This poem was written a few days after seeing the "movie" Forest Gump;
I read it at the Midnight Special Bookstore Friday night poetry slam a few nights later.


Highway Gump Revisited

By Gary Gordon, July 1994


"I was feeling kind of seasick

When the comet hit

Sent me into a light fandango

Followed by a bowl of Cocoa Krispies

Hadn't eaten that in years

Should we call out the agitators?

Is there something in the air?


Clinton visited the floods in Georgia

Fell out of the boat and drowned

Al Gore took over

Nobody noticed


All part of the cultural memory loss

Legend has it you can pinpoint the moment

when people forgot everything

to the moment when that plume of gas

shot off Jupiter

But nobody remembers for sure

So now everybody just wanders

Scratching their heads like goofy cartoon characters

Trying to figure out what they were about

Looking for clues


Here's a street: we must travel here

Here's a streetlight: what's that mean?

Here's a lottery ticket: that must be important

The library's closed: must not be important

Here's huge well-built homes where only a few people live

Here's shitty shacks where lots of people live;

What's that all about?

Was Elvis president?

Was Nixon a rock star?

Who is O.J.?


Mama says when a comet strikes a planet and

everyone loses their cultural memory,

There are lots of questions

Maybe more than ever before


 

People bump into walls and say

"Okay, I hear you" or "I'm a victim! or

"Bumping into walls is my job"

They used to say "Ouch".


They read newspapers

watch TV

listen to music

go to movies

Trying to sort it out

Who are we?

What are we doing here?"


A week after the Comet hit an answer begins to sweep the population:

We are here to

wear Sunglasses


Sunglasses are cool

It is the thing that everyone in the culture can agree on and does well

Maybe there are other cultures halfway around the world who disagree

So what?

Sunglasses are cool and we are here to wear them


Everyone looks better in sunglasses

Fat people

Skinny people

Hip people

Nerds

Blacks

Whites

Any color

No matter

Sunglasses make you look cooler


Ask James Dean

Or General MacArthur

Or the Highway Patrolman

Or the jazz player

Ask anybody


 

So the sociologists and anthropologists and

TV talk-show hosts and newspaper pundits

begin their scramble

Why do Sunglasses make everyone look so cool?

What is it about our society?

Our make-up that makes this simple thing so?


It's an image

Deeply ingrained in the modern population

Hasn't existed long

But long enough

Deep enough

Jesus didn't wear shades

Or Galileo

King George the Third

Or Davy Crockett

It's in the 20th Century DNA

Sunglasses?

Cool.


So now it's two weeks after the comet hit

Everybody's wearin' shades

Readin' newspapers

Trying to follow something called

The Health Care Reform Debate

The National Drug Policy Debate

The Crime Bill Debate

None of it makes much sense


But there is a movie everyone is starting to buzz about

It's great, it's great, it's GREAT, IT'S GREAT!!!

It's all about recent history, they say

It tells us what we once knew but forgot when--


 

"Did a comet hit a planet?


Well, this movie,

it's about a guy like us

Doesn't know much

Means well

bumps into walls

and apologizes

Well, he met presidents

And fought in Vietnam

And was the fastest runner ever

(Faster than O.J.)

And he was the best Ping Pong player ever

And that's why there's peace with China

And he helped John Lennon write a song

And he helped make up that bumper sticker, you know...


And it shows what really happened in that war

See, our soldiers were nice guys

Victims, really

They shoot only when they're shot at

That's what you see

And you don't see them kill anyone

And these peace movement people

They wear strange clothes

They love to say the "F" word 'cause they're obscene

And one of them hits a girl

And the black ones carry guns

Our soldiers didn't hit any women

But the peace movement guy did

Our soldiers didn't threaten anyone with physical violence

But the peace movement people did

That's what you see

That's the images on the screen

Images for our DNA

For our cultural memory loss

Powerful

Like

Sunglasses?

Cool?"


 

I was feelin' kind of seasick

When the crowd called out for more

And God told Abraham to kill his son

I asked poor Howard where can I go

Mack's trying to unload busted telephones

At the foot of a statue of Paul Revere's horse

And Saint Annie and Sweet Melissa are dancing with the Sergeant-At-Arms

Mama's in the basement

Someone's trying to sell me a postcard of a hanging

While a promoter's trying to stage the third World War

My job is not to endorse your values

My job is to point out what I see

And I've just seen

"Ballad Of A Gump Man"

On Disinformation Highway 61