Martin Ott and John F. Buckley


Martin Ott and John F. Buckley began their ongoing games of poetic volleyball in the spring of 2009. Poetry from their previous collaboration Poets’ Guide to America on Brooklyn Arts Press, has been accepted by more than forty publications, including Confrontation, Post Road and ZYZZYVA. They are now working on a second volume of collaborative poems, The Yankee Broadcast Network.


What I Watched On My Summer Vacation

Mom said she can’t afford a sitter since they took Mrs. Sanderson away.
And all my toys are stupid since I turned eight and a half. And I’m not
allowed to cook on the stove since the smoke from the cheese fire killed
the fish. So I ate peanut-butter sandwiches and watched a lot of TV.

Sometimes my friends came over to join us on strange adventures,
our couch a fully battle-ready assault vehicle in case things got weird,
as they sometimes did when Uncle Leo made us scoot over to bet on
baseball, smelling like the floor of Mom's car and almost as sticky.

We went to the village picked on by Zombiezilla, Iguana from the Grave,
who bit the head off that one guy and made the island ladies scream,
who made everyone huddle indoors until the team of uniformed scientists
came with their giant robot and punched the undead lizard into hot magma,

which flowed across our living-room floor, trapping us on the couch.
Jimbo, our sister's boyfriend, smoked funny cigarettes that gave him
the power to walk on lava fields and to fly high above the giant ants
he swore marched from the TV, alien spawn, above the teenage kids

in spandex representing the rainbow and kung fu power punches. We
soon formed our own gang, needing safety in numbers, especially after
the black-and-white bandits broke free from the hoosegow and rampaged
through the den, smashing the vase that came all the way from Taiwan.

We fought over whether we would eat the dog or cat if the peanut butter
sandwiches stopped raining down onto the stinky-belch island of Dad’s
hairy belly, the worst picnic table ever. Soon the ninjas on the screen
encouraged us to chop off one another’s heads with paper-plate Frisbees.

Sometimes, orphaned kids would step out of the flickering shapes
and Mom did not look up from sudokus to notice that she was yelling
at parentless newsies with leg braces to stop singing, to set down their
yellow journalism bundles and wee-hobo bindles and eat some porridge.

In the kitchen, the remaining lights of summer flickered beneath tinfoil
covered antennas, and we grew milk mustaches and worried about losing
our eyes to September, a picture of classrooms with nothing but stick
figures at desks, each drawing an exit route lost in the long days behind us.

The poem came about as part of our current collaboration about TV—the Yankee Broadcast Network. John presented the concept based on what it was like to be a kid and to have to write that essay ‘What I Did on My Summer Vacation.’ We grew up in an era of latchkey kids where we were often babysat by the TV. However, we have to wonder if this poem isn't as relevant today with so many working parents, staycations, and kids with too much screen time.