The most wretched and frail of all creatures is man, and withal the proudest.” ~Michel de Montaigne
Budding literary critics are advised that
If they do not see sex in the text,
They should look for death
As these are the most common themes
In literature, but aren’t they really only
One theme? It isn’t an accident that an
Orgasm is known as “la petite mort.”
Consoling a friend who was temporarily
Overwrought by an awkward social situation,
I counseled that it was “only sex” in the end.
Implacable, he reminded me that many species
Only live long enough to pass on their genetic
Coding for future generations, and he was right enough.
Somehow sex is our defense against death,
And simultaneously against the dreariness of life.
The little death is a reprieve from the trial of life,
And some become addicted to constant, temporary
Destruction. Everyone on the pull is merely
Engaged in a frantic meditation on annihilation.
Montaigne’s frank discussions of sexual attraction and
Relations were so riveting that his essays became
Popular erotic reading for ladies of the court,
But I bet they skipped to their favourite parts,
As Montaigne’s essays seemed to be a free dispensary
For the ongoing flow of words, images, and doubts
Flowing through his mind moment to moment.
I must admit, I don’t think I ever read a Montaigne essay
From beginning to end, either. It’s so much easier to just
Dip a toe in here and there, and face lust, barbarity, and
Despair all in one go. This was a man who knew we are
Only animals with the same genetic-driven compulsions for
Procreation and pleasure as any mammal, though we may hide
Behind our idea of refinement, which is only a bias for doing
Things in the way in which we’ve become accustomed.
“We here must listen to the language for the discoveries we hope to make.” ~William Carlos Williams
It’s worth asking the question of
Whether this particular collection
Of words can even be considered
A poem. It has no discernable rhyme
Or meter, though it may give a nod
To metaphor, mixed and mangled.
Assonance and consonance remain,
Sure, but there’s nothing like a simile
To be found, and no one would
Mistake its shape for a proper Form.
It might help if it made an allusion
To a great poem from the past like
“Ode to a Grecian Urn” or something.
And the words may be personified,
Considering that they do all the work.
Some say a poem should speak some
Truth, even if it is full of lies, but what
Can anyone learn from this pile of rubbish,
Other than the difficulty of writing to a
Narrow prompt on rather short notice?
Or maybe the poem has simply taken
Cover, wary of inspection and harsh
Interrogation. The poem has adorned
A breastplate and drawn a sword.
Today no one shall come closer.
Today the poem is protection.
You don’t have to feel so special.
We’ve all done some stuff. Lord,
If you knew half the things I did,
You’d wonder why I’m not in jail.
You can just forget about what
You done, ’cause God knows
I’d let you get away with just
About anything. It’s my weakness.
I can’t blame you for being tempted.
You’re young an horny as a rabbit.
I’m just a rickety old fool, pulled
This way and that by anger and lust.
I mean, I’m the person you done
It to, but I can’t stay mad at you.
Democracy died in the Senate chamber
When Supreme Court justice was never heard
Through a guileless force of legal obstruction.
Respect for law fell like old holiday garland.
A complacent nation did not demur,
Thinking true fascism could not recur,
Power transferred to a political poseur.
A complacent nation watched it’s legal destruction
And Democracy died.
They quickly forgot what they once were,
A nation of laws designed to deter
A tyrant seeking freedom’s complete destruction.
As the confident joked about his linguistic aberrations,
They let the unthinkable occur
And Democracy died.
On the Texas Gulf Coast
You do a lot of laundry
In the Summer.
Humidity stays at or near
And temperatures hover
Around where skin melts.
Step outside your office,
And you’ll be drenched
Before you reach your car.
Better get the AC on full blast
And point it at the steering
Wheel until it’s cooled down
Enough to touch so you can
Drive home, cooler, but with
A persistent damp patch
In the small of your back.
Deferring to the OED, Fowler’s* tells us not
To spell “inure” as “enure” for variant
Spellings are not needed; even if “inure”
Has two meanings, it is still only one word.
But who ever heard of “inure” relating to
Anything but some form of suffering?
Something quite beautiful and useful
Might well be put “in ure,” which just
Means we like this well enough to
Make a habit of it, and that cheers
Me up a little, as I had become inured
To “drudgery and distress” (Fowler’s
Example) and need reasons for joy.
You are thinking the primary usage
Became the primary usage because
The world has more misery than
Benefit, but maybe it is the other way
Around. Maybe language defines
Reality after all. If we had inured
All the good things all along,
Maybe we’d be in a better place.
If contemplating stuffy usage guides
Had inured, perhaps I wouldn’t have
Missed so many opportunities to be
Cheerful, to glide blissfully through
A life of Best Practices. Instead, I grew
Inured to heartbreak and dreary poets
Clamoring on about their lost loves.
*Fowler’s Modern English Usage, by H. W. Fowler, a handbook for pedants and arrogant copywriters.
Lately I’ve been hearing people talking about how the young people need to learn to take a joke, because, one supposes, people back in the day were never offended by anything. Of course, people back in the day were offended by quite a lot of things, and we older folks know that, because we can remember just how offended our contemporaries have always been, so it isn’t immediately obvious what these old geezers are on about.
I mean, come on, Lenny Bruce was arrested for being obscene. The Smothers Brothers were fired for being political. Comedians have been offending people for as long as comedy has been around. Except, I think I know what they’re on about. What they mean is that they used to get away with saying things they are no longer allowed to say, and they don’t like being told to stay in their lane. They used to make jokes about women, racial minorities, and LGBTQ folks without fear of any sort of reprisal.
From their explanation, you would think this is because women, racial minorities, and queers used to just laugh along with them. I don’t think that’s true, and I don’t see how anyone can possibly think that’s true. Imagine a gay kid laughing at a dad joking about killing his kids to prevent them from growing up gay. I don’t think that ever happened.
Rather, I think what happened is that these marginalized groups did not feel empowered to speak up for themselves, but now they do, and I for one think that’s a good thing. I think it is really good that gay people (and anyone who thinks gay people deserve respect) say they are offended when someone jokes about killing them. I think it is good that trans people say a man in a dress isn’t obviously the funniest damn thing in the world. I think it is good that women feel empowered enough to say they don’t think jokes about rape are part of a good time.
Comedians have every right to make any joke they want, and the audience has every right to tell them they are assholes for making them.
As I messed around with a compound bow and arrow,
Getting the hang of aiming the dang thing,
An armadillo walked into the path. Releasing
The bow, I flushed with regret, shame, and panic.
Armadillos don’t hurt anyone.
They shuffle through life slowly,
Just taking things one at a time.
They don’t move fast, but this one vanished.
To my relief, I found the arrow
But no sign of the living target,
No corpse, no blood, no condemnation.
My reprieve was born only of moral luck.
This may be evidence that I needed to improve
My aim, but I never tried, never practiced.
Some people consider armadillos pests,
Because of what they do to gardens,
But I’m happy to let them forage around
For whatever they can find in the soil.
I’m happy to let them just get on with life
Because one once restored my soul.
When people see a spectacular dancer,
They say, “Oh, that’s poetry in motion!”
And then they might see a moving painting,
And say, “That painting says it all—It’s like a poem!”
And good musicians are just considered poets.
I mean, Bob Dylan won a God-damned Nobel Prize
In literature, didn’t he?
But it doesn’t stop there. I’ve heard motorcycle
Races described at “pure poetry in action.”
It seem like any time something is done really well,
People think of it as poetry. Really, “poetic” is like
A synonym for really freaking fantastic.
If you were an outsider and heard people saying all this,
You might get the idea that everyone reads and cherishes poetry.