Smile Politely

You will have been wrong and won’t remember

Moloch fucking killed poetry, just as Moloch did the air, water, and earth, even the moon for all we know, took Whitman’s liberation and crammed it into a useless degree program, with right ways and wrong ways and bottomless scorn, shaming the expressers, correcting the hopeful, becoming the decider, critiquing those just wishing to smell a gardenia again, a carnation, using old semiotic systems to re-encrypt the banality of goodness, dashing the mere glimmer of a dare-I-say-it dream upon the profaned, plastic oil littered stelae of packaged Machu Picchu tour trams. And the vain protesters nuzzle their way into the web, clueless, providing the new dictionary of sneers, neologisms that deflate all humor, morph joy into Schadenfreude, archiving away generosity in long abandoned dust-buried subway stations, and the Good Gray Poet’s arm over the shoulder of a comrade becomes a television commentary for the news entertainment industry without the slightest sensation. T

he electricity of touch was the first thing to become extinct. No one remembers that. No record exists. The pliant organ donors die before the billionaires and in the end it doesn’t matter, who is to say the cocktail party with the excruciatingly perfect cocktail dress and purchased smile sculpture is preferable to the shit-covered egg plucked for hunger from the straw in the shack with the tin roof in the vertical housing in the valleys of the impoverished town of Bucaramanga? In the end, I say, I prefer the egg, I prefer to watch the cocktail party on TV, a black and white TV without cable, and if the picture goes out when it rains, I still have the egg, for now, and the rain.

But know ye this, O Congregation of Moloch, you will have been wrong and won’t remember, you don’t remember the name of the street corner where you stood when they threw bottles and hosed down the marching or which side you were on, what colors your cheerleading uniforms bore as the blood flowed down the streets and while you faintly remember thinking, “It’s not time,” at the time, and now, the echo is faint, you think, “Later, later, later does seem a familiar song, one I might sing even now without looking it up in the Hymnal of Despicable Thoughts, although it is quite possible that I only heard others singing, others saying, others preaching, others chanting, perhaps while Walter Cronkite spoke, I don’t remember, and yes I have heard of Laos and Chile and might generally be able to assemble the map pieces, jumbled in a jigsaw, with a hint regarding their shapes, is Guatemala squarish?, but listen, as if it mattered, time passes and what happened then is not what is happening now, this time it is different, this time I will remember, if I have time,” you say, but the truth is, you will have been wrong and won’t remember.

Validation of a life on the verge of exhaustion or extinction comes with the thump of the stamp in the passport, the status travel that the congregation, one by one, stands to announce in sharing time, humbly as a peacock, these necessary mission positions and dining undertakings in Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Peru, Turkey, Colombia, Ukraine, New Zealand, with a quick stop for espresso in a Paris bistro for two weeks, they call it living well, revenge, yet unacknowledged torture, varicose veins standing in lines, uncomfortable sensations in the stomach, sunburn, salt water in the snorkel mask, sad altitudes, forced itineraries no better than the memories of production standards meetings minutes, minutes in the boardroom and the hospital, same deal, far, far away. Not travel that is desired at all, but lust for having traveled, for telling of having traveled, for showing the artifacts of having traveled, just as the poet loathes to write, disdains to compose the undeniable truths, these heartbreaking facts, this awful editing, the blood that flows from the chewed fingernails. But, to have written! That is something else. To have written is to have the refuge and the reward and meaning itself lasting longer than the day on the beach, the rough draft, the sand crabs, the italicization and missing quote marks, the forced relaxation, dietary changes, mundane addictions, and odd toilet papers of the world.

Is that snow I see outside my window again? If I stop writing for a week, force myself to abstain like a Zen monk without wine, fasting so my consciousness hovers above my desk or hammock, out of body, seeing myself in this state of dis-composition, this is not a pretty picture, unbearable in a sense, but the meditation sets in and reveals: some faction of the world must relinquish life first. Better over there than over here, as they say, better they die than we do, for now, although inevitably, every number wins the lottery, every number completes, war or no war, civil rights marches or gay pride parades, the funerals are coming, more rapidly now than ever, more and more, visitations, obituaries, familiar dead, faces that fade and tones of voice that sound funny in the recordings that were preserved for just such an occasion as this. And all the members of the congregation begin to forget what they were supposed to remember to forget and what they were supposed to forget and who, and that disease begins to infect them all, the disease of not remembering, the disease of blank stares and horror at what was forgotten more than what was remembered, most of all for what was deliberately forgotten, of what was ignored, of the deaths that preceded over there by the congregation’s will, the deaths that they thought could forestall their own, and for what, which could be formulated into a question if the difference between a question and a statement made any sense to anyone in the congregation any more, even at all, even a little, even an atom’s worth if difference. Now I will try to remember. I have to follow the incredible shrinking man as he crawls down between the stitches of the white Fruit of the Loom underwear he once was able to wear, now to live within the threads, slipping with brilliant resolve past eternity

— March 8-10, 2010

Related Articles