This poem refers to events from the podcast S*Town.
A Rose for John B.
You hailed from Shittown, Alabama
where intolerance begets intolerance.
Your large worldview lost on a small town,
like a genius wading in a shallow gene pool,
your existence was far from copacetic.
While others called it bunk, you ranted a bombastic
tirade of conspiracies and climate change. Beneath the
unroofed splendour of fields and forest, you circumscribed
the maze and called out their latin names as you raged:
petunias, cast iron plants, and Russian sage.
(Long were you lost in a labyrinth of your own intellect,
at once the hero, the monster, and the architect.)
As Theseus, a saviour to strays, you championed the foundling
who, cousins claimed, had absquatulated with your gold.
The good son quested your legacy beneath the maze, deep in the forest,
and below the house, resolved to change his fate
through dank passages barred with iron gate.
You, Daedalus, labouring to restore lost time,
in your workshop practiced dangerous arts of horology,
suffered the same fate as the hat maker, the clock guilder,
the daguerreotype designer. Probable cause:
a slow-growing madness corroding the wheels and cogs.
Enter the Minotaur, bullheaded and monstrous,
its thick hide stippled with inky marks. You wore your pain
across your back and chest, eased the anguish with whip lashings,
nipple rings, and a sundial where etched your ills:
Each wounds; the last kills.
Your life was an astrolabe measuring the moments,
spinning a complex dance to which few could keep time.
You left this planet with a little more space,
more love than you could grasp,
and witness marks to trace your path.
She picks out her words
carefully: bright, precious shells
exposed by low tides.
- 2011 Poem-A-Day Contest Winner, The Ideas Exchange & Cambridge Centre for the Arts