Howdy there, hitchhiker!

Jump on board my 18-wheeler and make yourself comfy. I’d be happy to give you a ride along this lonesome highway. But I gotta warn ya: it’ll come at a cost. Like my bumper sticker says, you need to supply me with either a bit of cash, some marijuana (I don’t smoke, but the smell of fresh buds overpowers the smell of my farts in the cabin), or a perfectly formed, 17-syllable haiku.

Fair warning though: once you choose the haiku option, there’s no turning back. And, like any agreement between a trucker and a hitchhiker, it comes with a couple of conditions. So please listen carefully:

First—and I can’t emphasize this enough—your poem MUST be a haiku. This is non-negotiable. If it does not adhere to that perfectly structured form of Japanese poetry that has been untouched for centuries, it is not valid.

I do not want anything that rhymes. Rhymes in poems make my blood pressure spike. So much so that a doctor prescribed me beta-blockers to take in case I ever randomly encountered The Road Not Taken. And don’t try and be cute and do a rhyming haiku to get me on a technicality. I hate technicalities almost as much as I hate rhyming.

Goes without saying, but no rhyming means no sonnets. I once read that the last two lines of a sonnet are meant to rhyme and resolve the poem. But I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been able to get to the end of one of the horrible things to verify that. I don’t care if Shakespeare wrote 154 of them; you will be writing zero in this truck.

Speaking of overrated white men, if I get an inkling of anything in the vein of Ginsberg or Kerouac or any of that beatnik nonsense, I’m snatching the poem out of your hand and eating it. If you think I’m going to let some wannabe hippie use my truck to write some nonsense that should’ve been left in the 1960s, you’ve got another thing coming.

In fact, I don’t want anything free verse at all. That stuff makes me queasy. In fact,
I’d rather watch Isis beheading videos
on repeat forever
with my eyelids
forced open with toothpicks
than read some
horribly formatted
piece of poorly written prose
masquerading as poetry.

Likewise, I don’t want any limericks, acrostics, villanelles, odes, or epics. I won’t go into why I hate these formats, but just know my reasons are valid.

I know that making a heavily tattooed man who’s done three stints in prison cry is intimidating. But I’m actually very in touch with my sensitive side. In fact, according to the statistics I keep, I cry around 47% of the time that somebody writes me something.

A few years back, a young man recited a devastating haiku about a beautiful woman he met on a flight, but was too scared to ask her for details and never saw her again. Had me bawling like an infant with a tooth infection. Another time, a woman wrote a stunning poem that, while ostensibly about her childhood cat, also gently touched on the impermanence of all things.

I’d love to add your poem to the list of haikus that have made me teary.

But I hear you asking: what happens if I choose to write a haiku that doesn’t make this truck driver cry? Well… You know those bodies that keep turning up by the side of the interstate? Yep, I’ll kick you out of my truck and make you wait for another ride right next to where police found the latest one. Perhaps a tad cruel.

But that’s the price you pay for disappointing me.


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