And Tremble


The Poem Stuck in My Head

As a child, I had a morbid fear of the Shelley sonnet “Ozymandias.” (In the pantheon of night terrors, it ranked only behind the cover of the Sweeney Todd LP, which lived in our living room, and the ghost of Ty Cobb, who lived in my closet.) I guess it was in the children’s poetry anthology my mother would sometimes read from. I interpreted the poem extremely literally: any messages about the way of all flesh and the death of empires was lost on me, and I envisioned, instead, merely a series of monstrous limbs, and a sneering head, coming to life Bedknobs-and-Broomsticks-style, and chasing me around. (Later, in high school, I took to secretly calling this one really arrogant nerd with excellent posture Ozymandias, because I was cool like that, but really that’s a story for another day.)

I would have been absolutely terrified of this Breaking Bad promo, in which Bryan Cranston reads the poem to the accompaniment of an ominous drumbeat. In fact, I still sort of am.