How to Write a Nerdy Poem

After “Assumptions” by Richard Hugo.

How to Write a Nerdy Poem

According to the poet Richard Hugo, “Words love the ridiculous areas of our minds, but silly or solid, assumptions are necessary elements in a successful base of writing operations.”

If you have ever wanted to write an unabashedly nerdy poem, here are a few things you might assume. Think of them like starting places from which a rich poem might manifest its own full life.

Or, if you will, these are the start screens, the iconic covers, the character selects, the opening theme songs, or anything else that might infuse you with a sense of expectant joy. Or, you can think of them as prompts.

Whatever keeps you thinking.

  • The cartridge will only work if you blow into it, and you’ve just run up the steps.
  • Your mother lied about throwing out all your comics. They were in the attic when the house was sold.
  • Your whole collection is being read by Morlocks.
  • The D&D die has gained so many sides, it’s now a marble.
  • There is always a +2 hammer when you open that chest.
  • No one in your party believes that you should open that chest.
  • You can play as all the NPCs, but only once a day.
  • You’ve bought the download but have to go to church before it finishes. When you return, the power is out.
  • “Thundercats” airs just after you leave for school.
  • You fake a fever just to watch “Panthro.”
  • “Fraggle Rock” is under your house. The show is part of CCTV that only you know about.
  • WWF never changed its name.
  • WWF is real.
  • At the O.J. trial, the glove he tries on is the Nintendo Power Glove.
  • You can’t save here, but your crush knows the location of the save point.
  • Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start is a cheat code that means your father won’t leave.
  • Your Chaotic Good characters get the afterlife they deserve.
  • The only guns in America are attached to the NES for Duck Hunt.
  • Dance Dance Revolution can only be played on mute.
  • Jean Grey never came back as Phoenix, but Beast is still blue.
  • The X-Men are a metaphor for nothing and are taught as U.S. history. 
  • Comics are still sold in grocery stores on spinner racks as tall as redwoods.
  • Stan Lee is a write-in candidate for mayor of New York.
  • The NYC electorate votes for his ghost.
  • The Sega Genesis has become a self-aware AI that writes poems.
  • The poems, when put together, are the exact words in the instruction booklet for Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
  • You rent a game from Blockbuster, but when you arrive home, only the instruction booklet is in the case.
  • “Batman” ends two minutes after you get home from school. You’ve only ever heard the end music.
  • Every Pokémon card in the world is free.
  • The movie theater only has one screen. “Akira” is always showing.
  • Every comic book you’ve read starts with volume two.
  • Bill Finger got credit for creating “Batman” and lived like a king.
  • Darth Vader never takes off his mask.
  • You still don’t know who Luke’s father is.
  • “Gargoyles” is the longest running cartoon in history. This is season 25.
  • The “Scooby-Doo” gang is the real monster and doesn’t know it.

(Side Note: This column takes as its form an essay by Richard Hugo in which he writes various short assumptions about what he calls the triggering town, which, for him, is always a fictitious small town with certain parameters that invite invention and imaginative exploration. The essay is from Hugo’s The Triggering Town, published by W.W. Norton & Company.)

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