Gogol got it right just in the title alone:
There is no reason to open
His book, everything you need
Is right there on its spine.

Hamlet saw his father’s ghost
On the parapets of Castle Elsinore,
Nowadays, he sees him on Facebook,
Which in its nooks and crannies
Is a virtual necropolis
Of the soon to be friendless
Dead. When I die, Lora,
Don’t do it, don’t leave me.
I want to stick around
Until the last server rusts.

If I wrote about Friendster
Or Myspace, this poem
Would be unintelligible
Right now. With an allusion
To Facebook it’s guaranteed
To last at least another year.

Lora, honey, I am
Consumed by my dead friends,
By casket catalogs, by funeral
Suits and suites and requiem
Masses and Calla Lilies and
Those little crochet hooks
That the Egyptians used
To pull out brains. They had
No idea that the brain was the seat
Of reason, and for that,
I am damn glad Herodotus
Called them all pimps and whores.

But this isn’t about me. It’s
Really about poetry.

It starts off being cute,
All those jabbering poems about
Pet Rocks or Pop Rocks fizzle
Out, rock and roll love
Letters to the Bay City Rollers
Crumble to dust. Sometimes,
It is a good thing: officious
Odes to the Boer War, ballads
About beating your wife,
Or the joys of slave ownership,
Or the racial traits of native
Patagonians vanish
Like they were never
Written.

Someone must have scribbled
Down a scurrilous villanelle about the Jews
Causing cholera in Copenhagen—
That one is not missed.

Gogol still speaks from between
The covers of impossibly
Funny books,
And Hamlet’s father rises
To the grave with every new
Printing: I hope these
Are the privileged few,
The Darwinian success
Stories, but slowly, everything
Will eventually go mute,
Obsolete lexicons chipped away
By rats and damp spots,
Dense mats of metaphor
Eaten to Swiss cheese
By bookworms and roaches,
The edges of profound thoughts folded
To oblivion. One day, probably,
Even Shakespeare will
End up in a book chipper,
Pulped and recycled in a world
Bereft of its last tree.

After stabbing the shit
Out of Polonius,
Hamlet said something
About a King being shat out
By a beggar.

This is how he said it in Q1,
The so-called “bad” quarto of 1604:

your fatte king, and your leane beggar are but variable seruices, two dishes to one messe: looke
you, a man may fish with that worme that hath eaten of a king, and a beggar eate that fish, which
that worme hath caught

Then, when Claudius asks WTF?!

Hamlet says:

nothing… but to tell you, how a king may go a progresse through the guttes of a beggar

Is it an irony, then,
To say that one day Hamlet
Will be wiping that beggar’s
Ass?

About the Work

Carl James Grindley

Carl James Grindley grew up on an island off the West Coast of Canada, and studied in the US and Europe. He has taught creative writing at Yale University and works at The City University of New York. Three of his novellas were published in 2008 by No Record Press under the name Icon. He has upcoming work in Eunoia Review, Anastomoo, and Atticus Review.

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