What I want: to crank creation’s contrast knob to fully illuminate what’s right about the world.

I wanna be Faith’s strung-out junkie. My dreaming veins singing a better tomorrow.

What I don’t want: to be dust, rust. Roadtripping with demons—Oblivion or bust.

Don’t wanna be that one suicide bullet locked and loaded in the chamber of grief’s gun. Don’t wanna be your blood-lusting grave, your ghost-moan grave, your any kinda grave.

What I want: to spend time in your joy’s city. I’ll sweep the streets, round up criminals, direct traffic—anything and everything to keep your bliss vibrant and alive.

I wanna radioactivate, self-immolate. Burn away all poverty, fear and sickness to fuel the fire of our well-being.

Don’t wanna be an inert gas in the Idiotic Table of Elements. Wanna be a full-on kick in the balls to ignorance.

Never wanna torture or kill any animals or insects in the making of these words, these beliefs, no matter how low I may get between thought, between breath, between life and death.

But if anything must die, let it be the ego. Let it go.

What I want: for you to write on my flesh everything you see and hear when you sleep. Wanna believe the pen outlasts the blade. Freedom outlasts the chains.

I wanna shred your self-doubt, refold it into a confident origami.

Wanna see you go out into the night, take a deep breath. Sip in stars, planets, moonbeams. Let me visit the solar system in your head. Let me be asteroid, nebula. Let us become the Universe of We.

Don’t wanna be old news, worn-out shoes, poorly played blues. Don’t wanna be a perpetual cruiser up and down the Boulevard of Bad Vibes.

I wanna shake our collective birthright of shame, blame. Want the veins in my hands to be Sanskrit letters spelling out the words: “I will hold you up when you’re down.”

I wanna believe that had we lived in the Warsaw Ghetto we would’ve been survivors. We would’ve been books for all to read in the secret libraries.

I want our hearts and minds to unite and revolutionize. Don’t want racism’s fist to be supersized.

And finally, I want every sacred word in every language—dead and alive—to be your first and last name. So whenever I call out to you it feels like I’m praying.


No Animals or Insects Were Tortured or Killed in the Making of This Poem

(Click on above link to watch a video of this piece)


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RICH FERGUSON has performed nationally, and has shared the stage with Patti Smith, Wanda Coleman, Exene Cervenka, T.C. Boyle, Jerry Stahl, Bob Holman, Loudon Wainwright, Ozomatli, and many other esteemed poets and musicians. He has performed on The Tonight Show, at the Redcat Theater in Disney Hall, the New York City International Fringe Festival, the Bowery Poetry Club, South by Southwest, the Santa Cruz Poetry Festival, Stephen Elliott’s Rumpus, and with UK-based poetry collective One Taste. He is also a featured performer in the film, What About Me? (the sequel to the double Grammy-nominated film 1 Giant Leap), featuring Michael Stipe, Michael Franti, k.d. lang, Krishna Das, and others. He has been published in the LA TIMES, Opium Magazine, has been widely anthologized, spotlighted on PBS (Egg: The Art Show), and was a winner in Opium Magazine’s Literary Death Match, LA. His spoken word/music videos have been featured at poetry film festivals throughout the world. Ferguson is a Pushcart-nominated poet, and a poetry editor at The Nervous Breakdown. His poetry collection 8th & Agony has been published by L.A.’s Punk Hostage Press.

38 responses to “No Animals or Insects Were Tortured or Killed in the Making of This Poem”

  1. Zara Potts says:

    Darling Rich Ferguson.

    I loved you reading this. I love reading this myself. Your words are so pure, so true, so bitingly delicious.

    With words like this, the New Year is set to be bliss.

    • As always, Sweet Zara, thanks so much for your kind words and support. I look forward to much writing and merry-making in the New Year with everyone here at TNB. Onward and upward!

  2. nigel says:

    brilliant, thank you. rich, you are an amazing wordsmith.

  3. sheree says:

    BRILLIANT!
    Made me think of a song I listen to alot. I’ll put a cd of it in with your scarf. Mailing out on Monday. Cheers and best wishes for a vibrant new year!

    • Hi Sheree!

      Can’t wait to get that scarf! Woo hoo! What a great way to start out 2011!
      Thanks for checking out my work as well. You’re the best.

      Onward and upward in the New Year, my dear.

  4. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    Always a deep pleasure beyond my understanding to read and hear your words that reach for what many others have given up trying for. Radioactivate, yes sir. I’ll take it with me for the year.

  5. D.R. Haney says:

    I watched the clip, and love the concluding note especially, the word “praying” and the head lowers as if in prayer and the image freezes.

    Oh, and I was just the other night wearing a scarf that Sheree made and sent me. You’re in for a treat, Rich.

    • Thanks for reading/watching, Duke. I’m always honored when you stop by to take part and offer your thoughts. And so cool that you received a scarf from Sheree. Can’t wait to get mine. Happy New Year, my friend.

      • Zara Potts says:

        I second the scarves. I was lucky enough to get two lovely scarves from the lovely Sheree last year and they are just toasty!!

  6. New Orleans Lady says:

    “I want every word in every sacred language, dead and alive, to be your first and last name so that when I call out to you is feels like I am praying.”

    I know I already said this on your facebook page but that line deserves more praise. Gives me goosebumps….

    Perfection.
    I love you.

  7. Gloria says:

    I listened to you read this on the Youtube channel, Rich. It’s a beautiful poem. I especially love: Let me visit the solar system in your head. Let me be asteroid, nebula. Let us become the Universe of We. That’s gorgeous.

    On another note, I enjoy the sound of you reading so much. Are you for hire? Next time I need to break up with someone, would you please record my letter as spoken word? Or, could you possibly record the contents of my divorce decree, jury summons, or parking ticket? You have the ability to make anything sound endurable.

    • You are too funny, Gloria. And yes, my voice is yours whenever you need it. Though I must warn you that I don’t read the backs of cereal boxes. I did way too much of that as a kid and have consequently suffered severe burnout from it. Other than that, however, I’ll pretty much read and record anything else you need. Happy New Year, my dear.

      • Gloria says:

        I will email you a list of instruction for Tolkien and Indigo – the ones that I tend to say in a shrill voice that only dolphins and dogs can hear, or in my angry talk through my teeth voice:

        Stop hitting your brother
        Keep your finger out of your nose
        Stop thumping
        I will talk to you when you can quit whining
        Can’t you see I’m on the phone
        I’ve asked you three times to turn off that television

        And then I’ll add them to a digital device and assign them each a number. When I need to say one of those phrases, I’ll just push a button!

        Thanks, Rich. 🙂

  8. Richard Cox says:

    You know, Rich, the wonderful last line of this makes me think of the song “Like a Prayer.” Which maybe I’m not supposed to admit this, but I think that song has one of the more beautiful melodies ever in a pop song.

    So I went to the Internet to try to find a version of the song and marry it to your video. I had this picture in my mind of how it would look and sound, but none of the songs did any justice to your delivery. Either they’re too dance-y or too earnest and it just didn’t work. I don’t know if it would have offended you for me to do that, but in the end it didn’t work anyway.

    However if you’re bored you can look up acoustic performances of the song on YouTube and watch dudes struggle to play the song on the guitar. Haha.

    Great poetry, man. You’re an inspiration.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Richard. You’re an inspiration as well. Can’t wait to meet you in a couple months when you come L.A. way. That’s still happening, right?

      • Richard Cox says:

        It’s happening. The concert is on 2/23, so maybe we can all meet up for dinner and drinks before. Or another day depending on everyone’s schedules.

        Can’t wait, man.

  9. Erika Rae says:

    You make me want to live life better.

    I feel like when I get to meet you in person someday, and go to give you a hug and a kiss on the cheek, there will be a shock of electricity. I’m bracing for it.

    • I’m bracing for that shock as well, Erika. Cause I know the feeling’s gonna be mutual. In fact, as soon as I finish writing this note to you I’m gonna start wrapping myself in duct tape. And I better be sure I’m wearing sneakers when I meet you too.

  10. Judy Prince says:

    “Don’t wanna be an inert gas in the Idiotic Table of Elements.”

    “Wanna believe the pen outlasts the blade. Freedom outlasts the chains.”

    “I wanna shake our collective birthright of shame, blame.”

    “What I want: to crank creation’s contrast knob to fully illuminate what’s right about the world.”

    “What I don’t want: to be dust, rust. Roadtripping with demons—Oblivion or bust.”

    “Wanna see you go out into the night, take a deep breath. Sip in stars, planets, moonbeams.”

    When you call out to us, Rich, it feels like we’re praying.

    Great voice, great video, too!

    Blessings and beautiful New Year’s cheers!

  11. jmblaine says:

    Rich can
    rage
    & somehow
    make you feel
    good
    now
    how many
    can do that?

  12. Slade Ham says:

    First of all, I got my Rudolph card. It’s officially my new favorite Christmas decoration.

    As for No Animals, I loved your reading of it (as usual) so when I clicked on this to actually see the words in print I began reading it in your voice, which soon became a full on impression, hahaha. Thankfully there were no spectators, but my attempts made me laugh. Never a disappointment, you.

    Happy New Year, brother. And Happy Monday as well.

    • That’s hilarious, Slade. The next time I’m doing a reading and we’re in the same city, you should get up on stage with me, and we can have a contest to see which one of us can do the best impression of me. Somehow I get the idea that you’ll win, brother. Happy New Year to you and yours.

  13. Joe Daly says:

    Rich, as always, you have again grabbed the wheel while I was driving, and taken me for a sharp and welcome turn. Thanks, brother.

    >>Don’t wanna be a perpetual cruiser up and down the Boulevard of Bad Vibes.<<

    Amen. I had to learn the difference between good vibes and bad vibes before I grew into this same perspective. Thank something for that.

    Looking forward to more Rich Ferguson in twenty eleven.

  14. Simon Smithson says:

    I always read through your works and try to hear your voice in your head as I do, Rich.

    Then I watch the videos, and your version is always better.

    Love and peace in twenty eleven, brother.

  15. Greg Olear says:

    Love it, Rich. Happy New Year!

  16. M.J. Fievre says:

    So beautiful

  17. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    This closing line gave me the chills, Rich. You are a beautiful soul. How you pull this off without sounding like a total pussy is magical. Must be those dirty Jersey roots.

    • Youre a funny one, Lisa. Yeah, I guess all my time spent in Jersey did indeed beat the total pussy outta me. Or at least I hope it did. Thanks for reading/watching and commenting.

  18. josie says:

    Thanks, R.F.

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