Behind the Poems: Battle of the Billboards

two highway billboards on opposing sides blurred out with the title "Battle of the Billboards" overlayed

My next installment of Behind the Poems was first featured in the Avatar Review, Issue 21.

I was inspired to write this one on a road trip I took driving up to Orlando with my best friend. The poem below is the result.

two highway billboards on opposing sides blurred out with the title "Battle of the Billboards" overlayed

On the drive up to Orlando through the 95, we saw billboard after
billboard. Our favorite of course, Café Risqué, the strip club with
the motto, “We bare all,” and a sensuous silhouette of a voluptuous
vixen. And don’t think we didn’t notice when they put up a shiny
new ad. Business must be good, said Cat. Good for them.

The billboards changed from curvy ladies and shadows of lions about
to get it on to calls for salvation from unholy abortions and impending
flames of hell. Gator territory. It’s a strange battlefield, the line between
sin city O-Town and self-righteous Gainesville. Like 95 is the road to fight
for our very souls. In the end, gator jerky and fireworks win.

I found the juxtaposition of the different billboards seen the most in Florida fascinating. It all felt so quintessential to what makes Florida so…Florida.

The constant tension between conservative Christian values and what some may consider hypersexual behaviors always plays out on the state’s highways. As the content changes, you can always tell what part of the state you’re entering: the zealously religious or the fun and so-called trashy.

But in the end, it’s all about a niche cuisine and how much trouble you can get yourself in with gator jerky and fireworks. There’s a simultaneous feeling of pride and cringe knowing that this is how my home state is known.

Some days it’s funny to see the Florida Man headlines and feel shameless. On other days it hurts and infuriates to watch hateful people tear down what could be a place of beauty if they’d only look past the caricature and see the humans behind it.

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