SPOTLIGHT: The Great and Terrible by Natalie Byers

We Bitch About Paying 99 Cents for Music,

Then Shell Out Five Bucks for a Fucking Cup of Coffee

But, it’s impossible to rail against consumerism and not participate in the commodification of art. Those who understand the red square on a yellow canvas are in debt to a White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy.

It’s not really about that though. It is. Isn’t about audience expectations. It is what sells. Will sell, maybe. Won’t buy a yacht. Don’t want a yacht. What do people who have yachts do?

I just uploaded five albums to my Spotify. I didn’t pay anything. Every once in a while, I hear an advert-isement. I turn down the volume and curse the process, then listen to my free music some more.

Poetry is political. Isn’t. Should/Shouldn’t be political. Should reveal social injustice. Shouldn’t propagate. Can/Can’t be inter-pre-tated however you want.

Writers welcome a day when the earth plunges wholeheartedly, wind in her sails, into everything it shouldn’t be.


My welfare therapist said I shouldn’t write and focus on survival skills instead.

Wilbur whimpers as he wallows with welfare queens/kings. But let’s not judge. Her husband may have turned out to be a child molester, 18,000 images stored in his computer. And creepy mustache guy may have PTSD. Wild wonderful whites whimper.

Sometimes I need my adult self to go back and comfort my child self. This morning, I laid in the bed between me and my little brother, held us both, let the salty sorrow soak our 50/50 blend flammable pajamas like gasoline on a Bangladesh Walmart factory.

Geico: fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance.

I am/am not Republican or Democrat. Am/am not American, Christian, White, Straight. I like imagining Jesus sitting in a vagina, strangled by a wreath of thorns. I like imagining bell hooks as the President of the motherfuckin’ United States. Buddha high on perfect pruned peach berry kush. I like berries, peaches, and prunes. Literal and figurative ones.

The Magic of One-Stop Shopping

Spray painted sheets
hang on porches
Looters will be shot.
Sheriff said we can.

Looters should be shot
when an EF-5 twists
your house to shit
and the television survived
but not the books
because who wants books?

Not the looters.

Thank God there’s guns
at the Wal-Marts
to save the boob-tube

and the sheets.

Second Weekend in May 1993

In the shed, buried in a hatbox,
there is a photo
of me wearing floral denim shorts,

pink glasses, holding a bluegill
up by the line.
We fished at Mammaw’s trailer court pond.

Even though it made my grandmother
gag, I never
had a problem baiting worms.

Pushing skin onto steel until
it stopped.
I examined my scales,

held them, pretending to struggle with
the release
so I could stroke their sides.

Saturday night we fried
Pappaw’s catch,
watched old musicals, sang like we meant it.

On Sunday, Mom told me Chris died.
Her hug
suffocating as I howled.

What that meant, didn’t mean, doesn’t matter anymore.
Chris and Mike and Steve
were found in the woods where we played

pirates with cattails, captured toads,
tattooed ourselves
with lightning bug asses.

Years later, Mom said she spent
the weekend drunk,
didn’t bother hiding her rum.

Now, when I sing my son to sleep,
my sunshine,
I mourn the bluegill floating by the dock.

For the Removal of Large Roundworms

Those damn cats keep shitting
on my travel bag. I could murder you.

When I am fighting
with reality, I ask
my therapist about
false memory syndrome.
She tells me children
don’t invent tragedy,
children don’t want
bad things to happen.

God grants me solitude in a metal
shed, my hands numb as
the kittens claw through
two layers, heavy boots. Their way
of showing gratitude is the bite of
snow puking on cow pie pastures.
It takes the heat of wine and stupid
to place these syntactical errors. But
I do it, do it, and do it to
the melodramatic radio beat— struggling
like the worms in the kittens wiggling
their way out the ass-end, buried litter
to litter, scratch to scratch.

These siblings will play until they
are old men, the way nature intends.

I used to hate felines
puffing dander out
to make my nose run
and eyes swell. I couldn’t
touch one without feeling
bones crush in my
seven-year-old hands.
The flea bath battle
for six-week-old mouse
hunters proved I can now,
gentle but firm,
controlling the rage seed.

The cats leave
mice in my chair, mew for milk.


We go for her birthday, the six of us,
to the gay bar on the corner.

She wants to dance, stare
at the drag queens because Aren’t they
so hot? It’s like the best of both worlds.

Settled with screwdrivers, we share
pictures of kids, debate who’s gotten fatter.

The Host Queen hollers:
Where my gays at?
Half the room whoos.

And where’re my straight people?
The other half whoos.

What about my bis? Where are you?
I am the only whoo. There are

whispers, She must be confused.
I feel the eyes staring, mouths giggling.

My companions are staring too.
They didn’t know.
So I dance.

I dance

with the speaker, let the bass vibrate
through my hands and down into
down into

down into my body.

I’ve been a fan of Natalie Byers’ work since she sent me some work for consideration for my ‘zine. My Co editor and I were both blown away, we didn’t take a few, we took them all. This book is no exception. Far too many poets blather on endlessly before getting to the point or never get to the point at all. I like my poetry like my coffee, strong and dark and slashing at the jugular. The Great and Terrible has this in spades. “I preferred the stench of my armpit when my grandmother’s colon rotted and I found her naked sobbing on the edge of a hospital bed ripping the potassium drip from her arm.”–Jay Miner, Rust Belt Press and author of Psych Ward Blues and Other Stories


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s