Thursday, December 01, 2011

Excavations In a Used Bookstore-- Part VIII

Outside, in the headlines
"Police subdue protestors
in South Africa." It sounds
like a very nice word for it

but I'm reading a history
of World War II-- Remember
how the forces of evil triumphed
all over the place, until
the good people started fighting back
killing more of the bad ones
than the other way around?

This was my father's world, the clearest case
ever made for the virtues of killing--
How could I say it was wrong
for anyone to join wholeheartedly
in forcing chunks of metal into Germans;

if only they'd started it sooner
there would have been less of a story
and many fewer victims of
the whole dramatic justifying build-up--

Why, Winston Churchill himself
who told us so all along
mentions several occasions
when being ready to kill Germans
would have saved us no end of excitement

if only that had been the end of it.
Look here; I sell stories.
I don't always buy them
and it's plain that what you push
pushes back. Isaac Newton
knew all about that

several thousand years after the Chinese
invented 'go', and martial arts, and mystic jargon
for why 'common sense' doesn't work
in the real world, which acts
pretty much the way it wants.

We killed Nazis; we killed bystanders.
Now we hold the world hostage;
thus we overcome

It's quiet in here;
the brave and desperate die
outside, far away, in the story
you can watch all night on the set

and maybe you have a duty
to suffer for the ones you can't help.

My mother's been in pain
ever since I've known her
carrying on, with perfect housework,
fancy dinners, driving me nuts;
how should I ought to feel?

Well, I'd rather not; I don't;
it's no use to pity
a hell-bent collector of sufferings

but what of those tropical children,
the hungry, stunted scavengers
of what we've left of the world?
The next time I hear
some person saying with his mouth full
that everyone chooses his own life
I am tempted to inject
him full of loathsome bacteria;
help him choose more interesting experiences,
not talk so smug--

But there it is:
The whole crazy mass of us
are suckers for a good plot.
Even the heroes of abject survival
live to sneer at romantic fools

while the brotherhood of pain gives merit badges
and realists work to maintain stable
governments at the end of the tunnel--
Who am I to attempt sanity?

If God had wanted
his people reasonable
the books around these walls
would have been different.

This is the best of all worlds possible
with people like us in it.
And no doubt people like them
need some place to act out their fantasies...

(Using the medical model of sin
we of the staff are attempting
to bring all patients to salvation;
meanwhile I'm feeling odd, myself.)

I was hoping, by the end
of this poem, to remember
and make more sense of things
but poems end; I'm still here
traveling toward enlightenment

another episode in
a continuing series.

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