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.