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A Spring Fall, or A Brief Free-Verse Philippic on Political Victory

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UPON THE OCCASION OF A FRIEND’S ELECTION TO THE LA CROSSE COUNTY BOARD

Poets, priest and politicians
Have words to thank for their positions.
-Gordon Sumner

I too hate it, politics. And yet,
there it is. The right and left
the up and down
the over and under
the profit and loss, the heads and tails,
it doesn’t matter.

Winning doesn’t matter.

Losing doesn‘t matter.

Nothing matters except
everything.

So, as you stroll the Lyceum of your mind
with Cicero’s headless ghost, Demonsthenes’ humble pebbles
in your mouth,
watch as polity and equity embrace and kiss,
and remember
what the people ask you to keep in mind,
that the terms and limits of empire
begin with the three primary colors of reality:
first principles,
last things
and
final ends.

II
Incumbents last as long as the next emotion cycle….
So one by two by three
they fall – and the laurels
that looked so stylish
with broad gestures and
togas gilded with purple piping
(so say the Roman hacks
who lost their bets to Caesar
and hide their heads beneath
the epitaph of obscurity)
went to the next generation.

But what do you expect?
Anyone the age of Christ ought to know
as much about the world,
its modus operandi:

1. Nail down your agenda and crucify the data.

2. Throw your own gods of liberty into the marketplace.

3. Let other gods bleed for their liberty.

III
Usura slayeth the child in the womb.
Thus, Mr. Pound remarked in that way how summer falls
and makes a winter spring

from its sleepy lair, ravenous.
And thus, too, the fool will have had his day
(and so a king too…).

In chasing the specter of usura, though,
and denying error the privilege of rights,
I promise you will find the Son of Mammon’s address.

But if you see the birds of paradise, the sparrow’s nest
and the Son of Man who has no home,
you will know peace as sound as stone among the lilies.

IV
Where yesterday was politics today is policy.
And always the April fools day
with sunlight, and the day
is left to think that spring
promises warmth, acceptance, growth, new creation.

And always the annual portfolio promises
dividends, interest, diversified stock options,
no substantial penalty
for early withdrawal…
Yes, that sense of play lasts all of one day.

Then comes the real work.

The Wisconsin farmer climbs upon his tractor,
ready to spread
the true springtime message
acre by acre, row by row
in a steady stream, like oratory
shoveled out, and like public trust discharged
behind him –
“It’s time for a change.”

And now a new team of factional rivals
grab the rostrum of La Crosse
(by hook or by crook),
spinning at poles like a captain’s wheel
and as the bilge water flows
in their wake each member would augur
as much:
“It’s time for a change.”

V
First, for tactics, we countered the numbers –
then, for strategy, we counted the numbers
and last night, for victory,
we considered with nervous fingers on the tickertape
a mere 18 voted reasons
for overcoming the numbers.

But such integers of population pale
at least compared to what
the world has managed to put up:

And, lo, the City of Man
is like unto a boondoggle
which may make money for a few
but renders many with neither shirt nor honor,
nor bread to rise nor stone upon stone,
nor art its measure, nor craft its purpose,
nor love its gift to man.

And, lo, the City of Man
is like unto a boondoggle
which may spring a virtual Hippocrene of eternal hope
and speciously declare everyone a winner
but puts cliché upon a plinth
and truth in its place,
a white stain beneath pigeon toes.

VI
So don’t fear to scratch the marble
because dirty hands can also mean
honest men earning an honest day’s wages.

Meanwhile, the City of God awaits –
so like unto a certain county district
of unasked and unanswered questions.

So may it be in virtue of a truth
no speech can divide nor words divine
that you help the people find the courage

To ask the questions and find the answer.

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Contemporary Pals (With Apologies to Ol’ Possum and Brer Rabbit (Ez Po)) from “Quia Potter Amavi”

I. Mr. Potterax

1

Mr. Jonathan Potterax, the owner of a loud guitar
                                    and of large dog,
A “green” and a stacker of volumes, has married
                                    at the age of 28,
He being at that age a virgin,
The term “virgo” being made male in mediaeval latinity;
          His poetic reveries
Having driven his wife from one consumer excess to another.
She has abandoned the Land Rover
For it was lacking in vehemence;
She is now the high-priestess
Of a modern and ethical Tupperware party,
             And even now, Mr. Potterax
           Does not believe in plastics.

2

His brother-in-law has taken to photographs,
But the sister-in-law of Mr. J. Potterax
Objects to filterless cigarettes.
In the parlance of Jackie Mason:
“80% of men cheat in America…the rest cheat in Europe”;
And thus the empire is maintained.

II. Mr. O’Brienax

When Mr. O’Brienax visited the San Diego area
His whiskered whisky dripped among the teacups.
I thought of Lickona, that shy figure among the eucalyptus-trees,
And of myself in the shrubbery
Gaping at the lady in the swing.
In the palace of Mrs. Phlato, at Professor James Fortunatus Dixon’s
He twitched at the lips like a freshly hooked coelacanth.
O this twitching was submarine and profound
Like his old man hooch’s
Hidden under a rock beside the above-ground swimming pool which hadn’t been cleaned for months,
Where worried bodies of drowned bottles drift down in the green silence.
Shooting back three or four fingers of the stuff,
I looked for the head of Mr. O’Brienax lolling in a chair
Or grinning over a screen
With bits of tobacco and rolling papers in its hair.

I heard the roar of a big machine
Two worlds and in between
Hot metal and methadrine
I heard empire down
In fact, I heard the beat of Mr. Andrew Eldritch’s clever allusions
Over the dinny confusion of the Glas pax
As my dry and passionate slant-6 devoured the afternoon silence.
“He is a charming man”–“But after all what did he mean?”–
“His red nose and red eyes … He must be unbalanced,”–
“There was something he said that I might have challenged.”
Of dowager Mrs. Phlato, and Professor and Mrs. Dixon
I remember dried-up pimento stuffed olives
Resting at the bottom of empty conical stemware.