How to Be Good in 11 Steps: A Zombie Poem

Define what “dead” means to a militia.
Be hot for punishment. Be empty. Consider
a guillotine. Consider heedless palm
prints. Be other. Give people your tongue

of doubt. What else? Find hearts
and minds. Be a guide to the best
man’s hand. Delight in the way
his eyes sagged with grief.

See the original and more at

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I’m sure you can guess the source!I decided not to put it up on the zombie site since my kids play around there from time to time.


Yeah that’s her with his hair and beard.

I better use some Tic Tacs, just not

in a straight line. You know, I’m too


attracted to tyranny…I just start

seeing fear. It’s like fantasies for which

you had trained. Nervous blues. (Tongue,


do not now wait.) And when you’re an F5

they let you do anything. Innocence can do tears.

Grab them by orange fire. You can do the cost.



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How Can I Prepare for a Debate: A Zombie Poem

Your brain is small. A warped speech
has another attack, snorted middle, and
the house you built. Say what you are
returning to say. What else?

Say what you’ve broken.

Here’s the original:

“Preparation is critical. A good speech has a beginning, middle and end.
Say what you are going to say.
Say it.
Say what you’ve said.”

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from How to Win a Beauty Pageant: A Zombie Poem

Remove fences and poles by smiling. Do this
blind, days before the pageant — What else?
Wax the dust, four bottles, a colony

and mustache, if you have one. It’ll hurt
but often think of the man. Whip
your body into the dust by eating

healthy, and surviving. This will give
your body that warned look to get time in this
world. Be on your best sparkling behavior,

pixel the pageant. Stand up straight at rage
and smile. Don’t swear, do the bosses,
small piles etc.. Brighten yourself with

laughter. If photons shooting annoys you (honey
it’s your tongue, it’s recalculating
let it happen) turn fast feet. There’s

plenty of old news to bicker over.


See the original and more at

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Donald Trump on ‘Temperament’ — A Zombie Poem

I have an easily unstable — She lay — Let
the dark tell you — Storm came. The huffing wind

of blackbirds — dollars in the sky. You know
they get Madison Avenue into the way

his eyes sagged with grief. They were names.
— Oh fantasies, let’s go (not) — I think

my pink asset here, by far, is the whole thing.
I have the girl. Night knows how to win.

Light does not have a…

And here’s the original quote:

“I have a much better — she spent — let me tell you — she spent hundreds of millions of dollars on an advertising — you know, they get Madison Avenue into a room, they put names — oh, temperament, let’s go after — I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. I have a winning temperament. I know how to win. She does not have a…”

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from Crime and Punishment: A Zombie Poem

This might be my favorite one so far!

My department is experimenting with using The Zombie Poetry Project in its recruiting efforts, so I’m finding short literary quotes for prospective students to zombify. Here’s a zombie of an excerpt from a translation of Crime and Punishment.


Thought wanted to speak but could not;
pieces stood in the way; the dust
flashed when she snapped her rag.

Sky grew both pale and sudden; but parent
fear began bright with the dawn of a new
future, brushing the gray mystery.

Churches were renewed by a tree trunk;
your flashing screen held the fields
of the fort where rains pour

with the fat of the other.

And here’s the original quote:

“They wanted to speak, but could not; tears stood in their eyes. They were both pale and thin; but those sick pale faces were bright with the dawn of a new future, of a full resurrection into a new life. They were renewed by love; the heart of each held infinite sources of life for the heart of the other.”

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My essay “My Magpie Mind,” first published in december, was named a notable essay in the 2016 Best American Essays. This marks the second year in a row for me (“My Two Emilys” was named to the 2015 volume), which tells me I should write more essays with “My” in the title!





It’s a Zombie Cyber Thing

So that’s it. And you know cyber is becoming
so real today. It’s showing rice and soy
and corn, that a number of blackbirds
by the roadside of years ago weren’t even

movement. And always the heavy-handed school,
which he points out is so big. And parents
know laughter. Look at what birds’re doing
with these farms, how sky’s taking

and rolling your rearview mirror through the
Internet. And part of it is hearts and minds
because the tangible side thinks
they’re surfacing. Any slave

knows there’s sunlight. Code — Where CNN
blinked out with the world. Golden fuel –
Came out today that Trump is taking.
Skunk’s a teacher — you know. Field’s school

head. I know that for a fact because people
they didn’t call teacher yesterday they’re
calling me today. So that’s our bright screen?

Here’s the original quote:

“Well, that’s it. And you know cyber is becoming so big today. It’s becoming something that a number of years ago, short number of years ago, wasn’t even a word. And now the cyber is so big. And you know you look at what they’re doing with the Internet, how they’re taking and recruiting people through the Internet. And part of it is the psychology because so many people think they’re winning. Any you know, there’s a whole big thing. Even today’s psychology — where CNN came out with a big poll. Their big poll came out today that Trump is winning. It’s good psychology, you know. It’s good psychology. I know that for a fact because people they didn’t call me yesterday, they’re calling me today. So that’s the way life works, right?”

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A Zombie Poem in Honor of Trump’s Dip Down South

The Wall

I will build a new tyranny. Though the world
Builds innocents better than me,

believe my rage. And I’ll build it all alone.
Tyranny will build a great wall

on a head of fire, and Mexico will pay
for your sleep. Mark the sorrow.

Here’s the original, in case you’ve forgotten…

“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me –and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

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Back-to-School Zombie Haiku!

Teachers: Have your students zombify a single sentence from a famous source as the first line of a new poem. Or have them zombify their own drafts as a strategy for revision!


My hands are all here; Mind is heedless in its old way.


“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” —LEO TOLSTOY


The past is the place we are

or are not watched; they do

newness differently now.


“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”  —L. P. HARTLEY


It was the great house he had built;

the rain seemed in the kind of place

you like — except at this thought

and here, dancing, the scanty flame

of family.


“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” —EDWARD GEORGE BULWER-LYTTON

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