Pulp Fiction

By David Baker b. 1954 David Baker
You want more? You want some more of this shit?
so he puts his weight to his elbow jammed   
under the jaw of the other one pinned
there, panicked, panting, his back to the bricks.   
The others are loud and jeering and stand   
in a jackal circle a spitting-length
away. The cold air is full of bird song.

The sex—sheer sugar—of the flowering trees   
turns to powder against the skin, and cakes   
the sidewalks pale green, and packs the curbs.   
Far away a powerful siren cries.
Someone is about to get his ass kicked.
But now the cruel gang spots someone—okay,   
it’s me—who is writing this whole scene down.

It’s so easy to surpass the limits
of the powers of description. What are   
you looking at? There are yellow flowers   
sprouting from the downspout above their heads.   
The powers of discursion are no less   
feeble, frail as the least petal. Stop it!
They don’t stop it. The one in trouble is

starting to weep, and the others to laugh,   
as the one with the elbow suddenly
slips a white-handled knife from his pocket.   
(Is this the big city? Are there dime bags   
dropping from the claws of carrion birds?   
Have his bad colors taunted the wrong turf?)   
No. No. No. This is just my little town,

and the hostile gang is as easily
eight-years-old as twenty, out of grade school   
since three o’clock. I’m sorry for my mind,   
but the spring has spread a violent seed   
and it has taken root in this poem,
as in my heart, in the children beating
each other to a pulp in your city

as well as mine. Is it less barbarous
to turn now toward the beautiful? Once
there was a hillside of white, wild lilies.
The mayapples were spilling there. A first
green froth of spring ferns spread under the pines—
so the pastoral, unperturbed lilies
stand around our absence in the sunlight.

What have we done to deserve the pollen,   
the plant persistence of our natures? You
want more? The boys beat the daylights out of   
the poor boy and I do nothing to help.
And the flowers are fiction—descriptive,   
discursive—designed to suggest my mind   
in peace or shame. So are the boys, if

the truth be told. So are the sexual trees.
The knife, you understand, is real. The knife is mine.

David Baker, “Pulp Fiction” from Changeable Thunder. Copyright © 2001 by David Baker. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Arkansas Press, www.uapress.com.

Source: Changeable Thunder (University of Arkansas Press, 2001)

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Poet David Baker b. 1954

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Nature, Spring, Arts & Sciences, Crime & Punishment, Social Commentaries, Poetry & Poets

 David  Baker


Though he is known primarily as a poet of the Midwest, David Baker was born in Bangor, Maine in 1954. He spent his childhood in Missouri and attended Central Missouri State University before receiving his PhD from the University of Utah. He has won fellowships and awards from the Poetry Society of America, the Pushcart Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. Currently a Professor of English . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Spring, Arts & Sciences, Crime & Punishment, Social Commentaries, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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