I am not so good at making poems. Remember this one?
That’s why I started on today’s task months ago, as soon as I’d gotten over the shock of Day 20: I wanted a good poem to leave in a public place, so that I could feel pride and not shame. So I surrounded myself with good poetry: Shakespeare’s sonnets, Paradise Lost, Donne, Blake, Eliot, Silverstein. I wrote, I re-wrote, I revised, I started over; I wrote until I looked like Pig:
I finally came up with something I was happy with: something moving, something deep and meaningful, but also something that would resonate with the people, that would embed itself into people’s minds and take root there.
It is a poem for our time, and I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that, centuries from now, it will still be read and taught. It is the best poem of the century, and I’m aware that we’re only eleven years in. My poem is easily better than anything you were forced to read in school.
This is not a poem I could staple to telephone poles and post on bulletin boards and leave on the windshields of cars, like it was a lost dog flyer. It needs a broader audience, a global audience. I had to get it on to the internet, obviously, and into the browsers of millions. But where do people go for poetry on the internet?
They don’t, of course, or not in the sorts of numbers my poem deserves. This was an obstacle, and I won’t deny that I lost sleep trying to figure out how to overcome it. It finally came to me when I was in the middle of something else — mowing the lawn, maybe, or urinating on my compost — make it a goddamned song.
So I set it to music. I found someone to sing it. I made a video. I posted it to YouTube four months ago, and since then, it’s been viewed over one hundred and sixty million times. That’s right: one hundred and sixty million times. Maybe you’ve seen it already, and didn’t realize I was behind it: I’ve tried to cover my tracks. Today, though, this second Friday in June, I’m ready to claim responsibility.
Look on my works, ye mighty, and rejoice.
Insomnia is not a problem I have.
I rarely have trouble falling asleep, and the only troubles I have staying asleep are my kids and my dogs – and they’re (usually) only temporary interruptions. On those rare occasions when I do have trouble falling asleep, though, I don’t ever count sheep – it’s so damned boring, I just can’t stick with it.
I know, I know – the point is to bore oneself to sleep. I still can’t do it. I get distracted, my mind wanders, and the sheep starve or get eaten by wolves, who knows.
For the sake of trying, though, I counted sheep last night. I mean, it was after one in the morning before I went to bed, so it was technically today – or tomorrow from yesterday’s perspective, if you catch my meaning; because, well, it’s always tomorrow somewhere, right? I have trouble with that whole “International Date Line” thing…
—where was I? Oh, yeah, sheep. I attempted to count them last night, though it wasn’t really necessary – it was, after all, somewhat late, and I’d had a long day, and a few beers – but, as I say, I counted them anyway. As usual, I was only a few sheep in before I got distracted.
Shortly before going to bed, I’d finished The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, which, near the end, includes a scene of sheep-hunting somewhere between western China and eastern Russia (Crusoe is rarely careful about the details) – so I thought about that for a bit, and how strange it seems to me for Crusoe to be traveling on land from China to Arkhangelsk, because I always picture him at sea. Then I thought for a bit about Spenser, because he wrote about sheep, and because I have to re-read the first book of The Faerie Queene for Friday. Then I thought about all the other things I have to do this week, and how little time I have to get everything done in, and I had a few minutes of panic.
Then I said – out loud, in fact – “fuck counting sheep, I’m going to sleep.” Then I felt stupid for rhyming ‘sheep’ and ‘sleep’ in such a fashion, and then it was this morning.