We're used to the media digging up dirt on potential presidential candidates: charges of sexual misconduct, financial malfeasance, personal or professional hypocrisy. We're pretty much used to the dirty games politicians play. But this is a first for us: Barack Obama has been revealed as a POET. And not a particularly good one. In the early eighties, before Obama made his way to Columbia University, he was a student at Occidental College here in LA. Two current students there with too much time on their hands (shouldn't they be studying for exams?) dug through back issues of the campus literary magazine and found two published poems written by one Barack Obama, age 19. Perhaps someone with better critical faculties than us can interpret for us the deeper meaning of these bon mots: Under water grottos, caverns/Filled with apes/That eat figs.
Sitting in his seat, a seat broad and broken
In, sprinkled with ashes,
Pop switches channels, takes another
Shot of Seagrams, neat, and asks
What to do with me, a green young man
Who fails to consider the
Flim and flam of the world, since
Things have been easy for me;
I stare hard at his face, a stare
That deflects off his brow;
I'm sure he's unaware of his
Dark, watery eyes, that
Glance in different directions,
And his slow, unwelcome twitches,
Fail to pass.
I listen, nod,
Listen, open, till I cling to his pale,
Beige T-shirt, yelling,
Yelling in his ears, that hang
With heavy lobes, but he's still telling
His joke, so I ask why
He's so unhappy, to which he replies...
But I don't care anymore, cause
He took too damn long, and from
Under my seat, I pull out the
Mirror I've been saving; I'm laughing,
Laughing loud, the blood rushing from his face
To mine, as he grows small,
A spot in my brain, something
That may be squeezed out, like a
Watermelon seed between
Pop takes another shot, neat,
Points out the same amber
Stain on his shorts that I've got on mine, and
Makes me smell his smell, coming
From me; he switches channels, recites an old poem
He wrote before his mother died,
Stands, shouts, and asks
For a hug, as I shink,* my
Arms barely reaching around
His thick, oily neck, and his broad back; 'cause
I see my face, framed within
Pop's black-framed glasses
And know he's laughing too.
Under water grottos, caverns
Filled with apes
That eat figs.
Stepping on the figs
That the apes
Eat, they crunch.
The apes howl, bare
Their fangs, dance,
Tumble in the
Musty, wet pelts
Glistening in the blue.
* "Shink" may be a typo, but the poem is reproduced as published