It’s a rant. A rant about poetry. But I guess it hit a nerve. @Spillwords made it a featured post this morning…AND put a trigger warning on it. 🙂 That made me smile. But be warned: it might bruise your peaches.
I think you can handle it, though. (Photo: Pat Mansell)
This is not one of my normal posts, but I’m angry. And, I am tired of the placid hand-wringing that infects social media when something bad happens again, such as the recent terror attacks. It feels so pointless to wail “When will this end?”. So shallow. Self-indulgent. So.. immature.
Slowly, surely, inexorably, the reality of what we face after yet another attack is sinking in. All the “vigilance” and “toughness” in the world won’t stop this stuff completely. A guy in a truck can’t get bombs, so he grabs a truck and drives through a crowd. One guy with a grievance and an ideology that made him feel important for the first time in his miserable life. There’s no defense that will work against that all the time.
We Americans are soft and flabby, distracted by shiny things, grown lazy and stupid and corrupt. But as we see more of the terror attacks (and there will be more), we will start to remember we’re not descended from timid people.
I don’t want to have to think like this, but I don’t have the luxury any more. Living in a fuzzy bubble of fake-feel-good cat videos isn’t going to help. They were not perfect, our ancestors, God knows. But they were capable of a cold, resolute and implacable wrath when their backs were to the wall. It has happened before. After attacking Pearl Harbor and launching WWII in the Pacific, the Japanese admiral in charge said prophetically:
“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” –Isoroku Yamamoto
Note: This is evidence why it’s a bad idea to put me in charge of anything.
Memo To: the “Under-appreciated and Whiny” code Monkeys downstairs Web Development Department
From: That Idiot Upstairs Who Signs the Checks
Hi, guys. I need to talk to a web developer. We’ve got a little bug in the code on the Hello Poetry site. Our pages are telling readers to submit “suggestions” on a mouse-over of the little pencil icon.
To Carl Sandburg, in this example. Of all people.
I know….Yes, none of us, including me, saw the problem when we OK’d the final design. No fingers are being pointed. However, now that I see it, live, next to Sandburg’s name, and others, it doesn’t seem like our finest move.
He’s been dead for several decades—30 years before the Internet—for one thing, so there’s little chance he’s going to get any emails. For another, he won three Pulitzers, and we haven’t won any, nor have our readers, as far as we know. And he probably wrote a couple of million poems. Let’s quietly disable that feature before writers everywhere see it and say mean things about us on their blogs. You know what drama kings and queens they are …..
I built a 70-foot long stone wall in my back yard while listening to a podcast of the history of Rome a few years ago. It took two years— building the wall, that is, not Rome– which, as we all know, wasn’t built in a day.
My little Roman wall: Four feet high. Two and a half-feet thick. A ton a linear foot. One rock at a time.
Then I did half of it over.
A section of the wall wasn’t built very well — OK, I didn’t build it very well— and it fell over after 10 years’ rains. (I think that part was built during the period covering the year of five emperors and one of the civil wars, so I don’t take all of the blame. Oh, who am I kidding. I screwed it up and it fell over.) Having to do it over gave me time to fit in all of the episodes I missed, while pondering the consequences of one’s mistakes. Hard physical labor will do that for you.
I also remember listening to a another podcast series “Ghosts of the Ostefront” about the Eastern Front war between Stalin and Hitler. I was painting shutters on the front of my house in a blazing sun at the time.
Every time I look at those shutters now, I think about the carnage of the Eastern Front, and am glad I only had to paint shutters. And the wall brings to mind columns of marble and statues and murder and intrigue and legions on the march. My wall was built to the echoes of an empire who’s ruins still stand. Maybe the wall will last long after I’m gone, too.
Hardline, drive-by corporate blinders,
Power lines in danger, so kill the trees.
Strip mall grocery store chain did nothing.
They had plans to build another store and stood by as
Brain-dead high school grads, bellies hanging over belts,
Cigarettes dangling, trading insults and missing the world,
Took chain saws to the blooming
Trees that every spring draped an ordinary street in uncommon beauty.
Cut them back to stumps,
Thrilled by the power of the engines, the noise,
But the power company has the right.
Now they’re all gone.
And the chain grocery that could have done something has
Abandoned the old store, which sits vacant and ugly.
Empty, mutant decay, no cost to them, no punishment for the blight they left behind.
If they had just left the trees behind, to grace the street in uncommon beauty,
It would be easier to forgive.
But they don’t think that way.
The chainsaws don’t tell the man/boys, joking and eating doughnuts and coffee
“Leave this tree, boy. Take care, boy. Don’t be such a boy, boy.”
“Once you kill the tree that paints this ugly street with uncommon beauty,
Life goes on, the grocery moves down the street and drags it’s captive
Audience down the street.
But uncommon beauty, the grace, has died. And the power lines don’t care.”
Long overdue takedown of something awful. If you like this, just google “Bill Hicks” and “marketing” for an even more NSFW take on a pernicious evil that is driving the car with Thema and Louise and all of us straight over the cliff.
Set to something close to Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Suite Judy Blue eyes”, Weird Al skewers the hateful plague of meaningless business-buzzword-BS.
Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone. For the sad old earth must borrow it’s mirth, But has trouble enough of its own. Sing, and the hills will answer; Sigh, it is lost on the air. The echoes bound to a joyful sound, But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you; Grieve, and they turn and go. They want full measure of all your pleasure, But they do not need your woe. Be glad, and your friends are many; Be sad, and you lose them all. There are none to decline your nectared wine, But alone you must drink life’s gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded; Fast, and the world goes by. Succeed and give, and it helps you live, But no man can help you die. There is room in the halls of pleasure For a long and lordly train, But one by one we must all file on Through the narrow aisles of pain.
If you have your health, you have everything
is something that’s said to cheer you up
when you come home early and find your lover
arched over a stranger in a scarlet thong.
Or it could be you lose your job at Happy Nails
because you can’t stop smudging the stars
on those ten teeny American flags.
I don’t begrudge you your extravagant vitality.
May it blossom like a cherry tree. May the petals
of your cardiovascular excellence
and the accordion polka of your lungs
sweeten the mornings of your loneliness.
But for the ill, for you with nerves that fire
like a rusted-out burner on an old barbecue,
with bones brittle as spun sugar,
with a migraine hammering like a blacksmith
in the flaming forge of your skull,
may you be spared from friends who say,
God doesn’t give you more than you can handle
and ask what gifts being sick has brought you.
May they just keep their mouths shut
and give you French chocolates and daffodils
and maybe a small, original Matisse, say, Open Window, Collioure, so you can look out
at the boats floating on the dappled pink water.
Three people died in a balloon accident in Virgina, and THIS was the best the university’s flaks could come up with?
“Words cannot begin to express our sorrow,” Keith XXXX, the school’s athletic director, said in a news release. “We are all stunned by the tragic news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their loved ones.”
Show of hands: how many of us think this was written by an android incapable of either thought OR prayers? OK. Put ’em down. Thought so. Does anyone think this statement reflects ANY human emotion? Or is it covering up something, like these people weren’t well liked? That’s unfair, but that’s what lousy, dull, impersonal writing does: it creates confusion and doubts. It makes Jesus weep.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather organizations not say anything than to trot out this sort of dreck. It does a disservice to the victims, and makes us all a little more stupid.
We can’t have it all.
Lord knows, I’ve tried.
I almost did, once or twice.
Then…. pffffft. Gone.
At the last minute I hesitated,
Seeing a desert beyond.
I don’t know what “all” means any more,
But I’m beginning to see through the
Haze of my own ambitions and needs.
I know women in their 30s and beyond,
Trying to “have it all,”
Dancing like marionettes strung out on speed,
Desperate to beguile and seduce everyone—and I mean everyone—
As though they’ll never age, that sex is all they have;
Being the perfect mother, career going full-tilt, the
Magical, mysterious, all-purpose Earth Mother Vagina with spangles.
They’re killing themselves.
I hate to break it to them,
But there’s that moment when you
Kick down the door where All is stored,
And there’s nothing there.
In my case, All was sitting there, smirking at me.
It was a Thursday, in April,
The world sparkled with Spring.
The stars lined up just right,
It was just within reach.
But ….. but then it was gone,
Like a dream that shattered in the early morning light.
Some seem to have it all for a while,
But the real story tells more.
Even billionaires get sunburn.
And fight with their kids.
Guard the hoard with lawyers,
Feel sorry for themselves and
Blame the poor,
And come down with gout;
Hate taxes and capital gains,
Fret over which vacation home to use,
Which is it this time?
Aspen or Maine?
That just pisses me off.
And I mutter something about
A rich man Passing through the eye of a needle.
“I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor,
And rich is better,” Molly Brown said once.
Then she rode the Titanic, spent hours in a lifeboat,
Watched others go under, glad she survived,
But lived forever with the cries of the drowning,
lived in a big house, never belonging.
She ended alone, finally resigned
To having all the world could give,
Yet wryly seeing some things
Were forever out of reach.
And the good ladies of Denver
Snubbed and cut her the rest of her life.
And she learned to laugh,
With a hard-won wisdom.
So it comes down to these, I think:
If I have it all, what’s left for you?
And if you have it all, well, that just wouldn’t do.
This morning a robin hopped in the yard, cocked her head,
Listened for worms. The daffodils are turning
The land a yellow shade of optimistic; the days lengthen and grow warmer.
A cat dozes in the window next door,
A rabbit breaks cover when the dog gets too near;
The cold spring gushes out of the deep earth and rushes through town,
Heedless of us, headed to the sea, not looking back.
The sea licks the land as it has for a billion years,
Tasting all of our dreams.
For women out there who talk about “bad hair days”, I’ve got another for slightly better days:
It’s the “I look pretty good from afar” day.
In case you missed it, that was a joke. Seriously, we think you look fabulous even when stumbling to the bathroom in that ridiculous flannel shirt in the morning. Do you really think we judge you as harshly as you do yourselves?
It’s gonna be a busy day at work as I’m back after a 5-day break. It was productive, though, as there are now many more words in the can on the book. I’m just tossing this at you for a place-holder. I don’t feel old, but that’s a relative thing. If you’re in your 20s – 40s I qualify, probably. You may think you’re old when you hit 30 or 40, but trust me, you’ve only just hit the half-way mark. My advice? Don’t dwell on it too much. You’ll just make yourself look somewhat daft and whiny. Yes, it’s a shock when you realize the opposite sex doesn’t see you the same way as before, and sometimes doesn’t see you AT ALL!!!! But you’ll get where I am, too, if you’re lucky. Suck the marrow out of life as you go and keep your eye on the horizon. You’ll be fine. 🙂
I know I am getting old and I say so,
but I don’t think of myself as an old man.
I think of myself as a young man
with unforeseen debilities. Time is neither
young nor old, but simply new, always
counting, the only apocalypse. And the clouds
—no mere measure or geometry, no cubism,
can account for clouds or, satisfactorily, for bodies.
There is no science for this, or art either.
Even the old body is new—who has known it
before?—and no sooner new than gone, to be
replaced by a body yet older and again new.
The clouds are rarely absent from our sky
over this humid valley, and there is a sycamore
that I watch as, growing on the riverbank,
it forecloses the horizon, like the years
of an old man. And you, who are as old
almost as I am, I love as I loved you
young, except that, old, I am astonished
at such a possibility, and am duly grateful.
My festering resentment was brought to the surface again this morning when I saw this image on another blog. Maybe I ought to listen to it, huh? You decide.
Let me set you straight first. I came up with the term “The Law of Unintended Consequences” in the late ’70s—I vividly remember when, too. It was during an episode of “Rhoda”. Don’t ask me why or how.
It just hit me that in life, one can plan like a compulsive fiend, make lists, pursue absolutist goals like the Wehrmacht sweeping across Poland, but the odds are that something unexpected will trip you up. There are just too many variables in this world, and you can’t account for all of them. And odds are, one of them will send your life careening off in some unintended direction to the sound of your wails. “Noooooooooooooo”.
But as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.”
Like an idiot, I didn’t copyright LoUC and now it’s in the public domain and I have missed out on yet another fortune. Campbell and Lennon have ripped me off. LoUC drifted out into the great conversation and I haven’t made a dime off of it.
My family laughs at me every time I bring this up. They treat me like you treat someone who has any harmless delusion. I can feel them giving me virtual pat on the head. You might as well join in.
Here in the UK we have suffered heavy, frequent rain since before Christmas. As a result the ground is saturated and there have been extensive floods in low-lying ground and near swollen rivers for weeks. Also…
This brightened my afternoon. On my campus, this sort of nonsense is all too common, so I guess I’m just jaded.
“Yes, the statue of a hyper-realistic sleepwalking man on the Wellesley College campus is truly creepy. His outstretched arms and lolling mouth make him look like a pasty, middle-aged zombie. His flaccid penis sagging in his graying briefs will haunt your dreams forever, like the ghost of your future sex life….”
I suppose I’m missing something profound, but I found myself agreeing with this paragraph in the story:
But the problem with Awareness Culture is the expectation that once offended – or, in most cases, once a hypothetical offensiveness has been identified– the world must immediately act to make the “bad thing” disappear. There’s something spoiled about our knee-jerk reaction to abolish anything that could be considered even remotely insensitive. The message is, “it’s possible that someone somewhere might feel momentarily bad because of this, so get rid of it right this second! And by the way, you’re an asshole if you don’t agree.”