John S.K. Climacus
for Mrs. Bennett
I used to be a prisoner,
now I'm one of the guards.
Since leaving prison I remembered it
in a rosy haze
my first beer, first joint, first
of many things...
all potential ahead of me,
now those memories
by seeing the place again.
flashbacks of confinement,
Whitman in the lunch room, Neitzsche in
Hesse, Goethe, Homer, Marx
as the teacher lectured on spores
or cell growth,
or didn't lecture...
on whatever it was...
Fellow inmates reincarnated
in baggy paints
hanging to their butts,
listening to their
da DA, da--DA,
da DA, da--DA,
da DA, da, DA,
da DA, da--DA,
(I am to understand that
they smoke pot, they do drugs--have I ever heard of drugs?)
Dylan's nasal twang replaced
Joan Baez' lilting voice
by repetitive percussion.
Showing signs of intellectual curiosity
They want to know
who were the gangs when
I was in prison there?
They are astounded to hear
there were no gangs
(other than the Greeks and Trojans).
Torturing the Gerbils,
blowing each other away,
with pretend guns,
for 90 minutes;
was my own testosterone
was my own aggression that
They lie on the floor
making funny noises,
they sit and wait for the universe
to come to them,
and explain the meaning
Forced to sit for hours,
when they should be hunting,
jousting, learning the art of war,
or working in the fields
warehoused like products waiting to be
and left to cope
in a factory setting
with drunken beatings
and savage domestic neglect;
they must learn to sit and wait,
they need the practice for the
the other guards tell me,
"you can't expect much more of them
I find a copy of National Geographic
with a nice spread on Walt Whitman.
It's in their room,
in their grasp,
and they will never know it exists,
never know Whitman existed,
never know what one might do
their more recent forebearers,
still don't know either;
mechanics, vending machine lackeys,
used car salesmen, telephone solicitors,
they are being groomed for
so why bother them with
I think about Mrs. Bennett,
who made me an historian.
She taught those who wanted to learn,
let the others run wild,
and kept a lookout posted for
She died in the Reagan occupation, may as well
have been in the Norman conquest
for all they care.
But, then, why should they care?
They have been robbed of a much more ancient and grand legacy than that of their high school.
Robbed of all legacy, all tradition, robbed of all
that is ancient,
robbed of all greatness.
I let them go early, in honor of Mrs. Bennett.
Parody of Two Poems Which are Far Better than I Could Write
for both Freds
(apologies to T. S. Eliot)
I. "Ash Wednesday" Made Obvious for the One-Dimensional
Because I do not hope to read again
Because I do not think
Because I do not hope to know
I never did strive toward such things
(why should the aged consumer not become his job?)
Why should I mourn
the vanished greatness of that which is
Because I do not hope to be trained again
The feeble prattle in those paper things
Because I do not think
Because I do not care to know
The one and only truth, reality transcendent
Because I cannot think
Except there, where bright products flower
and colorfully clad shoppers flow, for there
is nothing more concrete.
Because I know that there is no time but the present
and no place but where I live
And nothing is more tangible to me than my
I rejoice that things are as they are
for that is what should be.
I renounce all truth, all joy, but MCI and Mastercard
Because I cannot hope to read again
Consequently, I rejoice, having to construct
a self, in which to hide my emptiness.
And I pray to Reagan to have mercy upon consumers
And I pray that I may forget all I've learned
These matters that I hardly knew to discuss
May the judgment not include penalty or interest
Because these CD's no longer gain two percent
My mentality is now small and dry
My will is non-existent
Teach us to buy and not to sell
Teach us to save stamps.
Pray for us consumers now and when we are overdrawn
"Pray for us now and at the hour of our death."
Holy Elvis, Blessed Jackie, suffer us not to mock
our ignorance with knowledge
Teach us to save and to spend
Teach us to invest
Even in the Mall
Our peace in Reagan's will
Let us ignore that rose-shaped heaven
and deconstruct all truth
Let my impulse buying and immediate gratification
be satiated in the end.
"Pray for us now, and at the hour of our death"
let my cry come unto thee.
II. Journey of the Literati
A hard drive we had of it
Just the worst time of year
For a conference, and such a long conference
The stores crowded, the papers long
No time to shop.
And the Taxis hard to get, the hotel crowded,
Sitting in the bustling lobby.
There were times we regretted the chairmanship.
Then there were the colleagues,
Cursing and grumbling at the bar,
and wanting their liquor.
And the rooms being cold, and not having
and the towels were too small
and they couldn't make rum drinks
and room service was so slow
there was too much noise,
the restaurant messy and charging high prices
A hard time we had of it.
In the end we preferred to stay for all the
readings, sleeping through
the boring ones,
The voices ringing in my ears, that I didn't
need to pad my vieta.
Than it came time for my paper,
a fairly temperate room,
not too many questions,
Lots of penises, binary oppositions,
"Phonemes in Melville,"
"Ann Landers as Feminist Hero,"
"Christianity: The Topos of Hierarchicalized
Totalistic Logocentracized Oppressivistic
Maleistic Aphasia quaquaquaquaqua Athambia
And `Krapps Last Tape,'"
"Eva Braun: archetype of woman's experience"
and the best one of all
"Apaophatic Resonance and Liminality
in Goethe, Joyce, and
Thelma and Louise."
All seminal "gestures"
of academic acuity.
Set this down,
There was a paper, there was a paper read
I can document on my CV there was a paper read
I have read papers, this paper was hard and
"Frank Sinatra: Image, Taboo, and The Male Gaze,"
I returned to campus
no longer at home in the end of the final dispensation,
with a banal people, clutching their PC's.
I should be glad of another publication.
The Relationship of Things to Reality
I go to the window and stare
when the dawn is pink and yellow
and the gray mist on the horizon is
a solid wall,
while the trees bathed in blue
and violet seem fragile, illusory.
The world is ruled by concrete
by charts and graphs
and statistical reality
The higher abstractions are the
profit margins the greater good.
Compesinos murdered in El Salvador,
children roasted in the orange fire
whole populations torne from
the sense of place
the rape of the earth
the death of oceans
all merely fragments of higher meaning,
wheat from chaff,
contigencies in a world of
The world is ruled by things we know
hard tangible things
we know exist,
we don't need fairytales
like the rose-shaped heaven,
or heroes who mourn,
the tricks of dead white writers.
The world is ruled by facts at hand
by profit margins and observation
by techniques gleaned
from pure objective rationality.
The unseen is unreal,
has no reality.
we don't need the big man
with the white beard
we don't need final causes
or a being whose existence is its
Three trees of dogwood
bloom forever on a hill
red blood poured out
with the victims of rationality
and an empty cave
where no one mourns.
The tallow of a thousand nights
poured out over
musty texts of dead white men
Jean D'Arc, Madame Guyon, St. Teresa
and his endless sports talk
Virgil and the poet lost in the deep wood
Frany mouthing the Jesus prayer
SK, Death playing Chess with the knight,
Godard characters writing insults to American
service men on the side of a limo
all bound up in the world without end--amen.
All unreal, all ego, oppression, maleness.
Abstractions are real, and run the world,
the concrete ready-to-hand
of my checkbook,
as tangible as an overdraft,
as fulfilling as whipped cream,
as permanent as the past.
Abstraction is reality.
the unseen, fantasy,
I do not see the trees,
I see only signifiers.