“Underground” is a poem.

The one-word prompt from The Daily Post today is Underground.

Wow, does this one take me back. Amazing how just one word, when fed into the wacky Rube Goldberg Machine that is the mind, can set in motion all manner of memories and considerations.


I’m transported to my first off-campus house back in my undergrad days in the early 90’s. It was a party house and a half. Not quite Animal House, but getting there. People were always dropping by and hanging out – familiar faces and sometimes total strangers… it was a pretty Bohemian scene, really. We drank and smoked and talked art and philosophy until the break of dawn, slept through our classes as often as not, then got up in the late afternoon to do it all over again. Still, somehow, we managed to make the grade.

My bedroom was in the basement, just through a doorless doorway from the area where Brando, the rock band composed of five of our dear friends, was always practicing. People would mill in and out of my room at will, and it didn’t bother me a bit. On my wall was an enormous pad of paper, and I always encouraged visitors to make their mark in one way or another on the pad. One night, someone scribbled there, “Underground is a poem.”

I remember thinking at the time, well, I don’t know whether or not the word ‘underground’ is a poem all by itself, but “Underground is a poem” is a poem.

Just as a side-note, or perhaps by way of a punchline, one of the guys who lived upstairs in that house could do all the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s song “Subterranean Homesick Blues”:

Johnny’s in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I’m on the pavement
Thinking about the government
The man in a trench coat
Badge out, laid off
Says he’s got a bad cough
Wants to get it paid off
Look out kid
It’s somethin’ you did
God knows when
But you’re doin’ it again
You better duck down the alley way
Lookin’ for a new friend
A man in a coon-skin cap
In a pig pen
Wants eleven dollar bills
You only got ten.

Maggie comes fleet foot
Face full of black soot
Talkin’ that the heat put
Plants in the bed but
The phone’s tapped anyway
Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May
Orders from the DA
Look out kid
Don’t matter what you did
Walk on your tip toes
Don’t tie no bows
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Wash the plain clothes
You don’t need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows.

Get sick, get well
Hang around an ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything’s gonna sell
Try hard, get barred
Get back, write Braille
Get jailed, jump bail Join the army, if you fail
Look out kid
You’re gonna get hit
But losers, cheaters
Six-time users
Hang around the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool is
Lookin’ for a new fool
Don’t follow leaders
Watch the parkin’ meters.

Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don’t wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don’t work
‘Cause the vandals took the handles.


Such a great song… so anyway, what do you think – is “underground” a poem? Can just one word be poetry? If so, what’s your one-word-poem of the moment?

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s