Beware the Poetry
Part Two



graphic of the words Poetic Justice

to a piece of shit

[From the transcript of a message left on the answering machine of Mara Anna Young, an Orange County, California, resident who contested the termination of her food stamps by the Department of Social Services. The transcript was made public by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing Orange County for Young.]

Yes, Mara Ann Young, this call is for you. This is the Department of Social Services Health and Welfare Agency, and we're in receipt of your letter saying that we have committed blatant fabrication and malfeasance.

Miss Young, you're so full of shit. Why don't you get off your fat, lazy ass and get a job. You know, taxpayers like me really resent the shit out of you. What makes you so special that you don't have to get up and go to work? You just work the system and take and take and take.

Why don't you get a life, get a job, and quit taking from people who do have lives and jobs. You sound plenty healthy. If you've got a disability, go to Goodwill. But quit trying to take our money.

You are not special; you are a piece of shit. And guess what? You have already lost your case. We just want to let you know what we think of you. We think you're garbage.


This poem is copyright Mark O'Brien, 1998.

to an Orange County Social Worker

[A reply by poet Mark O'Brien]

dear ms. johnson,
you eat shit & love it.

this morning, you had shit with eggs.

at lunch, you're biting into a toasted shit sandwich

and at supper, you'll eat shit with potatoes

drenched in diarrhea sauce.


on saturday, you go to the shit store

and buy it for 5 cents a ton.

you'll take a day off if they're selling shit for 4 cents a ton.

then you'll make 2 trips,

come home carrying bags & bags of it.


if shit were music, you'd sing it all day.

if shit were a religion, you'd be its pope.

if the pacific ocean turned into shit,

you'd turn into a fish.

if shit were a book, you'd be reading aloud from it.


there's no need for you to wear shit perfume,

shit cologne,

or double shit-scented underarm deodorant.

we can small you coming

from miles away.

yours in deep shit,

mark o'brien

photo of Mark O'Brien which demonstrates that he lived in an iron lung.
photo of Mark by Jessica Yu



Click here for your next Beware the Poem, but ONLY if you won't be shocked to read the word disabled people can't say.

Mark O'Brien was a contributing editor for Pacifica News Service and author of several books of poetry including "Man in the Iron Lung." He appears in "Breathing Lessons," Jessica Yu's Oscar-winning 1997 film about his life and work. He died in 1999.

Click here to see a photo of the sort of hard-working professional helper to whom this poem was addressed and to read the confession of a recovering professional.

You can order the video of "Breathing Lessons" from our Attitude Catalog Store. To take a look, click here.