Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Last Respects for Dagwood

When Dagwood Bumstead died earlier this year, it hardly made a ripple in the media's nonstop stream of celebrity news & loud-mouthed political punditry.  To be fair, most readers of the comic strip had long since passed away themselves years & years ago--much like the newspaper, the medium the strip appears in--so to say that he'll be missed is perhaps a white lie, which seems fitting, given it's hard to be much whiter than Dagwood.  He is survived by his wife, Blondie; his son, Baby Dumpling; his daughter, Cookie; & three grandchildren, Huey, Dewey & Louie McDuck.  He was 78--though he seemed much, much older.  Also, he wore a toupee. 

Those who know me may find it odd that I noticed Bumstead's death.  After all, I hate comic strips, or funnies as they're sometimes called, both misnomers because they are, by & large, neither.  The "phonies," more like!  Comic?  To be honest, I'm not even sure if they're strips. 

However, as a youngster, they were my favorite part of the paper.  While I was never a fan of Blondie, it had top billing in the local rag when I was growing up, so Dagwood's antics became imprinted on my impressionable mind.  Who knew that as a young adult I would turn this childish distraction into something--dare I say--literary?

I wrote "Aspects of Dagwood" for a poetry workshop as a first year grad student way back in the last millennium.  This demonstrates its timelessness.  A parody of Weldon Kees' "Aspects of Robinson" (the curious may wish to read my tongue-in-cheek account of its writing by clicking here), it first appeared in Poetry Now (the one E.V. Griffith edited) & has since turned up in various other places, including both Nearing Narcoma & Greatest Hits, available wherever hard-to-find books are sold, but if you click on the book covers to your right, by the power of the Internet, you'll be directed to sites that sell them.

Aspects of Dagwood

Dagwood dealing poker in Ed Feeley's garage; an unshaded
Bulb blares over his pin-cushion head. At the table,
Simple men puffing black stogies, quaffing frothy mugs.
The one with red hair, buck teeth takes the pot with three aces,
A king, & a queen, all the same suit. A fearful voice.
—Here comes Blondie mad as a goose, Dagwood.

Dagwood at the office snoozing at his desk, an unsigned
Contract floating to the floor, pretty as a dream.
His comic cellblock switches from lemon to plum to tangerine,
Serving to foster an atmosphere of insecurity,
Fitfully punctuated by the business end of the boot.
—Dagwood! You do-nothing dimwit! You're fired! Get out!

Dagwood at Herb Woodley's hiding from the wife.
Dagwood at the pool hall making a three bank shot.
Dagwood at the bowling alley knocking down all the pins.
Dagwood at the doorstep bickering with a salesman’s
Onslaught of hard sell punches. Dagwood,
Bruised & beaten, atwitter over his new gizmo.

Insomniac Dagwood with a fat sandwich of cold cuts.
Dagwood squawking in the tub when the ladies' club
drops by. Dagwood dangling from the bathroom window,
Drippy wet towel draped around his bottom,
Red Z’s masking his face like a bland whodunit. Bells.
—Mr. Dithers wants you, Dagwood.

Dagwood whooshing out the door. Dagwood late for the bus.
Dagwood sporting the familiar bow tie & slouch hat.
Dagwood in polka-dot boxers, hiking his trousers,
Pecking Blondie on the cheek, slurping down coffee
As he runs out, slamming pow! into the postman. Letters
Flutter around them like fragments of Dagwood's recycled pulp.


Riley said...

I always loved the expressive exclamation point without the point that would appear over any shocked characters head, for example if Mr. Dithers actually found Dagwood at work or if Dagwood saw someone eating his sandwich. I found that mute expression so communicative.

Matt Morris said...

What can I say but "!"