Read Amanda Palmer’s “A Poem For Dzhokhar”

By Michael Nelson / April 22, 2013

These days, Amanda Palmer lives with her husband, author Neil Gaiman, near Minneapolis, but as you might know, Palmer’s formative years were spent on the streets of Boston, working as a “living statue” mime, where she would regularly interact with “lonely people who looked like they hadn’t talked to anyone in weeks,” and then, “we would sort of fall in love a little bit.” Naturally, then, Palmer has a deep connection with the city, and it stands to reason that she’d want to express some sympathy to Boston and its residents following the horror visited upon the city last week. Rather than write a song (or do some living-statue work!), however, Palmer wrote a poem, titled “A Poem For Dzhokhar.”

Written entirely in the second person, you might assume “A Poem For Dzokhar” was trying to imagine life from the perspective of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old Boston Marathon bomber who holed up in a boat, temporarily eluding a police manhunt. But why would you assume that?! Don’t you know anything about poetry?!? Apparently not. “It’s pretty much about everyone,” says Palmer, in the comments below her poem. “The you isn’t him. Read again.”

L. Ron Hubbard used to do this, you know — when someone would stumble on a section of Dianetics (which would happen frequently, as it was densely worded falderal), he would demand the reader “clear” the troublesome word before continuing. Odd parallel. Probably nothing. Anyway, when you do read “A Poem For Dzhokhar” again, and you re-read a line such as, say …

you don’t know how precious your iphone battery time was until you’re hiding in the bottom of the boat.

… you might be inclined, again, to wonder if this particular observation is especially relevant to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was indeed hiding in the bottom of a boat! Of course, then there are lines like …

you don’t want two percent but it’s all they have.

… which, let’s face it, could be about any of us, really (except the portion of the population that prefers 2-percent milk).

My own critical understanding of poetry is limited enough to keep me from appraising this one. But you can read it on Palmer’s blog or below, and judge for yourself. Got it? No? Read again.

A POEM FOR DZHOKHAR

you don’t know how it felt to be in the womb but it must have been at least a little warmer than this.

you don’t know how intimately they’re recording your every move on closed-circuit cameras until you see your face reflected back at you through through the pulp.

you don’t know how to stop picking at your fingers.

you don’t know how little you’ve been paying attention until you look down at your legs again.

you don’t know how many times you can say you’re coming until they just stop believing you.

you don’t know how orgasmic the act of taking in a lungful of oxygen is until they hold your head under the water.

you don’t know how many vietnamese soft rolls to order.

you don’t know how convinced your parents were that having children would be, absolutely, without question, the correct thing to do.

you don’t know how precious your iphone battery time was until you’re hiding in the bottom of the boat.

you don’t know how to get away from your fucking parents.

you don’t know how it’s possible to feel total compassion in one moment and total disconnection in the next moment.

you don’t know how things could change so incredibly fast.

you don’t know how to make something, but the instructions are on the internet.

you don’t know how to make sense of this massive parade.

you don’t know how to believe anyone anymore.

you don’t know how to tell the girl in the chair next to you that you’ve been peeking at her dissertation draft and there’s a grammatical typo in the actual file name.

you don’t know how to explain yourself.

you don’t want two percent but it’s all they have.

you don’t know how claustrophobic your house is until you can’t leave it.

you don’t know why you let that guy go without shooting him dead and stuffing him in some bushes between cambridge and watertown.

you don’t know where your friends went.

you don’t know how to dance but you give it a shot anyway.

you don’t know how your life managed to move twenty six miles forward and twenty eight miles back.

you don’t know how to pay your debts.

you don’t know how to separate from this partnership to escape and finally breathe.

you don’t know how come people run their goddamn knees into the ground anyway.

you don’t know how to measure the value of the twenty dollar bill clutched in your hurting hand.

you don’t know how you walked into this trap so obliviously.

you don’t know how to adjust the rearview mirror.

you don’t know how to mourn your dead brother.

you don’t know how to drive this car.

you don’t know the way to new york.

you don’t know the way to new york.

you don’t know the way to new york.

you don’t know the way to new york.