This was a fun one. Jungle of Hell was published last summer to very little notice, but I think it’s worth a second look at.
Original text here: Jungle of Hell – Text
From the off, you might notice this poem has a significantly different bend than ones you might be used to from me. I have roughly three themes I enjoy writing about consistently: romance, abstractions, and aggression. As I said above, this is one of those aggressive ones, and I don’t really write about it terribly often. I bend more toward romantic poems or writing about a place I’ve been, so even if this is in my top 3 themes it’s still rare for me.
If you follow my journals and listen to my song recommendations, you’ll find that this poem is a result of a classic writing exercise. This is a rewrite of the lyrics to “Nobody Speak” by DJ Shadow. The tone set by the song set the stage for a spin-off, in terms of meter and demeanor.
And one last bit of business to describe: this poem, if you’re wise to my other influences, is very much drenched in inspiration from DOOM 2016. Love that fucking game. I set out to write a poem that describes the feeling of power as well as being boastful as in “Nobody Speak”. So this was my shot.
Stanza 1 is great, stanzas 2-8 not so much. I think I suffered from a real pacing issue here right at the start, in that this kind of lyric/poem needs zero context. Cripplingly, I added context, and kept adding context, until context decided it would suck on some nourishing gravel and die in the dirt covered in its own bodily fluids.
Stanza one: “Start running/ Door’s open we’re coming”, while I think is effective as establishing what the stakes are immediately, could have done better as a tercet. The poem wastes no time making sure the reader knows that the narrator is the one to be afraid of. But the next 7 stanzas that follow kind of wallow in it ineffectively.
Then stanza 9 goes “We will chainsaw you in half/ Motherfucker/ We don’t mess/ But with mess in your death”, which I think does well with the meter and rhyme I’m abiding by. It describes that violence while having a grip on pacing, finally.
What continues is similar rhyme sets, and even more internal rhyme. Instead of describing it beat for beat like you could read in the poem itself, I’ll discuss the metaphors I opted for and go over if I thought they did what they were supposed to.
This is one after stanza 9 I really enjoyed: “We will pull your spine/ From your chest/// Beat you with a wrench/ Break your horns and/ Slit your throat/ With their ends” for the not just glory kill reference to DOOM 2016, but the very smooth Bioshock reference as well. We also have almost a nonsensical set in the first two lines. I intended that to evoke the brutality of the scene. Yes, it’s about reaching through a chest to tear out a spine. Pretty literal, really.
There’s also this set some lines later, “We’ve got machine guns/ That fire rockets/ And gauss rifles/ In our pockets” that’s a reference to fantastical weapons as well as the unrealistic expectations of carrying them all at once that old school FPS games wonderfully cater to. I think that’s part of the intrigue: some things don’t need to be explained. And some things don’t need to be drowned out by context.
We also have these two curious lines later on that go “Our divisions in the visions/ Of breaking your body”, and at first that definitely looks like I vomited something out to make a rhyme happen. Hopefully it doesn’t look like that to you, because I intended that to come off as an explanations of the different ways the extremely powerful have at mind to tear asunder their opposition. Divisions in the visions they have, kinda thing.
And we’ll end picking apart the actual text of the poem by going over the last 5 lines briefly. “We don’t speak/ We communicate/ In the corpses/ Of demons we leave/// ‘Fuck out of here'”. I think this one was really well done. Probably the best part of this whole poem outside of stanza 9. The whole silent protagonist thing is popular in these games, especially DOOM, so I wanted to riff on that as well as pay homage to the inspiration from that song “Nobody Speak”.
All in all, this poem started aggressive, lost me right afterwards, and brought it back around. If this one were to get a remaster, the first thing I’d do is chop out those intermediate build-up lines because they’re awful. Maybe not on their own, but awfully structured.
Though, if you can look past that, I think you can see this poem for what it is: nothing more than a love letter to a franchise that soaks itself in wanton destruction. It’s cathartic and also quite a lovely mindset to have when faced with an obstacle.
It’s actually one of the driving forces behind achieving, to me. “Do not go around. Go through.”
So this poem speaks to that attitude, that aggression that comes with drive. Don’t go around, go through your obstacle. Make sure your other obstacles know what you can do. Each one falls easier than the last.
In other words: “Make ’em swoon”.
This rehashed was a little short, but then again this poem is really quite literal. Not a lot to unpack, and I hope you’ve been able to enjoy taking a second shot at it. I walked away knowing that the sequel will be wayyyy less contextual.