Wednesday, November 29, 2006

281. Rave On ('Bout Time Too)

This Blog has been getting so bloody boring ... I know, I know. Energy is being diffused in many stray directions.

Here's a poem now.
It is not one of my poems (keep down those sighs of relief, please!)
and it's not actually a very good poem.
It doesn't rhyme.
It doesn't scan.
It doesn't make much sense until you read it 2-3 times.
Then, I think, it makes a lot of sense:

Habits of Unsuccessful People

I dream of failure
and large parties
wish I could stop
whining and get
with the program

No coincidences, my father
worked hard his entire life
made me start when I was 12
Was happy when on vacation
4 weeks out of the year(inc
luding weekends) I never
wanted to be that- I want
to wake up happy about
the day- Love big and loud
Drink strange intoxicants
with hobos and the famous
fight about important things
not my dissatisfaction. Write
poetry, songs, sing alone
and in crowds, dance, dance,
dance and answer at least
one Big question to my satisfaction

So, I'm unsuccessful, wanna make
something of it?

I sat back and read this a coupla times, and thought, "wha'??"

The guy is called "dr_con" -- Doctor Con? -- and I came in contact with him on an Internet poetry forum. Yeah, these things do exist. We write poetry for one another, in happy little groups. It's a Gay & Lesbian thing. Sorry??!! Honestly, you guys have the attention span of gnats ....

I got the ball rolling with the following response:

This is a Henry Miller poem. A man, a misfit, feels the pressure to conform (he may be dumb, he sure as hell ain't stupid) but he's still not willing to pay the price. The idea of success in America still hangs on this lingering 19th century dream of scooping up idiotic amounts of money, as if that were still possible today in a country of 300 million. It isn't. For lack of any alternative measure of worth, personal wealth has become the yardstick by which people are assigned their social status. Sure, there are exceptions ... but not so many. Look around you.

This is why the idea of the "Loser" has taken on such force in American society. If you don't join the money merry-go-round you are a strange and dubious person and that means you could also be subversive and dangerous and possibly criminal. You are politically un-American and that can get dangerous.

Just look at what happened to the workers who tried to organize - the IWW - Eugene Debs got thrown in jail and union organizers got their asses kicked. Don't even bring up the subject of Negros (now Afro-Americans, as if a name change makes everything cool) or illegal immigrants from south of the border or anywhere else. In order for there to be a small circle of winners, there has to be an astoundingly huge corral of non-winners, i.e. losers. That's why the USA has no national health insurance, for example (socialism, communism!!) and why the education system is so Third World for lower-income families.

How can you get ahead without a college degree? Drug-dealing? Sports? Hip-hop? Wait a second ... there is always the Army and a one-way ticket to Iraq. The rich kids don't care because the Draft is gone after Vietnam. Let the rednecks and the ethnics fight for America -- we'll put a yellow ribbon on our SUV. Support the Troops! Yup.

This sounds and feels like the late Roman Empire -- just before the whole thing caved in. This adoration of money and the houses and cars and gadgets it can buy is totally sick. In any "normal" society the ratio of incomes between the ordinary line worker and the company president is about 15 or 20 to one (often less) whereas in America it is 250, 400, 1000, just off the chart. This cannot be sustained. It cannot go on. Any sensible person could tell you that. The growing disparity between the incomes of the rich and the poor is a recipe for social unrest: you think the French woke up one day in 1789 and said, hey, let's have a Revolution? Don't think so.

Gated communities, police, private security, all that stuff, are like the New Orleans levees. Works, sort of, as long as no Katrina comes down.

But what if there's a social Katrina?

No, I'm not straying away the subject. I'm developing ideas on the run, turning this comment on a poem into a sort of essay. OK, stop already.

Henry Miller had to leave America. He found artistic and personal freedom in France (don't knock the French, they know how to run their own country) and he was one among many cultural exiles from the crass money-grinding machine of 1920s America. These days I think Americans should stay home. The 1960s were a watershed and there was a lot that got started then that needs to be followed up on. Listen to these people in their 50s and 60s with their tie-dyed T-shirts and ponytails -- they might have something useful to tell you. It was a real start. They pulled the US out of a stupid war overseas and forced an imperial president to resign. Does that sound somewhat familiar? Should we do the same thing now??

I didn't think this was a happy poem at all. I didn't think it was joyful, I didn't think it was playful or full of 'humor' or anything like that. I thought it was defiant, yes, but despairing and sad. And that is why I have responded to this poem at such length and in the way that I have above.

Poems can be windows of the soul, and the individual sometimes speaks for the many. This is why Plato banned poets from his Ideal Republic: they were possible disruptive elements. Get rid of them.

Peace, brothers and sisters. But without justice, there can be no real peace.

Never be afraid to fight against real enemies when you have to. The enemies of our daily lives (our civilization, as we know it) are organized concentrations of power, at home as well as abroad, people who try to control our individual lives by political means ... first by persuasion, and if that fails, by intimidation. Preserving freedom has little to do with attacking faraway countries. Preserving freedom -- under a traditional and agreed system of Law (you guys in America HAD a Constitution, I believe) -- consists in stubbornly maintaining the rights and privileges of the ordinary citizen -- such as you, for example, your friends, your parents, the postman, the people next door -- protecting rights that have taken literally hundreds of years to evolve, often as the result of untold agony and the sacrifice of a dozen generations.

No big deal, nothing to do with me? OK, so throw it all away because of 9/11 and a government that has consistently lied to you? Well, that could almost have been done already, so -- if it's OK to ask -- when do you think you are going to get all these rights and privileges restored? Another 100-150 years? And this is what you leave to your children? Oops, sorry, little kids, we dropped the ball.

I'm not accusing anyone. How can I? I'm just as much a part of these times we are living through (and trying to understand) as anyone else. That's the whole point, we are ALL involved. We've been letting this thing roll over us for the last 3-4 years, this War Fever, with various degrees of complicity, ignorance, total disinterest, or acts of isolated defiance, but now I think it's time to -- maybe -- challenge the warped reality that is being imposed upon us.

Sorry this got so long. That's what poetry can do ......

Saturday, November 11, 2006

279. Weeping Statues

One night as I lay sleeping
the feckin statue started weeping
and I thought that this was odd
that the Blessed Mary, Mother of God,
should start this awful bawling
just as I was slowly falling
asleep. Oh, Jayzus, I thought, what now?
When my wife, a cute but gullible cow,
leapt up and landed upon her knees
and thumbed her blessed rosaries
with that glassy-eyed metallic stare
that shows how much they really care,
them ones who really do believe
(even when us others want to heave)
but that's more or less the local rule
and we send our kids to a Catholic school,
so you shut your gob and spread a grin:
let your wives analyze your lives with knives,
it's too late, mate, it's thick and thin.

I whispered to Paddy and Donal and Teague
do you think Man U will win the league?
Oh, God, that's a matter for disputation,
and we'll have to adjourn for adjudication
of the ins and the outs and the serious nub,
comfortably seated down in the pub.
But that's when my Mary gave me an awful shove,
and grabbed at my arm, and said, "Heavens above,
"It's a visitation of the Holy Ghost!!!"
(I could see my life would soon be toast)
"We'll make this house an open shrine!"
She's mad, she's married, and she's mine.

"Half Dublin will be walkin in the feckin door!"
"Well, sure, isn't that what Our Lady is for?"
"They'll be traipsing on the carpets, willy-nilly!"
"Ah, for feck's sake, don't be so feckin silly,"
says Mary Assumpta Dolores Brigid,
my convent girl, tough, and rigid.
"God and His Blessed Mother," says she,
"have showered down blessin's on you and me,
"they've come down here to our humble home".
(humble, me arse, amn't I still paying for it?)
"And can't you see," says she, "we are chosen?"
My smile is tight and bright and frozen,
when I think of them feckers in Rathgar
with their mobile phones and the latest car,
so why can't the Virgin feckin Maria
come down on them like diarrhoea?

"But just think of the crowds of non-believers,
"like the BBC and them other deceivers!"
"Sure they can kiss me arse," says she,
"them feckin Brits get on me tits".
I was away with the fairies, I forgot,
the wife's a raging pay-triot:
Wrap the Green Flag Around Me,
tighter, ye bastard, tighter,
she's nothing if not a fighter.
Ochone, ochone, just let me die
upon the fearful gallows high,
let me stretch out me neck for Oireland.
"Listen, now," says I, "me darlin' Mary,
"I'll not have you acting so contrary!"
"Baaa," says she, very wickedly,
but she listens all the same;
"Won't the Blessed Mary be just at home
next to the plastic garden gnome?"
"Is it mad you are," says she,
"are we to throw her out of the house
"and plant her next to Mickey Mouse?"

Right, so, it was just a passing thought,
I'm an aisy man, I can be aisily bought.

"Well, would you not think to put her down in the hall,
"so very close and convenient to one and all?"
"I would," says she. "Well, grand," says I,
so I called in the engineers,
(Paddy and Donal and Teague).
Now we've been living for years on Our Lady's tears
since the lads in fine style
installed a turnstile
and the coins of the visitors pay for the beers.