When he asked me to pick a poem to write about, I didn't have to think twice.
Keith Rawson's "$25"
Keith has long been one of my favorite new writers, and his stuff keeps getting better over the years. It's dark, twisted, psychotic, warped -- but also funny as hell, and deeply moving. There's a sadness and grim reality at the core of his writing that just rings so true. There's something genuine to the pain in his writing. Keith doesn't write fantasy. Even when the violence is on the fantastic side, the emotions and social circumstances driving the characters are very real.
His poem "$25" really resonates with the current economic situation in America. It's about someone donating plasma. Not out of good will, not to feel better about themselves, and not to help someone else -- but just to get by.
I'm too lazy to work
for $7.50 an hour
in two weeks
and giving blood is easier
than sticking a gun
That last stanza is cold. There's no love for humanity, no generosity, no hope. Like Tom Piccirilli with Every Shallow Cut, Rawson takes his main character to the brink of a crime, and leaves him there. Something might happen -- but it hasn't yet. If it doesn't, we're not going to be surprised, nor would we really blame him.
Look at the way that "in two weeks" is offset from the rest of the poem. There's still more time for things to get better, or for things to get worse, for desperation to take hold.
It's the resonance of worse things to come that makes "$25" so damn chilling.
Keith, I'm a big fan of your short stories, and I'd love to see a full-length novel by you, but if all your poems are this good, get back to the keyboard and bang out a chapbook of noir poetry asap.
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