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Embarrassing Obama: He Was an Angsty Poet Once

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

Two fingers.

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

Rushing water,

Musty, wet pelts

Glistening in the blue.

* "Shink" may be a typo, but the poem is reproduced as published