Everything that rhymes is supposed to be true. Vote blue no matter who. That’s a poem and it rhymes but it’s also a kind of lie.
I used to have poems memorized. You can read that in the voice someone’s grandfather might use surveying a dead industrial town if you want to. A Doves song. An e-minor chord played with the capo on the 3rd fret. We used to build things here he says about the place with no jobs anymore but that condo developers nonetheless have designs on improving in their way. How a chef sizes up a hog suspended from meathooks. Good bones they say about those places like in the Maggie Smith poem everyone knows now but that I do not have memorized.
I have terrible bones personally. That’s not a metaphor. My actual bones are just kind of fucked now. A person’s bones get a little bit worse every year is how it works and you continue to lose additional pieces of the things you once had memorized. Your body and your brain fail in a kind of harmony.
I can find a few poems in the back of the drawer still if I rummage around. Occasionally when I’d go to the YMCA to swim in the before and I’d forget my bathing suit I’d dig through the lost and found to grab one but I can’t imagine doing that now. Any aspect of it.
One from Auden: Altogether elsewhere, vast/Herds of reindeer move across/Miles and miles of golden moss,/Silently and very fast.
Something about flu infected cities in that one. Endings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins: It is the blight man was born for,/ It is Margaret you mourn for.
That one was always easy to remember because it rhymed so simply and stupidly which I guess was the point of inventing rhyming in the first place so that we wouldn’t forget things.
Man the turn at the end of that Hopkins poem. All of our grieving for loved ones is actually about our own individual mortality. Surprise bitch!
William Carlos Williams too. Not that one though. Shut the fuck up about the plums. Instead if I try I can make it most of the way through: the stain of love/is upon the world!/Yellow, yellow, yellow/it eats into the leaves,/smears with saffron/the horned branches that lean/heavily/against a smooth purple sky!
I scribbled those lines on my wall in the shitty Allston apartment I lived in when I was young with eight other people. There were maggots in the pantry and brown water pooled in the shower you had to stand in to get clean. I imagine I thought at the time the poem would broadcast my interiority to girls a scheme that was just stupid enough it worked. Poems are for the young and for the old not people in the middle like me which is maybe why I don’t remember them anymore.
I think something is wrong with me but I also think it is the same thing that’s wrong with everyone so maybe it doesn’t matter.
We had one internet connection in that house I just remembered one telephone cord the length of a drooping powerline that we shared dragging it back and forth from room to room in turns. A ghost’s chains. Imagine having to wait your turn to get online now? I don’t remember what I did the rest of the time back then when I couldn’t be online all the time I suppose I simply went out and moved my then still good bones around the world with ease and expected nothing to ever go poorly.
As I’m writing this they’re praising Kyle Rittenhouse for being a hero. Not just the crazy ones not just the ones that aren’t ever coming back but even some of the only slightly lost people. They’re turning him into a martyr and a celebrity and raising money for bail and legal services, assistance and support that most people who commit far less serious offenses never receive. Kalief Browder was held without being able to post bail for three years for allegedly stealing a backpack and he was abused so badly he took his own life not long after getting out. I don’t think the defeat of Donald Trump is going to do much to stop that sort of thing that happened while Obama was in office.
Thousands of us are dying every day from a pandemic we barely even bothered to try to stop. No material help is forthcoming from our leaders who themselves cannot manage to go even five minutes without flouting what little in the way of proper safety protocols they’ve established. Inmates are being conscripted to shelve overflowing bodies into makeshift morgues outside of distressed hospitals for $2 an hour like warehouse workers during the Christmas rush.
We still can’t even come to a consensus on if any of this is real or not. Fox News right now the day before Thanksgiving is doing a segment on hydroxychloroquine.
There is no reason to expect any of this is set to change as Joe Biden is currently filling his cabinet with consultants and pharma ghouls and weapons profiteers and cop kissers. The left can’t even complain about any of this right now without being scolded due to the open enrollment period for criticizing Democrats already came and went almost instantly. I guess we’ll try again after the Georgia runoffs. Maybe that will be the correct time to ask for things to improve somewhat.
It’s always later. Deliverance will come. Just wait. It’s coming soon. Just wait.
This is an aside but I want to be one of these guys whose first instinct when you criticize Democrats is to immediately conjure reasons why they can’t be expected to do anything because of Mitch McConnell. “What are they supposed to do?!” type of guy. Walking around like that. It would be a freedom of a kind. To expect nothing better to ever happen.
My problem is I still think things can turn around. I don’t think they will but I think they can. Even now. I’d like to stop thinking like that but I can’t.
I read a story a couple of years ago about a man who we deported back to Mexico a country he was technically from but wasn’t from from and hadn’t been to in many years and a reporter caught up with him down there and he said he was taking it in stride as best he could and that he was saying his prayers saying the Lord’s Prayer every night and I think about that man a lot because I do that too sometimes due to I also suffer from the virus of Catholicism. Maybe that’s why I’ve always felt such an affinity for Mexico. The same magic spells vibrate in the air there that are lodged inside of my skull. A prayer is a kind of poem and a poem is a kind of prayer and in any case the point is that’s one I still definitely have memorized all the way through from stem to stern after decades of repetition so I can call it up in the middle of the night when I need words to overwrite the images I don’t want in there. I have a recurring nightmare where I’m dangling off the side of the building or a cliff or something like an action hero and I’m barely holding onto someone I love below me trying to pull them back up to safety but I can’t do it I’m not strong enough and they fall to their death I presume but it all blacks out before they land. You can’t be going around thinking about that type of shit at night so you need a poem or a prayer to force-quit your brain.
Thy kingdom come/Thy will be done/On Earth as it is in Heaven
I don’t go to church much anymore but from time to time I’ll end up at one and I guess they changed the wording of the Lord’s prayer ever so slightly in the intervening years since I was a regular and whenever I hear it spoken differently it’s alien to me it’s like if you went to karaoke and found out they surreptitiously changed the lyrics to Don’t Stop Believing behind your back and they told everyone else but you.
Thy kingdom come. I think that means we’re supposed to be waiting for the kingdoms of Heaven and Earth to be joined together as one like a Comcast merger or whatever and this is as you can probably surmise even if you’re not Christian a very exciting proposition. We’re not supposed to just pass the time sitting on our dicks until that day though we’re supposed to be actively preparing ourselves for receiving God’s love which entails at least in my understanding of the poem living with compassion and forgiveness and taking care of one another. You can’t just set the oven timer and chunk a raw turkey in there and expect it to turn out deliciously you have to prep it and season it and stuff it with all manner of good things. All of that is the exact opposite of how we’re behaving during the pandemic which is how we’ve always behaved in America.
My god/it takes an ocean of trust/Takes an effort it does.
I’m thinking of Doves songs now since I mentioned them up there which was about an hour ago in my temporal frame of reference. Now it’s the next day. Songs are poems too and poems are songs but we don’t think of them like that anymore. If you count songs as poems I suppose I have thousands of them memorized so I lied earlier and I’m sorry for doing that.
What’s next in the world to come? is what you asked me to write about.
The general consensus seems to be that we’re waiting for some ideal version of America to finally arrive and the thinking goes that the defeat of Trump the first bad president is supposed to have ushered us along on that path or at the very least forestalled the arrival of a much worse possible outcome but I don’t have much faith that any of that is true. I think that we are now in this cruel and unforgiving and merciless moment of unchecked violence and sickness and indifference to others the country we were always going to be and always have been no matter how many billions of prayers we’ve said to God or Thomas Jefferson or William Carlos Williams or John Prine or whoever. I think the ideal America is here now it’s a train we’ve been waiting to board that we’ve already been traveling on for miles we just didn’t realize it yet.