Song for Awe and Dread

Song for Awe and Dread
A poem to be read dressed in black
Wearing a skeleton mask
With a piece of gum in your mouth
While standing on a stack of books
As you read a list of chewing gum flavors


Sucrose cubesmanufactured
Tucked away in confetti wrappers
Colored bulbs blown to disaster
Explode and stick on lips with laughter


Cindy texts with a mouth of lather
Jenna gnaws elastic pleasure
Eric stretches his tropic flavor
But baby, nothing
Never ever, lasts forever


Billie’s last piece will be shared
Dexter’s wads one beneath his chair
Julie spits one to the street
Christie clicks and snaps and tweets


Dennis chews and downs drinks a coke
Sasha tucks one in a tardy note
David chews but its lost all flavor
But baby, nothing
Never ever, lasts forever


All we need we know
We death in a crystal bowl
Crowns and fools gold
Clocks and mind control
All we need we know
Smile it’s a circus show
The planks of shipped wrecked boats
The tongues of buried poems


(dialogue interlude)


No, no, no,
I go like this AhhAhhhhAHHH!!
When I get to the end of something,
I go, AhhAhhhhAHHH!!


But why?
Why do you feel the need?
That wasn’t the end of anything!
I know, just practice, try it with me AhhAhhhhAHHH!!
No thanks,


I do it at the end of a song
The end of a car ride
The end of a transaction
The end of a book


The end of a book?
Yes, the end of a book I go AhhAhhhhAHHH!!
But what if you’re in bed with your wife and she’s trying to sleep?
I know, then I go, AhhAhhhhAHHH
Much quieter, ahh, ahh, ahh


It seems like an infliction, a burden you carry, to have to do this


No, no, no
No burden at all


It’s a celebratory salute
A trumpeted arrival


But you’re not arriving, your ending, finishing
Yes, but the end is also a beginning
I see


Something has ended, but something new is about to begin
Nothing ended just then
I know, just practice
You try


No, no, no It’s actually driving me crazy


please, please stop
I got to get out of here.
Where you going?


I am leaving this room


hey, we’re done with our conversation
you’ve completed your journey across the room


goodbye? Just goodbye, nothing more?
so boring


Debbie sticks it to the water fountain
Jamie discards to build her mountain
Joel’s bubble slowly drains
Roger chews till his jaws in pain


Reneka’s piece warmed to goo
Jeremy curses as he lifts his show
April’s dry she wants more flavor
But baby, nothing
Never ever, lasts forever


Nicole laughs it down her blouse
Alex pulls wrapper form his mouth
Sophie gags on a piece from Jill
Luke’s addicted to the sugar pill


Adams chews twenty on a dare
Daniel flicks one into Rebecca’s hair
Amy’s mouth is leaking flavor
But baby, nothing
Never ever, lasts forever


A poem to be read dressed in black
Wearing a skeleton mask
With a piece of gum in your mouth
While standing on a stack of books
Holding a wall clock
As you read a list of chewing gum flavors
Before you spit out your piece of gum
And jump off the stack of books
To hit a cymbal with the leg of a mannequin
Before walking circles around your piece of gum
As you contemplate the cyclical nature of our being
And the sound of the cymbal as it fades to a silence
Like the final breath of the earth’s last living dinosaur




Process Notes:
Song for Awe & Dread is a contemporary take on the vanitas paintings of the 17th century and an
investigation into the emotional duality of our existence. It is AWEsome to be human and to be
alive, but the evolution of human intelligence has also burdened our species with a self-awareness
of life’s impermanence. The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard called these two uniquely
human emotions, awe and dread. Through its symbolic meditation on mortality, this work
attempts to find meaning between the fleeting flavors of bubblegum and cultural programming
that entrenches us in our denial of death.


Video & Music & Text: written, recorded, performed and edited by Tommy Becker, 2015
instructional poetry read by – Don Johnson
skeleton characters performed by – Billy Mark
backing vocals – Rosie Harald
public domain footage – collected from the Prelinger Archives.
A huge THANK YOU!!! to all my students for their enthusiastic participation.


BIO | Tommy Becker |
Tommy Becker attended the San Francisco Art Institute as an undergraduate before receiving his MFA in Film, Video, Performance from California College of Arts in 2001 where he was awarded, “The All College Honor Award”. A poet trapped in a camcorder, Becker continues to feed video poems into his never-ending saga, “TAPE NUMBER ONE”. The visual tape blends the artist’s poetics, songwriting, performance, costuming with found footage and in computer design. Each track is presented as a song dedication, the videos run song – length, never more then a few minutes.

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