IN WHICH YOU CRAWL ACROSS A DEAD POSSUM TO MAKE A POEM
WHAT IS THIS?
"in which you crawl across a dead possum to make a poem" is a poem-game in which the player explores the dead opossum1 pictured above and creates a randomly generated poem as a result. the player takes the random words created by their exploration, and refines them into a more cogent, personalized expression.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
either a pencil and paper or an open word processing document, and a six-sided die2 (or a suitable number generator that functions like a six-sided die).
note: the die is used both as a d6, where "6" refers to the number of sides on the die, and a d66.3 a d664 is simply a d6 rolled twice—the first result filling in for the tens spot and the second result filling in for the ones. for example, if a player makes a d66 roll and rolls a 4 and 5 in that order, their score will be 45. this means that no zeroes or numbers above six may occur in either the tens or ones spot (ex. 01, 19, 20, &c.) as a six-sided die won't contain these numbers.
BEGINNING A POEM
the player begins the poem on the space marked "!". from here, they may move 1d6 spaces at a time in any cardinal or ordinal direction (north, northeast, east, southeast, &c.)—in any combination—with the exception of movement into a blank space (","). these spaces are considered impassable,5 meaning that a player cannot move there.
there is no competition in this game, so the player simply continues taking turns until they've completed the game or decide to stop playing. however, each turn is segmented so the player can roll for a randomly generated word following their movement.
d66 is rolled on the corresponding table when a player finishes their move onto a particular body part. the body part type of a space is indicated by a symbol on the map that corresponds to one of seven possible types that may be traversed, each listed in the legend. the d66 result from the appropriate body part type table is written down in the skeleton poem. body part type table results may include words, line breaks, or mark the end of a stanza.
when a player rolls a line break as a result, they may choose between taking a line break in their skeleton poem or choosing any word within the same decade, or tens result on the d66 roll, as that line break. this free word option allows the player to select from the five words preceding the line break and insert that choice into the skeleton poem.
ex. a player rolls a 56 after moving into body fur. they may choose to add "graph" (51), "bend" (52), "wise" (53), "medley" (54), or "pit" (55) to their skeleton poem if they want to use the free word option. otherwise, they may take a regular line break.
a line break result causes the current line of the poem to end and the next one to begin. if this result is rolled at the beginning of the poem, it may be re-rolled.
similarly, a player may roll to end the stanza. if rolled, the player should begin a new stanza. if this result is rolled at the beginning of the poem or in new, empty stanza, it may be re-rolled.
ex. the player begins the poem by rolling a 1, choosing to move northwest into body fur. they roll to determine the result of their movement on the table labeled "body fur," rolling a 3 followed by a 5 (35), or "accident," which is written down on the first line of the skeleton poem. next, they roll a 1 again, and choose to move south into more body fur. they roll d66 again, rolling a 52. the result, "bend," is written after "accident" on the first line of the skeleton poem.
the player may choose to finish their movement back onto the start position, or may do so at the conclusion of the game to complete the game's stated objectives. this space on the map is a free move—there are no corresponding rolls whenever the player moves onto the start position.
whenever the player finishes their movement onto an objective space ("#"), that move may be treated as a free line break, stanza break, or free word choice for any word in the combined body part tables. if the player opts out of including this break or word, the move should be treated as a free move. no corresponding roll is made when moving onto an objective space. this special result is assessed each time a player finishes their movement onto an objective space, not only the first time.
ENDING THE POEM
the objective6 of the game is to explore the three objectives7 on the dead opossum8 and return to the start position. to reach the start position or the objectives, the player doesn't need to roll the precise number to land exactly there—they simply must be able to finish their move there. however, the player may freely explore9 the spaces of the dead opossum for as long as they like.
THE SKELETON POEM
as the player moves across the map, they will add more and more words to their skeleton poem. once the player completes the game or decides to end their play session, they should begin to complete their skeleton poem.
the skeleton poem doesn't contain grammatical words that allow it to function as comprehensible english-language poetry. these grammatical words and appropriate linguistic affixes (prefixes, suffixes, &c.) must be added by the player.
the skeleton poem shouldn't be considered a finished poem. the player should read these words as an open opportunity to mold the provided framework into something meaningful. the player may add any necessary grammatical words, phrases, or affixes to the existing skeleton poem. any necessary grammatical features, such as pronouns, negators ("no" or "not"), prepositions, determiners (like "a" or "the"), and modals and dummies ("will," "may," "do," &c.), may be added by a player.
in addition to these grammatical additions, players may add whatever punctuation they see fit.
the only major restriction of the skeleton poem's completion is that the player shouldn't add new semantically rich words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, &c., such as those in the body part tables) to the poem. players use their discretion to determine the meaning of a word that may otherwise have multiple definitions, and may modify that word according to their choice.
the primary exception to this rule is if the player would like to add numerals to their poem. these are freely allowed as a part of expanding the skeleton poem.
ex. a player rolls a 22 when moving onto the eyes. the result, "camp," may be later used as the noun ("a camp"—a temporary settlement), a verb ("to camp"—to set up a camp or stay stationary particular place for a lengthy amount of time), or even an adjective ("campy"—goofy or over-the-top).
players should feel free to modify spelling and grammar to fit their poetic speaker's voice or to match their own linguistic preferences. as the words provided for the skeleton poem are free of grammatical certainty, they may be modified to match a particular dialect or sociolect as is appropriate.
BODY PART TABLES
eyes & fur
1 there are many types of opossums in the world. the one pictured above is a virginia opossum, or didelphis virginiana. the name "opossum" comes from the algonquin word aposoum. it has nothing to do with the latin verb possere, which is where the word "possible" comes from. "opossible," therefore, means little, if anything at all.
2 opossums have very short life spans, and tease death further through the process of "playing possum." opossums fake their own death, often due to extreme emotional distress. they may cause would-be predators to no longer see them as a threat, and leave them alone. if feigning death doesn't work, the repulsive odor leaked out of their anus through the process of playing possum may prove more successful. playing possum may last for up to four hours.
3 you could conceive of a d666 in this way. it's opossible.
4 a d666 would be very heavy metal. opossums might be similarly construed as heavy metal. they live fast, die young, and have bifurcated genitals. they eat human garbage. they have fun names, like "elegant fat-tailed mouse opossum" and "wood sprite gracile opossum." in captivity, some opossums may resort to cannibalism. opossums are highly resistant to snake venom, including rattler, cottonmouth, and pit viper venoms. that's pretty heavy metal.
5 in a different life, this might read "impossumble."
6 one wonders what the objective of being an opossum is. if it is to mate and die. if it is to mate and fake dying. if it is to fake mating and fake dying. if it is to be as heavy metal as possible, mate, and die.
7 these objectives are points in spacetime that have zero bearing on anything at all except this game and the poem that comes out of it when you play it. these objectives will not make life more fulfilling for an opossum and will not help that opossum achieve a particular level of heavy metalness. this requires other material actions on your behalf.
8 it's a little weird to say that the dead opossum in this game is kinda cute, but it is. the japanese have a cultural concept of cuteness known as kawaii. it's difficult to initially conceptualize kawaii heavy metal. heavy metal carries medievalist overtones, in large part carrying over from early themes of european mythos wizards and witches, as well as vikings from nordic metal groups. few people might consider the middle ages cute.
9 opossums may enter one's consciousness as a natural emblem of kawaii heavy metal, then. they embody certain traits associated with being heavy metal and certain traits associated with being kawaii. they are complex creatures, full of deeply emotional lives. one can imagine them with big smiles and thrilling guitar solos, all with their children latched onto their backs. there's a lot of respect due to such a majestic, dynamic creature.
This poem-game originated from the explosive mating rituals between an unexpected cosmic event on top of a sacred mountain in Proteus and Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, took a body after losing control over one in Cyberqueen, and finally molded over to greet death after reading Annie Dillard's "Fecundity" chapter from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.