Democracy Minus Democracy

Poetry / Brandon Amico

:: Democracy Minus Democracy ::

On the third panel of every comic, Garfield is flung 
from a window, a closed window, one that shatters 
from the momentum of his body, great enough 
that even beyond the obstacle he is still travelling 
at an upward angle out above Jon’s idealized suburbia. 
This is the future 90’s kids want: every important 
piece of legislature, every contract, sieved through 
the medium of Garfield, a comic we remembered 
from childhood as great but as adults discovered it 
derivative and uncreative. We set out to reclaim it,  
make it match our memories, express dread in a new language, 
lift the shifting prism of memory to the light.  
We remove Garfield, shuffle or repeat the frames, 
run the text through an algorithm. Garfield is bigger 
than his creator; Jim Davis is a political footnote. 
The Orange Cat Party swells, accepts Nihilists 
and budding creatives, nostalgists and tinkerers. 
The internet accelerated the Everything, but the 
Everything includes more and more Garfield, 
in the future there is only Garfield and the night 
that comes between panels like the moment between 
beats of a heart, the fragile seconds bridging 
a transfer of power and the sudden focus on it, 
a hyperawareness, the knowledge that the world 
is what we make it, mutable, striped if we want it striped, 
sarcastic, a mode of expression as bracing as the air 
rushing by us as we get a brief view from above, 
not sure what it’ll be like when we land. 




From the writer


:: Account ::

I spend a lot of time think­ing about what makes poet­ry polit­i­cal. The phrase “polit­i­cal poet­ry” car­ries a lot of bag­gage, but being able to write a poem and say it has absolute­ly no pol­i­tics any­where in it is a lux­u­ry that I feel we can­not often afford. When a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of our country’s polit­i­cal argu­ment is deny­ing peo­ple human rights, any poem that human­izes is inher­ent­ly polit­i­cal. A poet writ­ing to specif­i­cal­ly avoid “polit­i­cal” sub­jects is also mak­ing a polit­i­cal state­ment by this action alone.  

Thus, while I don’t aim to write “polit­i­cal poems,” I do want my poems to be polit­i­cal, to have a stake in the world in which they reside, whether that’s sur­face lev­el or under­pin­ning the text. Per­son­al­ly, I often come to the polit­i­cal through the satir­i­cal, through the absurd. And as our world grows more car­toon­ish and out­landish with every pass­ing day, the poems too need to step it up to stay ahead of the real when it comes to absur­di­ty. I love reading—and try to write—poems that enact them­selves on the back­drop of our day-to-day: the news, social media, the sto­ries that bridge us to the world. 

Democ­ra­cy Minus Democ­ra­cy” leapt out (sor­ry) from our polit­i­cal sys­tem, which can appar­ent­ly be near­ly over­turned in a day by brute, stu­pid force. I wrote the first draft of the poem days after the assault on the U.S. Capi­tol in Jan­u­ary 2021; I didn’t intend a poem about the cre­ative Nihilism of the Twit­ter­verse and its fas­ci­nat­ing love-hate rela­tion­ship with the Garfield com­ic strip to be my way into the uneasi­ness of our polit­i­cal moment, but once I felt it going there, I couldn’t stop the momen­tum.   

Of the many Garfield com­ic strip vari­ants that pep­per the inter­net, one of the ear­li­est and the most promi­nent is Garfield Minus Garfield, where­in the cre­ator of this web­com­ic, Dan Walsh, repur­posed old Garfield strips by, as the title implies, remov­ing Garfield entire­ly. The result was his own­er, Jon, talk­ing to him­self and/or react­ing to nonex­is­tent stim­uli; the strips were equal parts bleak and fun­ny. G‑G’s pop­u­lar­i­ty helped spur on many oth­er cre­ative projects where­in the offi­cial, pub­lished Garfield com­ic strips are the medi­um, the blank can­vas to start from—it’s a fas­ci­nat­ing recur­ring theme through the mil­len­ni­al inter­net. There are too many to name here, but of impor­tant note for this poem is the ver­sion that is ref­er­enced from the onset: a ded­i­cat­ed Twit­ter account, @yeetgarf, fea­tures Garfield com­ic strips where the only change is the final pan­el is replaced with one of the tit­u­lar cat crash­ing through a win­dow with incred­i­ble force. Again, con­text is every­thing; there’s some­thing to be said for know­ing how some­thing ends, and how expec­ta­tions col­or our present day actions. 

Every­one process­es major world events dif­fer­ent­ly; appar­ent­ly, some of us process through Garfield. 


Bran­don Ami­co is the author of Dis­ap­pear­ing, Inc. (Gold Wake Press, 2019). A 2019 Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts Cre­ative Writ­ing Fel­low, his poems have appeared in pub­li­ca­tions includ­ing Best Amer­i­can Poet­ry 2020, Black­bird, The Cincin­nati Review, the Keny­on Review, and New Ohio Review.