John B. Oldenborg: Three Poems for Bad Survivalist

Bad Survivalist: John Oldenborg

After the Great Miami-Dade Snail Invasion of 1966

When there are no more breadcrumbs
flocks of the elderly and seagulls dissipate
scents from their cottage chimneys (yes the seagulls
too have chimneys) Scents
of windowsill pies
and chamomile
There are many contracts
This is one of them
Since grandma gets depressed
when the seagulls don’t visit
And the seagulls attack
my grandma She forgets who she is
where she’s walking and why
her burlap breadcrumb bag
feels so empty
The seagulls (yes the seagulls)
have attacked my grandma
What else can you do
when there are no more breadcrumbs

I will GoFundMe an activist guerilla army of giant African landsnails
I will give them all skateboards so they can really shred
I will unleash them on the neighborhood
Introduce them to the lawns of my enemies Let them digest
the GreenWise across the street
that sprung from our favorite local arcade
burned down a month ago (I know it was arson)
Let the snails chip away that stucco build up
The calcium whorls of their shells cause localized
catastrophes Hold vegetables and fruits and shoppers all hostage
Please forgive me
I have already deployed a platoon of dislocated giant African landsnails
All revolutions violent
All leaders tyrants
Paint this as manifesto Call it Militarized Goliath
Snail Force Dance Dance Revolution I’m sorry I guess
I’m just really pissed off and paranoid
I keep thinking
It’s the CIA sending seagulls
to attack my grandma (yes the seagulls) Yes
officer I will put down the snails

My Online Dating Strategy

There’s a cat out there named Napoleon
you can’t say I’m wrong
you haven’t kissed him as I have
Plausibility that bastard of imagination
and a wild horse
grazing just outside a Nevadan suburb
I say I will write a story for your cat Napoleon
I say I will deadlift the ocean
I make promises but write them in cursive

There was some yeehaw
shit going on at the bar
at the oyster shack
Lonesome fiddle-string snaps
inside me I shuffle
my feet into nighttime air
see Napoleon the cat
don a hat which you’d expect
the genuine Napoleon is sporting
right now in his grave

Napoleon says meow
but in a sultry way
I say “Oh …” glance
at the other patio faces
their expressions say YES
Napoleon says Hey
did you know
I’m the real Napoleon
I never died
I’m a cat now
I’m easily baffled

since he has the angel voice
of Jon Heder and Camus whispering
about how I should be happy
to hug absurdly large boulders
chiseled in the likenesses of ancient rulers but

sometimes I find it hard to hug anything at all
so when you meet a talking animal
you just live in the wake of their language
let it hug you

Napoleon mounts his white piebald horse
Napoleon hoists me upon his white piebald horse
Napoleon puts the horse in reverse it beeps like a forklift rolling backwards
The piebald breath mists gently into our fluorescent city

Napoleon kisses me on the cheek
We ride off with an army of snails into the freezing
hillgrass of twilight
and I hear the wolves a howlin’

Fantastic! Tallboy as Jouster and Earthworm

He thrice repeats: Get back in the saddle Monsieur (Get back in the saddle
Monsieur Get back in the saddle
Monsieur Get back
in the saddle Monsieur)

All call for Fantastic! Jouster Tallboy Now
his arms al
Dente and skydancer He steps
through the land of an earthworm
Considers the best parts
of his many tournaments:
Interstices of gallops Balloons
of breath before shards
of wooden lances

He wants to grasp ongoings
Assuage his affixion His fear
not columns of darkness but the brief flight
of arrow between them
Lo it is impossible to remember
the trajectories of anything
of a horserace Under the rust
of a helmet
of many artificial feathers
of faceless brass
medallions Trajectories
of horses Desperate urge to capture
long gones Long gone

presents Imaginary saboteurs
in subterranean bedrolls tunneling Contemp
lating Socratic Methods The rhetorical effect of chasing
hemlock shots with off-brand OxyClean What then
of ‘lethality?’
Popular martyrdoms? He must know what survives
in the ruins of brightly burned circus heroics Warped
denarius turns quicksilver What falls upon him
are not magnificent swords
Tallboy is still

still beside his steed at the southeast side of the stadium The stonefaces say
Get back in the saddle Tallboy Call him Fantastic! Call him Fantastic!
Still he tries to visualize the trajectories of everything
The whistling flightpaths of spectator stones Queues of angry
angry stones The speedlines of a lovely piebald
horse A herald A rival lance
pierces the air’s gossamer membranes and his fantastic solar plexus
The rays of its nervous blood en plein air A plummeting king
fisher The stasis of a frozen lake
Now a plastic heart Oh
clutch its sacredness
Crave not the beat but the beating

John B. Oldenborg attends the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he is earning an MFA in poetry. His work has previously appeared in The Hunger. His favorite pizza toppings are pepperoni and black olives. He is scared of the screaming guy from the band Death Grips.


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