“Poem for Neil Postman” by Erik Campbell

Erik Campbell


it’s happened Neil, this
poem is proof that
you are indeed a prophet

I saw the verdict
last night on television

it was 101 degrees last night
and on channel 26
all the cattle in the world
were dying

and suddenly there was
Alex Trebek on an infomercial,
pimp-like and slick
trying to sell me (can you
believe it?) the classics

a different classic on a
different tape, each classic
just under 45 minutes

“if you’re like me”
Trebek said
“you can’t seem to find
the time to sit down
and read a classic like
The Iliad

but with this special offer
you’ll be able to sit back
and relax as one of the classics
is read to you
by such famous personalities as

Tom Arnold (Hamlet)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Idiot)
Joan Rivers (Notes from the Underground)
Elizabeth Taylor (The Cantos)
Charlton Heston (The Antichrist)
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (The Importance
of Being Earnest) just to name a few

each classic neatly and coherently
so as to run just under an hour

enrich your life with a
a long deserved foundation
in The Classic Literary Tradition

for the low
low price of $29.99 a month
for 23 months!”

“come now” I think I hear
him say “you can afford it!

Faust paid less!”

and then Trebek went on
to expound upon
the virtues of a classic education
and how it makes him
a ready wit in
dinner conversation

I threw the ashtray
through the television screen
and drafted a formal surrender
to the cosmos
in rhyming blank verse and

walking to the post office
I thought to myself

it’s all this heat
it makes the shit smell worse

and after I mail this surrender
I think I’ll go home and burn
all of my books
so there won’t be any evidence
any proof when they come for me
except for

of course
this poem

which I would pay
at least $29.99
to have read to me
abridged or un-
over and over
by Kato Kaelin.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003


Erik Campbell: “One afternoon in the summer of 1994 I was driving to work and I heard Garrison Keillor read Stephen Dunn’s poem ‘Tenderness’ on The Writer’s Almanac. After he finished the poem I pulled my car over and sat for some time. I had to. That is why I write poems. I want to make somebody else late for work.” (web)

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