'Pulp Sonnets,' by Tony Barnstone

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Courtesy of Tupelo Press.
(Courtesy of Tupelo Press)

I just read and much enjoyed Prof. Tony Barnstone's "Pulp Sonnets." As the title promises, this is formal rhymed, metered verse (the only kind I like, for better or worse) inspired by pulp novels, science fiction, superhero comics, horror movies and the like. I thought many of you might like them, too, so I thought I'd pass along three:

The Blowfly Thing

I heard a fly buzz when I died. I stepped
inside the chamber to be teleported,
and then it must have been a blue fly crept
inside with me, so when the atoms sorted
themselves again the circuitry gave off
a pop, a blue uncertain stumbling buzz
I molted, left the corpse, and dug a trough
of earth After a week, I rose, a fuzz
of beard below my chin, with great glass wings
and goggle eyes, a metal shell I'm sorry
I know I scare you, laying eggs in things
discarded (garbage, bodies) but don't worry:
If Jesus were a bug he'd be a fly.
I'm born from death and kill death when I rise.

(The author reports that this was inspired by—of course—the two "The Fly" movies, as well as "I heard a Fly buzz—when I died -" by Emily Dickinson and by John Donne's "Death, Be not Proud." "In the Dickinson poem, at the moment of death when the King (Jesus) appears in the room to the dying narrator, a fly comes between her and the light. Flies lay their eggs in corpses, so that they create life out of death, so the Dickinson poem is also about coming back from death—but in a distorted version of the Jesus story in which we achieve carnal rebirth through fly eggs birthing from our bodies.")

One whose twin inspirations need no explanation:

The First Dark Knight

After I fell, I crawled up from the pit,
and though my wings were tarry, still I muscled
into the sky and tossed like a lost kite
on winds blown from a God's fat cheek. I tussled
through Heaven's rolling spheres while like an arc light
the City shone above. Unholy ghost,
I banged the Porcelain Gate as a dark knight
come to wreak revenge against the Host.
And did he send bright angels out to fight?
Did his harsh voice command that I should roast?
No, and no. That riddling two-faced joker.
I banged and banged. He didn't even say,
"No one home." No one has a better poker
face than God. What could I do? I went away.

And one more:

When we broke up, I told him, "You walk through
that door, we're done, no refunds, no returns,"
but then tonight I looked up from the blue
glow of the screen where 70's sideburns
were trapped in time like on some sci-fi show
and I heard stumbling footsteps on the porch,
a scrabbling at the knob, saw two DayGlo
eyes peering in the pane. Dad's old blowtorch
was in his sculpture studio. I ran
for it and hit the flint just as the door
crashed in. The thing that used to be my man
pawed at me with his zombie hands. Hardcore.
In retrospect, I did what was humane:
"You stoner Fuck!" I screamed, and cooked his brain.

In any event, the book is full of these—128 sonnets in all (plus one villanelle), quite varied. An impressive achievement, and much worth reading. (You can also see the author's discussion of the poems here.)

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