I never cared much for Tom Petty back when I was addicted to pop music in the 80s. That Alice in Wonderland video was constantly in rotation and it simultaneously annoyed and appealed to me, but annoyance must have won because I never bought the record. I don’t think I knew that Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics wrote that song. He was the caterpillar in the video. The two are great friends.

It was only a few months ago that I started thinking about Tom Petty as a previously untapped source of musical entertainment. Nicki Minaj can only take me so far. I now love Runnin’ Down a Dream. Who could have predicted? It’s in my boot camp playlist. Petty seeped into my consciousness like swamp water in a leaky fishing boat; became interesting to me in a way I was blind to decades ago, obsessed as I was with bands like Duran Duran, Depeche Mode and The Thompson Twins. Even in my classic rock-loving moments, listening to Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Pink Floyd and AC/DC, Tom Petty was never really a consideration. Maybe if he looked like Jim Morrison pre-bloat, things would have flowed otherwise…

When I saw that Netflix had a Tom Petty documentary, I was all in. Four hours in, it turned out. What appealed to me first was Petty’s refusal to let the record companies take him for a ride. He sued their asses when they tried to lay claim to his songs and again when they tried raising the price of his records. As a published novelist, I raise my lighter and salute him. Single-handedly taking control of his career alone is truly badass. Total rock and roll.

Then it turned out that he is a fantastic writer who hates bullshit pop songs that say nothing and water down the entire industry. Yes sir, I’ll take two.

I related to these things, and to his childhood—suffering at the hands of an abusive father while mom was the angel. That was me early on—dad chasing me around the house with his belt during the day, mom tucking me in at night with a kiss and a snuggle.

I wanted to be a rock star for a long while—to fulfill the insatiable need to express something intense to someone who didn’t listen. That’s the equation for so many artists. But I don’t sing or play music and wasn’t good at focusing in order to learn. Plus, I’d have shit my pants if I stepped in front of an audience back then. So my art form varied from visual—filmmaking, silkscreens, paintings and design, to theatrical—my acting pursuit in the 90s, and finally to writing. First my batch of personal essays chronicling my oversexed, unsupervised youth during those asymmetrical 1980s, and then the novels.

Over the course of two days spent in involuntary imprisonment due to my daughter’s endless fever, I watched the documentary and felt a reignited passion to express myself. Particularly, like Petty, in rhyme. Because I guess deep down I’m still a wannabe rock star and might always be.

For whatever reason, my words came out not like hard rocking tunes but like nursery rhymes.

The content—SSRI side effects—juxtaposed against a cheerful rhyme—I liked it. I already visualize the book: an illustrated children’s tome that contains anything but child appropriate material inside. Kind of like Go the Fuck to Sleep. But not. But kind of.

I posted the first poem after midnight on all my social medias.

The second one I typed on my phone before I got out of bed this morning. It’s like the Rime of the Ancient Housewife:

Swallow me whole
One pill a day
I fix all your troubles
The Lexapro way
Doctor prescribed me
Called me a net
Catch all your sorrows
Take all you can get
What they don’t tell you
What you don’t know
I ruin your sex life
You’re dead down below
Small price to wager
For happiness dear
Spouse says it’s ok you
Haven’t fucked in a year
So stop all your pills
Quit taking your meds
Doc says no worries
But you lose your head
No sex was nothing
Compared to this swamp
Your brains buggin’ hard
Your outlook a dump
You’re damned if you do
You’re damned if you don’t
You’re caught in my net
My cover is blown
Your doc closed up shop
Turns out his wife’s
a heroin addict
Ain’t that just life?
Now you’re alone
No doctor to treat
Just you and your pills
And your brand new disease
First comes the library
Then ye olde internet
Pages of horror
Scores of regret
Barely an ending
That’s happy to tell
I dare you to write one
Your victory knell
So swallow me whole
Or split me in two
Can’t quit me easy
I’m the Lexapro Flu
Yes split me in two
Then split me in four
You can’t live without me
You Lexapro whore
In time they’ll replace me
With something more vile
A drug with no history
A mystery child
People will eat her
Then they’ll get sick
More poems will come
It’s a terrible trick
So swallow me whole
No matter my name
No you can’t quit me easy
It’s the industry’s game
Yes swallow me down
One pill a day
I’ll ruin your life
The Lexapro Way
Thank you Philadelphia good night!