A few pages earlier Walker includes some short prose poems that he calls "The Cheney Correspondence (Selected)." There are surprising numbers of contemporary poems that deal in one way or another with the former vice president; I think poets could simply not believe he really said and did some of the things he did, so they tried to present some kind of sensitivity in the face of his callousness. Walker simply assumes that the vice president would be interested in a shared humanity. "Dear Dick Cheney," he writes, "When I was younger I wanted to be a baseball player. But I can't remember whether I loved baseball, or whether I just wanted everyone to love me. A confession, then: I still want everyone to love me--blindly, entirely, without sense or reason. Even you, whom I've regularly excoriated. Fondly, Cody Walker." Of course the moment is funny precisely because we all know Cheney wouldn't care in the least.
But I wouldn't want to leave anyone with the impression that this poet is only funny. Shuffle and Breakdown ends with a series of poems written by Walt Whitman's mythical grandson to the near-dead master. One poem, claiming to be written from Chicago in 1891, has these lines: "I wrote you a long letter last week,/then threw it in the lake. It ended/Your optimism is wrong. It alone/sustains me."
Walker reads at Crazy Wisdom Book Store & Tea Room on Wednesday, November 11.
[Originally published in November, 2009.]