Earworms

Definitions

An earworm is “a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind after it is no longer playing.”

A cento is “…a poetical work wholly composed of verses or passages taken from other authors … disposed in a new form or order.”

A quilt of found texts, a remix.

Explanations

For the brief time I was on Facebook (most of 2016 and a bit of 2017), I found myself occasionally dropping random song lyrics into my timeline, hoping to annoy my friends, for whom such lyrics would very likely serve as terrible and unshakeable earworms. I’m kind and thoughtful like that.

Gradually, I began grouping several lyrics together for maximum impact. A sort of blunderbuss effect. Soon, I realized I was composing little cento poems from these song snippets. Pop songs weren’t the only earworms I was building centos from. TV show themes were often colliding in my head, too.

I had two “rules” — to use as recognizable a line from each song as possible, but never a line that included the title of the song or TV show; and never to use lyrics from the same song more than once. (I have, in fact, broken each rule on one occasion. Let me know if you find either of these minor transgressions.) Also, some of them had a hidden theme.

After fleeing Facebook, I decided to republish them, beginning over the summer and fall of 2018, at (fleeting). While they still remain there as individual posts, and are tagged with a common category, I’ve decided to also dedicate a page to them here at AFC, so they’re all in one place.

There may be more new pop song centos someday, but for now, I’m considering the sequence more or less finished, since I think I’ve referenced as many TV theme songs as I could.

Most centos are untitled. The pop song centos are numbered one through twenty-five, and the TV centos follow, lettered A thru U.

~r
2020-03-29

Specimens

1

As I walk thru this wicked world, searching for light in the darkness of insanity, I’m sick and tired of hearing things from uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics. Can you hear them? They talk about us, telling lies. Well, that’s no surprise.


2

On Wednesdays I go shopping
and have buttered scones
for tea — oh no, I’ve said
too much. I haven’t
said enough. He
just smiled and gave me
a vegemite sandwich.


3

She’s a good girl. Crazy
about Elvis and somebody
else’s favorite song. She’s filing
her nails while they’re dragging
the lake down at the end
of Lonely Street.


4

You must remember this:
if you smile at me, I will
understand. I hate people
when they’re not polite.


5

The worst fear that can
ever be hurled starts
with an earthquake, birds,
and snakes. He hides
like a child and he will
lead us into darkness,
my friends. Get ready
for the future. It is
murder.


6

father father we don’t need
to escalate

you
are the reason
I’ve been waiting
all these years

one of these mornings
you’re gonna rise up

singing


7

Is there gas in
the car Yes there’s gas
in the car we were driving

Driving in your car
Speed so fast I felt
like I was

drunk And it’s these
late nights and
this freeway flying

It always
makes me
sing

Kingman
Barstow

San Bernardino


8

well my heart knows me
better than I know myself
hypnotized mesmerized by
what my eyes have seen
the way you hold your knife
the way we danced till three
I found a picture of you oh
those were the happiest
days of my life


9: “Dear Sir Or Madam,”

He danced for those in minstrel
shows and county fairs,
saving up to buy him some
clothes. No one ever knew
his name ’cause he’s a no-one.

Here I am on my knees,
begging if you please: How
do the angels get to sleep
when the devil leaves
the porchlight on? Is there
a letter in your bag for me?

I didn’t want to rock
your boat, but you sent this
dangerous note — and I say,
“Little sister, don’t you do
what your big sister does:
dance beneath the diamond
sky over men and horses,
hoops and garters, short
skirts and skinny legs.”

Selling bibles and real
estate, I’d rather be famous
than righteous or holy. When
I look at the television,
I wanna see me. Will you let me
control the handles? You
know it’s the best thing
I’ve ever seen. Your heart
seems so silent. Why do you
breathe so low? Please

turn on your magic beam,
put your little hand in mine.
When you’re rockin and
a-rollin, you can’t hear your
momma call, “Domo arigato!”

Stroll around the grounds
until you feel at home.


10

strumming my pain
with his
fingers

with a portrait
of Rasputin
and

a beard down
to his
knees:

the only boy
who could
ever

teach me that
you don’t
know

what you’ve got
till it’s
gone


11

at night I wake up
with the sheets soaking
wet because my love
for you would break

my heart in two if you
should fall I will
catch you I will be

waiting


12

and when the cow
kicked it over she
winked her eye
and said I’m empty
and aching and I
don’t know why


13

cheer up sleepy
Jean oh what
can it mean
the lovers the
dreamers & me


14

when I have nothing
to say my lips are
sealed you were my
voice when I couldn’t
speak well I talk
about it talk about
it talk about it
talk about it arguments
agreements advice
answers articulate
announcements


15: Multiple Choice

Something Shakespeare never said was:

  1. You’ve got to be kidding
  2. Why don’t you just shove off if it bothers you so much?
  3. Don’t bury me ’cause I’m not dead yet
  4. You and me, babe — how ’bout it?
  5. All of the Above

16

don’t know why
there’s no sun up

in the sky like a river

flows surely to
the sea why do

birds sing so gay except for

the few we
take home to experiment


17: “I’m sittin’ on my watch, so I can be on time…”

Well, the whole thing started
at three o’clock fast. I pulled
into Nazareth, I was feelin’
about half past dead.

It’s been seven hours and
fifteen days? Two years,
seven months, and sixteen
days! Friday morning at
nine o’clock, don’t try to
turn it off. The regular crowd
shuffles in: they just
use your mind and they
never give you credit.

Ten o’clock, night time
in New York — it’s not
late, no no, just early
early early. It’s gone
eleven and the bar is shut.
That’s when my love comes
tumbling down, that’s when
you’re going to be mine.
I know who I want to take
me home. We’re gonna
let it all hang down.

It’s one o’clock and time
for lunch, hum dee dum
dee dum. One, two, three
o’clock, four o’clock rock.
Wednesday morning at
five o’clock, there’s a church
beside a park and it fills
the dying dark with five
strokes. It’s six o’clock
in the morning, you’re the last
to hear the warning. Don’t say
goodbye, he’s just leaving
early: the morning is
just a few hours away…


18

if you’ll be my bodyguard
I can be your long lost pal
I guess you didn’t know it
but I’m a fiddle player too
don’t call it a comeback
I’ve been here for years


19

I am an only child
born of the wild
yes I grew up sweet
till I fell from a tree
things have gotten bad
and I know it’s
my own damn fault


20

Why doncha go
where fashion sits
just a half a mile
from the railroad track
I’ll tell you what I want
what I really really want
just to be the man who
walked a thousand miles


21

what’ll you do when you get lonely
& nobody’s waiting by your side
it’s gonna take patience & time
to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it


22

hey now you’re a rock star
yes I think you’ve seen me before
it’s been three long years
do you still want me
I’m not that innocent


23

I never travel far without
a little big star and
there ain’t no one
going to turn me ’round
like a record baby
like a symbol of math
a symbol meaning
greater than a hundred
and five ten
fifteen twenty babies


24

A little bit of Monica
in my life: she’s
into superstitions,
black cats, and voodoo
dolls. When you say
she’s looking good
she acts as if
it’s understood, cuz
everybody knows
the things she does
to please, working for
the Yankee dollar…


25

now here you go again you say
you want your freedom showing
how funky and strong is your
fight it hurts me so just to
see you go around with
someone new you could have
a steam train if you just
lay down your tracks
hand hand take me
by the hand


A

sunny day, sweepin’ the clouds away
believe it or not, I’m walking on air
and you can’t take the sky from me


B

well, we’re movin’ on up
to the east side: four men living
all together, where the kisses
are hers and hers and his — but
that’s just a little bit more
than the law will allow


C

Love, exciting and new. Come aboard,
we’re expecting you Saturday.
What a day: a yabba dabba
doo time, a three hour tour…


D

Making your way in
the world today takes
everything you’ve got.
Well, no one told you
life was gonna be
this way: when you walk
through the garden, you
gotta watch your back.


E

Back in the 90s
I was in a very famous
TV show and maybe
I seem a bit confused,
well maybe, but who can
turn the world on
with her smile? It’s Jess!


F

Come and listen to my story
about a man named Jed. He’s busy
revvin’ up a powerful Mach–5.
We’ll send him cheesy movies,
the worst we can find! Yeah,
we tease him a lot cuz
we’ve got him on the spot.


G

We’re bobbing along in our barrel, we get the funniest looks from everyone we meet. Give us any chance, we’ll take it. Read us any rule, we’ll break it. Uncompromising, enterprising — anything but tranquilizing!


H

You take the good, you take
the bad, you take ’em both
and there you have: all the little
chicks with their crimson lips,
hanging out down the street,
mysterious and spooky…


J

“I got in one little fight and my Mom got scared, now I’m living on the air in Cincinnati. I am human and I need to be loved.”

“You’re stuck in whatever city they decide to dump you in. If you need me to be with you, I will follow — so cheer up, you melancholy Dane!”


K

This is it! This is life,
the one you get, so
get another piece of pie
for your wife, travel
down the road and
back again, hear the song
that we’re singin’
— c’mon get happy!


L

The Charleston was once the rage
— history has turned the page.
Boy, the way Glenn Miller played!
I’m so glad we had this time together,
just to have a laugh or sing a song.
What would we do, baby, without us?


M

I gotta feeling
that I can’t let go:
they’ve given you
a number and taken
away your name


N

Can you see me walkin’
down the street? Beatbox
blares a click-track
to my empty mind –
You can lose your mind
when cousins are two
of a kind: I’m a little
bit country, and I’m
a little bit rock & roll.


O

Life’s not the French Riviera,
believe me, life’s not a charity ball.
It’s a jungle out there, disorder
& confusion everywhere:
There’s a traffic jam in Harlem
that’s backed up to Jackson
Heights. Keep Manhattan,
just give me that countryside.


P

New boy in the
neighborhood, lives
downstairs and it’s
understood: No one
can talk to a horse,
of course. Keep movin’
movin’ movin’, though
they’re disapprovin’…


Q

Anytime you meet a payment
Anytime you need a friend
Come ride the little train
That is rolling down the tracks
To a brand new life around the bend


R

Everybody’s got a special kind
of story, everybody finds a way
to shine. Some walk by night,
some fly by day. Here’s a chance
to make it, if we focus on
our goals: all we have to do
is click with the right clique.


S

No one ever warned me
Love just takes you by surprise
People, let me tell you ’bout my best friend
She’s my very own guiding star


T

Life is more than mere survival
We just might live the good life yet
It’s my life and my dream
Nothing’s going to stop me now


U

na-nuh na-nuh
na-nuh na-nuh,
na-nuh na-nuh
na-nuh na-nuh — Jane!
Stop this crazy thing!