Boston suspect inspires free-verse poetry

Tim Cavanaugh Contributor
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While supporters of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have rushed to declare him innocent, and a change.org petition asserts that he is “wrongfully accused,” at least one prominent performance artist has been moved to poetry by Tsarnaev’s arrest.

Amanda Palmer, also known as “Amanda Fucking Palmer,” published a work of free verse in the form of a litany late Sunday, which has quickly gained an intense readership. The poem begins with the line:

you don’t know how it felt to be in the womb but it must have been at least a little warmer than this.

Palmer, the lead singer and pianist for the duo The Dresden Dolls, is perhaps best known as the wife of celebrated author and comic book scriptwriter Neil Gaiman. Palmer has more than 866,000 Twitter followers, and her Tsarnaev poem drew strong attention, positive and negative, online. Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams accuses Palmer of making the tragedy about herself and calls the work “disingenuous, self-pitying and, well, trollish.”

The actual subject of “A Poem for Dzhokhar,” however, is not always clear. In some verses, the protagonist appears to be Tsarnaev himself:

you don’t know how precious your iphone battery time was until you’re hiding in the bottom of the boat.

you don’t know how to get away from your fucking parents.

Other portions appear to be describing the victims of the double bombing at last week’s Boston Marathon, many of whom lost legs in the attack:

you don’t know how little you’ve been paying attention until you look down at your legs again…

you don’t know how to dance but you give it a shot anyway.

you don’t know how your life managed to move twenty six miles forward and twenty eight miles back.

Another line may contain a vague allusion to the practice of waterboarding, an “enhanced interrogation technique” that the United States has officially renounced:

you don’t know how orgasmic the act of taking in a lungful of oxygen is until they hold your head under the water.

Resisting easy artistic closure, Palmer also asserts, “you don’t know how to stop picking at your fingers.”

The Daily Caller’s Jim Treacher gave the poem a fairly thorough thumbs down. In the classical tradition of the answer poem, Treacher addressed both the suspected bomber and the poetess through works of his own.

Unlike Palmer, Treacher is comfortable with recognizable rhyme schemes, composing a dimeter quatrain for Palmer:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Defending this killer
Speaks poorly of you

Another couplet addresses Tsarnaev, in less sympathetic terms than Palmer’s:

You punctured your gullet
Eat another bullet

On Twitter, Palmer dismissed her critics as “trolls” and “haters.”

Tsarnaev, 19, is accused of plotting with his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan to set off two pressure cooker bombs filled with ball bearings at the finish line of the annual race. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed early Friday during a standoff with police. Dzhokhar was captured later that day and will be tried in criminal court. The attacks killed three people and injured more than 170.