Humour Poetry

How to Kill a Poem

By Sambhu R.


It takes much time to kill a tree,

Not a simple jab of the knife- On Killing a Tree, Gieve Patel


It’s easy to kill a poem.


If it’s the flying kind,

rip off its wings already slick

with the oil spill of words

and slit its throat

with the blade of your pen

run like a bow across the jugular.

The frantic flapping you hear

is the nerves straining for a final burst of music.

Plug your ears with indifference,

pluck the feathers, and clean up the blood.


If the poem is Black in its epidermal garb,

you may choke it with your knee

pressed ruthlessly to the back of the neck*.

It takes some time for the oxygen

to be shut out of the door of the lungs.

Be patient. Wait for the last leap of breath,

roll the corpse onto a gurney,

and smile at the spectators sliding mobile phones

out of the scabbard of their pockets.


If the poem talks too much,

incarcerate it behind thick bars of sense.

Try every trick from bastinado

to waterboarding and force a confession

of its all-the-perfumes-of-Arabia-will-not-sweeten guilt.


And if the poem is too popular,

chances are that it is adulterous;

then it merits no ordinary death.

Stone it with words

stone it

stone it

stone it

till all its charms are ripped out of its flesh.


To let a poem live, you need eyes

that can see the space between the lines

as the poem’s right to breathe,

and not as Nazi death trains

into which words are squeezed.


Killing it is a lot easier, takes no particular skill.


*Reference to George Floyd’s killing which took place in Minneapolis on 25 May 2020.

Sambhu R. is a bilingual poet from Kerala. He is Assistant Professor of English at N.S.S. College, Pandalam and is also a doctoral candidate. He has published an anthology of poems in Malayalam titled “Vavval Manushyanum Komaliyum.”




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