And Now For Something Completely Different: Another Firewater Found Poem

A while back, just for kicks, I used the words of Ross Macdonald, in his novel Meet Me at the Morgue, to compose a poem. Macdonald’s words, all of them, assembled into a different form. I learned that there is a name for this type of thing, and it’s not plagiarism. It’s called found poetry, this collection of words, phrases or whole sentences found in a nonpoetic context and usually broken into lines that convey a verse rhythm (definition provided by

So, I thought I was just goofing off, but I was actually being an artist. I was creating art.

Okay, mostly I was just goofing off, flipping through pages of an old book and stealing the words of one of my many writing idols. It worked out so well last time, I decided to do it again.

This time, the deceased author whose words I’ll be stealing is John D. MacDonald, from his 1966 Travis McGee novel One Fearful Yellow Eye. Instead of using only the final sentence of each chapter this time, I’m going to cherry-pick MacDonald’s words from all over. The man could tell an action-packed yarn, but there has always been poetry in his words. I’m just giving them a new home.

One Fearful Yellow Eye: Seven Uneven Stanzas, by John D. MacDonald & Firewater


a bright cold clear December afternoon

tight-sphincter time in the sky

the busy air is full of premonitions

we dipped a sickening wing, leaving my stomach

their smiles sutured

stare outward, but they are looking inward

tasting of themselves

a rigid kind of stillness


good feel of road-hunger

fits into gaps, flows through them

a floating, drifting feeling

smooth curves

(that special sense of rhythm of the expert)

showed off a little

not enough to break the rear end loose

slides into the lane which will move most swiftly

wants to reach and gobble more than you let it


last grayness of the day

full line of red in the west, like distant cities burning

sourness in the wind

branches of the bare black trees

wind sound around the corners of the house

islands of furniture, demarked by bright rugs

sat huddled, drink in her hand, looking into the flames

last small tongues of flame in the glowing bed of embers

small brooding silhouette

simultaneous remembering of a special closeness of long ago

her gaze slid away

her smile was wan and strained


a huge Nabisco crunching, a spanging of wires

a sound like a rattlesnake

a sudden draining of all blood and color from under the tan

a sudden sickness of pleasant green eyes

stature of a mythological being

posture feral as any carnivore

fantastic centerfold mammalians for the pimpled self-lovers

turning off all the awful engines in the mind

grim and remote and unapproachable

an indifferent malevolence of fate

ritualistic and hypnotic

any potential fracture line anywhere in your psyche


face, mostly eyes and a mouth made for laughing

features so coin-cut, so classic and clear

arms were crossed under

a hammocked roundness of breast

the diamonds in the wedding ring winked in the backbar glow

smile lines deep at the corners of the eyes

past the point of ever having to prove anything

body all hot velvet, smooth

(that special sense of rhythm of the expert)

style, loveliness, assurance

a promising curl of power

nerve-twanging combination

rare and contradictory look of being both slender and substantial

losing yourself in sensation for a little while

remorseless energies

a floating, drifting feeling

ancient and treasured


body aches to spin and run blindly

horrible wheels are going around and around

fixed glassy smiles

trudging sadly off, a blackness marching through

strolling, window-shopping flocks of women

noisy platoons of small children

simian little old ladies, wrinkles leathery against the round bones

eyes bright with anthropoid shrewdness

emptiness of the stretch of dunes and winter beach outside

wind-twisted dwarfed trees

watery sunlight

the rain had stopped but it seemed darker

—Air, Again—

out of moonlight into the darkness

sigh as soft and fragrant as the night breeze

unreadable eyes pockets of shadows

full clip, one in the chamber

watching all the forests burn down

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