Wizard of Oz inspired poetry from Evan J. Peterson: Because of the Wonderful Things She Does

A wise man once said “Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words” and that wise man was… me! Just kidding, it was Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve never said anything that elegant in my entire life. Truth be told, I’m not much of a poetry fan myself. The art form doesn’t speak to me the same way it does to some. I just don’t “get it” which is partly why I was skeptical when local poet Evan J. Peterson first started performing at Bushwick events. Upon having on more than one occasion witnessed him recite his book inspired poems live on stage that skepticism is no more. Evan’s performances are an exciting blend of intensity and entertainment and he never fails to knock it out of the park every time he steps up to the Bushwick plate.

So now I would like to share with you his latest piece inspired by L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, recently performed at the 42nd annual Northwest Folklife Festival.

Bushwick_theCommitment_032Evan had this to say about his inspiration:

The first thing that touched me in Baum’s book was his introduction, in which he sets forth the tender goal of creating a new fairy tale, “written solely to pleasure children… the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out.” I wanted to write a piece much sweeter and more innocent than my usual intense, adult work.

This is not what happened. I feel sorry for Dorothy, who spends most of the book taking care of others. Her grown-up friends all become kings and find their confidence. The Wizard is redeemed from his lies and goes home relieved. Dorothy, however, can’t wait to get back to emotional, aesthetic, and possibly physical starvation, because there’s no place like home, even for an orphan. I can’t make that sound adorable.

Because of the Wonderful Things She Does
by Evan J. Peterson

Oh, Dorothy.
You slap lions &
defeat witches,

you help grown men
become kings,

you help fake
wizards get clean,
you dry their tears

on your gingham
dress—big jobs

for an eight-
year-old. The Scarecrow

to strategize,
& the Tin Man always

loved, grieved
over crushing a bug.
& the Lion

ever had courage,
lacked only confidence

till Oz, the Great
And Terrible Fraud,
slipped him

a syrupy placebo.
But you, Dorothy?

You never
truly had the power
to take yourself

home. Sure, the shoes—
those silver, tap-dancing

but they’re not yours.
Home was always

beyond you, as you
took care of marvelous men.

Men who don’t
eat nor sleep but weep
into your skirts—

ain’t that just like a man?
(ain’t you too young to know?)

And of course
there’s your curious habit
of killing people

by accident. What Oz
himself couldn’t do,

nor the Good
Witch of the North.
Pig-tailed assassin,

you freed slaves,
Winkies & Munchkins,

a sort of reverse
John Wilkes Booth.
You kill with scrub water,

you kill with your house.
You kill

like a girl.
& that humbug, that huckster,
that flimflamming

grifter, that shuffler,
that hustler, that swindler

duped you. Oz,
that papier mâché
puppet head,

pressed you to kill.
Here’s rope, so hang:

no hot air
balloon ride on your
bucket list.

Just cute shoes
to walk you back

to bleak, flat
Kansas: happy

Dorothy, you Not-Queen
of Oz.