idolize Warren Buffet?
when you want to pretend your love of money 
is anodyne, when you decide you want to fetishize
eight dollar haircuts, and exploitation, for the rest of your life

more about Warren Buffet
in my dad’s many books about our friend W
he is always portrayed sitting with humility 
in an empty room surrounded by admirers, receiving petition after petition

eight dollar haircuts
imagine how wanton, how reckless
a man with 82.3 billion dollars 
would be if he spent upwards of thirty dollars on his hair

believing in God in the fourteenth century
and here’s the moat where the sinners are whipped
and here’s the pool of tar where everyone drowns perpetually
oh—this is great, these guys stand up to their necks in excrement

but there’s more
these guys go around with prongs and fish out the bodies
these guys wear lead coats and walk very slowly
and the heads of these ones look out over their butts

Dante escapes hell
climbing with Virgil down Satan’s back
then through a hole between the legs
Dante looks up, surprised not to see Satan’s balls

USA: white uber driver 
complains about his dad, a bastard, who forced his brother to play 
football, and break himself, because he never could, but 
my driver, he didn’t play, that showed his pops (now dead—driver’s 58)

USA: “be careful in this neighbourhood”
did you notice how I didn’t honk my horn
or get angry at that car? you have to be careful here
one wrong move could get you killed

USA: black uber driver
“you’re staying near my place, that’s great, I can go home”
I tell him it seems quiet there, and he turns around
looks at me, sincerely: “it is”

push the box out blocking the hallway
open the door to the balcony
bask in the piles of racooon shit

more of this
last Sunday I laid my coat down 
on the grass of the National Mall
and read Pascal Duarte while ice cream trucks rang their bells

homesick in Washington
if you’re from Toronto and you’re 
the only one left from that city
walk to the Hirshhorn and look at the Henry Moore

buy Kraft peanut butter 
on the internet, and incessantly google 
“Tennis champion Bianca Andreescu”

“the end of the nightmare is right now”
I wrote that in my notebook two weeks ago
a title for a poem: now I’m not sure 
what it was referring to—I guess this nightmare is ongoing

“our long national nightmare” 
this means something else: a shared dream
in which everyone closes their eyes 
and twitches fearfully in bed

the professor is pulling his old tricks
standing confused at the blackboard
shuffling quietly through his notes
awkwardly clearing his throat

the students are “wise” to him
diligently reading the textbook
asking questions when the lecture is over
drafting their essays weeks in advance

a grocery kick
yeah, I’m not eating out as much—
I discovered this thing called “groceries” 
you buy the ingredients and put them together?

it’s like magic
wait!—you could eat that carrot as is
but watch what happens 
when it sits in this pot

a nice thing about America
when you open the stall door and there’s someone
sitting with his pants around his ankles
you don’t have to feel shy telling a bystander that now you “have to leave”

the nice thing, explained
Americans will talk to you
instead of wondering forever
whether it would be polite to speak up

in my case
the silver-haired, average-looking white man
met my eyes and chuckled earnestly
as we scurried away

almost done 
out of 200 poems 
I have twelve more to do
(now eleven)

“open for business”
idiotically, I feel motivated to end this project
with ten poems inspired by Dante’s journey 
through the darkest spaces—and our new hell

a valley
I was wandering alone through a hollow
trying to ascend a ridge, but a large man with slicked-back hair
kept bumping into me, grinding his round teeth, snorting powder

here a crowd of Greeks sits on a Danforth patio
they were still lamenting the performance of Ford the younger
on stage, wasted at a “Taste of” festival years before

according to Aristotle, the prime moving force
is love—it keeps the planets in orbit, more reliably
than your corpulence, using a twenty to bring yourself to completion 

god, this is stupid—I mean this whole project
and also to write a poem about gluttony for a man whose 
hunger is already never-ending, whose jaws eagerly snap chicken bones

“low hanging fruit”: this poem, and something our large father
picks easily from the branches of this province
while juice drips from his monstrous lips

I’m looking forward to the day 
two fat flames burn with the violence 
of the Theban pyre shared by two brothers

listen I’m already exhausted
by these half-assed 
political poems

what would it take to save us from the forces 
claiming to stick up for “the little guy” 
by squeezing them for all that they’re worth?

there are all kinds of fraud, which is 
knowing misrepresentation or false counsel:
for good reason it’s one of the lowest circles of hell

anyway in hell’s darkest circle, that guy with slicked-back hair
from before, he was being chewed in each of Satan’s three mouths
and Jesus Christ was sitting in a lawn chair, cheering Satan on

I’d be betraying my friends and my poems by ending this with 
bad Christian allegory—and I’d also be short of 200
since the first thirty-six were written in 2017

an interesting year
which I remember now
for a “couple things”

“a couple things”
a relationship, finally ended
a hundred emails
another relationship (more emails would follow)

writing these has been a kind of trial
and I’m not sure if it’s these poems or the weather
but I feel better than when I started

climbing the mountain
like I’m having the word for “sin” wiped off my forehead
by the brush of an angel’s wings, each poem is helping

the discovery
when I found the first 36, just last month
I was searching my hard-drive for a poem
I wrote in 2013 about “having a bad attitude”

the poem about having a bad attitude
was written after attending a craft workshop
in a museum in the middle of the country
attended by just me and two twelve year old girls

committed to my art
she looks at me from the couch
gets up, saunters over
but I’m writing these poems

committed to my art 2
with determination I turn back to the screen
she walks back to the couch
and hugs the dog

an owl sends me a “flame email”
it takes me three hours to download
it’s a 3D model of a rat, partially digested
in the centre is a message on a piece of paper: “fuck you”

a golden relationship
Fawn says “from a distance your relationship
seems ‘golden’”—which means, I think
that it casts a certain reflection and has a particular atomic weight

the cafe is packed
initially I can’t find a seat
I squeeze in between a stroller 
and some guy watching “Rick and Morty” on his phone

things I tell Charlotte
I feel bad I don’t miss my cats 
as much as I should right now, and, I don’t know
everything else seems OK

my answer
when people ask what I’ve been doing 
I reach back into myself
and dart my eyes back and forth

inside myself
I walk from one corner of the room
to the other, and accidentally
bump a vase balanced on a plinth

dave gets cut off in traffic
what the fuck!
I can’t believe it

dave wins the superbowl
what the fuck!
I can’t believe it

dave is stranded on the moon
what the fuck!
I can’t believe it

an owl combs my hair
beating its wings
holding me still
I’m trying to swat it away

a silent morning
dishes in the sink
light splashed against the wall
a dog tearing back and forth

will I ever run again
whenever I think about running
an owl lands in front of me
spreads its majestic wings

darlene smears whiteout on the copier
it costs about five cents and takes
two seconds—just reprint it all
darlene! what were you thinking? 

a lineup in front of the “good” watercooler
ever since we got this new cooler 
with the “cold” and “lukewarm” tap
the old cooler seems like a real piece of crap

a serious meeting
I’ve called all of you in here this morning
because I’m lonely and 
I don’t know what else to do

let’s impose a vacancy tax
and combine our funds to live
in a big house in Forest Hill—the one I used to spy on
every week, with a well-kept pool and piles of boxes through the windows

if anything comes from these poems
I hope it has to do with solving the real estate crisis 
or, perhaps, greater proliferation of and cultural exchange with owls

I do miss my cats
this month I saw them at least once a week
but I know they are well cared for
and it means I can stay more or less in one place

cat dreams 
last year, I left my cats for over a week
the first time in maybe six years
after two weeks I dreamt their jaws fell off, horrifying

the first cat dream
came just after I crossed the Atlantic
I dreamt I floated back over the water
and explained in detail that I was just taking a trip

taking it further
imposing a vacancy tax on unused rooms will mean 
homeowners will have to make some tough calculations
for instance: one living room, or two?

a “literary” ending
I don’t want to overstate the effect
that writing these poems has had on my psyche:
honestly they’re just bad poems

but in ending anything I always want
to pretend to some kind of revelation
something that gives the appearance of permanence
though always fleeting

2013, 2011, 2015, 2017
this isn’t a list of bad years
just years, in which I had 
both a good and bad time

2012, 2016, 2014, 2018
the only problem with these years
is that neither the highs nor the lows
stayed put

my back was sore and I was looking up at the skylight
I was tired and I was thinking about life
everything seemed to be slipping away
not for good or bad had things changed
but in a way I never could have predicted 
the variety seemed too much to endure

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