Sure the pen in my hand often feels made of lead
and fifty times its natural size by the weight
and who uses such an archaic instrument anyway
in such a post-enlightened age? on every subway car in the morn
there's at least one laptop, more
likely a medley
tip-tipping away like mouse footsteps
look over a few shoulders: so that's your plan for the day?
I wonder what it would be if you had a choice in the matter?
I doubt quite so many meetings and reports
and statistical surveys would march at its head.
Who makes up these numbers anyway? I did for a while, freelance.
Here's a citizen bristling with outrage in a letter to the editor
I'm a firm believe in democracy, but did you ever hear of a thing called Spellcheck?
Could you ever
find a phrase to stick in that wasn't shopworn in the Middle Ages?
Oh, I don't think these tippy devices are implements of the devil
though perching 'em like that on
a regular basis
is of precious little use (so I'm told and ifl may speak plainly)
to the penis, testes, vagina, maybe that's all to the good
or all the care we show 'em it seems we could do with far fewer people
but keeping the keyboard a safe and respectable distance from my jewels
I'll tip-tip mousey-mousey when the time comes with the rest
but there's this to be said for thoughts primed first with ink
by the time they show up on a page, physical or virtual
you've had one chance at least to remember 'em.
That alone might stem a little the floodtides of gibberish
(here's an example: I first wrote dampen a little)
though some fool's bound to say "All very well to criticize
but what have you got to put in its place?"
Here's a thought: nothing. Clear all channels. Silence, attend!
In spite of the leaden weight of my plastic-cased pen
In spite of the mess the ink always leaves on my hand
In spite of severe doubt whether any pay heed
In spite of my dislike of mere empty fluency
who can hold back? So much rubbish, so little invective to reprove it!
If Perez Hilton's blog's worth twenty thousand a month in the bank
Sure I'm entitled to snarl and bite from my hole in the comer.
It's calmly reported by people who make none
"We'll leave that to others" no sacrifice is too great
to secure a victory all concede is impossible
Here's Mars to be considered, we've made such a mess of earth
Better luck next planet. But who'll be in charge of the booking?
There's not enough escape velocity to go around.
Has it occurred to these visionaries, on Mars or one of the promising
moons of Jupiter, whatever, they'll still be who they are?
That's what the need to work on improving first.
All out war's no gentler where gravity's a little more restrained
smog won't obscure the sun any less in deeper space
Who'll have the honour of the first
celebrity DUI arrest on Mars?
(What do these people do with their money?
Taxis, have you heard of such a thing or are you too pissed to dial?
That's why they make the numbers easy to remember.
Don't be a cheapskate! You can afford a chauffeur
24/7, just make sure while on duty at least
they're not too freely sampling the bottles, pills and slickly gleaming needles
I accept are among the irreducible perks of a luxury lifestyle
and serve a Darwinian function besides.)
Who can resist writing satire?
I'll grant you, when an actress at a press conference
describes how her first marriage ended: her then-husband
discovered a condom glued to her leggings
left by her now-husband (bet he makes rigorous laundry checks)
When a President says "Our nation's enemies
are tirelessly looking for ways to hurt our people
and so are we!" it becomes progressively harder to discover
an accusation so ugly it won't bounce back as a boast.
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JOHNSON'S FOOT POWDER SOAKS AWAY THOSE TIRED ACHING FEET Is the whole world one wraparound Freudian slip? Discuss.
"We're not interested in maiming our customers
mutilating or killing them or whatever
our only interest is making a profit."
But if you kill, mutilate and maim your customers for profit
Infecting uterine tracts with intimate care devices that nastily unravel
Burning folks to death in family autos whose gas tanks easily catch fire
Poisoning the local drinking water with toxic discharge from your factory
what business are you in? Oh don't mind me.
One well-paid position on your board I'll shut right up.
And the satirists these days? Crybabies! Here's a fellah
moaning how Disney sued to stop publication
of a comic book he drew showing Mickey and Minnie ...
(not near so outrageous at that as the popular joke
Lawyer: "So, Mister Mouse ... you want to divorce your wife Minnie
because she's ... somewhat silly?" "No! Didn't you hear me. Because she's fucking Goofy!"
Horse and mouse would be a good fit for that
in the real world.) Here's food for thought son:
the Disney Corps were looking to restrain publication
They had no ambitions to stretch your neck in a hempen noose.
Any ofus can preen at the glass invoking Swift's steadfast example.
knowing how little's the likelihood our bluff will ever be called.
My pen's a good deal lighter to handle now.
That was a highly satisfying discharge.
ive often wondered if i could write in the voice of
archy you know who i mean not the redheaded kid
the vers libre cockroach and putative
(thats a tough word to type
jumping on one letter at a time)
author of the archy and mehitabel series of
if i say so myself fine books mehitabel being
an alley cat with a passion for strays and toms
whos the transmigrated soul of queen cleopatra
shes getting on in years lives in a cathouse
i know but thats what they call the old felines home
me im as hale and hearty as ever cockroaches
are tough i was frozen into an ice cube
not long ago and ended up in somebodys cocktail
at a cinematographers party but it wasnt paul simon
it was al pacino i think that almost swallowed me
i scrambled away in time everybody screamed with laughter
what a card that pacino as i scuttled to safety
laughed even harder when he protested indignantly
he had nothing to do with it had a good mind to sue
why dont you folks incidentally
ever have a bad mind to do anything considering
the things you do it would often make more sense anyway
thats how ice affects a cockroach
so if you think changing the weather to bring on an ice age early
will get rid of us think again well just settle in
for a million years beauty sleep which i will grant you
though i that am a cockroach say it to our shame
we could certainly use and if you tum the orb tropical well
come into glory i saw a cockroach once
from brazil it was behind glass it was the shape
of a cockroach as youd expect but the size
of two manhole covers and about as bright
no sparkling wits those brazilian cockroaches but still
i left that bug house swelled with envy and pride
and resolved to be a bigger brighter better
cockroach in future bet if you saw that daddy
in your kitchen youd think twice where you were stepping
look all around you for franz kafkas ghost
its lonely being the one cockroach in the world
with powers of ratiocination considering i also
lack vocal apparatus and cant even talk
to people except through this keyboard which i understand
is getting to be how most of you talk to each other
maybe thats why you havent noticed
youre killing off plant and animal species nonvirtually
in a chain that leads straight to you dont expect us
your inheritors to mourn and grieve well be too busy dominating a
planet youve custom designed
to our specifications in a million years maybe
well be the next no make that the first
species of intelligent life on earth or you may surprise us
smarten up in time being an insect my respirations
involuntary but if i could i wouldnt
hold my breath waiting for you to smarten up
Some are blackbirds, some are ravens
Some are sheep and some are goats
Some are moguls, some are mavens
Some are geep and some are shoats
Summer's short sometimes and winter
's long or it's the other way
Spring and fall I hadn't noticed
Some are home and some away
Some can dance and some can fiddle
Some can sing and some can snore
Some can joke and some can riddle
Some can entertain and bore
Some are rich and some inherit
Some are born and some tum poor
Some are full of life and spirit
Some want nothing but more more
Some are horns and some dilemmas
Some are hydrants, some are dogs
I can't find a rhyme for this line
Some are comhusks, some are hogs
Some have parts and some have logic
Some have wit and some have taste
Some the skill with which to dodge it
Some chase visions, some lay waste
Some you'd trust and some you shouldn't
Sometimes these are just the same
Some you'd rank and some you couldn't
Some are better than their game
Some have love and some have charge cards
Some are easiest in crowds
Some are hardest in a scrimmage
Some come quiet, some are loud
Some are free and some are easy
Some are cheap and those'll cost you
This was not a very good line
Some are brittle, those'll boss you
Some steal kisses, some steal glances
Flaming looks they don't return
Some take risks and some take chances
Some take hearts in hands that bum
Some are kind and some are cruel
Some you wish were otherwise
Some have hearts and some have jewels
Some have orbs and some have eyes
Some you loved and some you didn't
Some you don't and wish you did
Some have talents that are hidden
Some have lacks that should be hid
Some are bankers, some are thieves
Some work at trades reputable
Some cut diamonds--some cut cheese
Some are cut, it's indisputable
Some play dead and some play possum
Some play tunes on funny bones
Some are tossed where others toss 'em
Some are tossed right out their homes
Some are ivory, some are horn
Some give head- and some give heartache
Some don't know why they were born
Some wish they had never been
Some wish they could always be
Some you kissed and wish you hadn't
Many more you wish you had
Some won't pucker for a pedant
Some are at their best when bad
Some are at their worst when trying
Some will cling and some will claw
Some poems don't know how to finish
Though it may not be cause for extravagant mirth
That my life span expands back no farther than birth
There hardly seems much point excessively moumin'
The time that I live in's the time I was born in;
I've a foot in two centuries--three'd stretch a point
I'd have no snap left in one single joint
(Ifl'm still alive at the twenty-second
One forty nine is the age I'll be reckon'd;)
No bite in the teeth I'll have left me if any
My p--s the tinct of a copper penny
My s--t the stink of a hundred jakes
My bones the house of a thousand aches
My muscles all sturdy as half-settled jelly
The mush I can't taste sits like stone in my belly;
My arches fall'n lower than Presidents' morals
Each organ quite riven with intestine quarrels;
At one forty nine I'm an old skinsack maybe
But alongside the Struldbruggs I'm scarcely a baby
In diapers five decades to prove this is true;(l)
It's a fate I'd not wish on any of you:
I've no fear of that, I'll be gone long before
And as for what's waiting beyond the last door
Fresh body perfected? Grave soul scoured clean?
Gold slippers for ent'ring the Heavenly scene?
I'll know when I see, not a minute before.
Bodies are prisons of souls said old Soc
Prisons for debtors and us all in hock
Is how I interpret the relevant scripture
Have a care who you seek for release or you're clipp'd sure;
The devil's a pincher when buying a soul
Yet those with his penny make quite a long roll:
Here are child polluters in hand-tailored clothes And not a few in priestly robes;
Warriors who shun the klaxon of battle
But send other folks' children to bleed out like cattle(2)
Murd'rers close up who die in great heat
Thinking seventy virgins in heaven await
Murderers distant who push-button bombs
Where neighbourhoods were, now are great reeking tombs
Who shape bombs like toys for a child to discover
That's Petras, Mohammed, Alanna all over;(3)
Here's wholesale pollution for capital gain
A global free market in murder and pain;
A global free market in chaos and slaughter
And Tories endorse it! I don't think they oughter
Destroy the fine sinew of earth to conserve it?
Bury conscience in contract and thereby preserve it?
Find an ethic of treason and loyally serve it?
The Whigs and the Anarchists equally love it
Though their fingers would bum if they didn't glove it!
The gloves sizzle through in under a week
Is it brimstone or dinosaur fossil they reek?
Finger trade futures is where I'd invest it
If I had an egg and a safe place to nest it;
Finger-shaped leather will always be bought
When the goods that we trade are so flamingly hot;
Palms hide-reinforced are entirely the rage
When the ink on the contract sets fire to the page But why forge such deals which persistently utter
Such filth into air sky resembles a gutter
Such matter in water the oceans tum sewer
Full of untested variants on old-style manu-re?
Just what do we think we're accomplishing here?
The earth may be sullied but won't disappear;
But a rash on its skin (such as us) just might clear;
Whatever it pays us, the cost is too dear.
1.The author here grants himself a considerable grace period in which to enjoy full bladder and rectal continence, since many wear the garment described, in a kind of second infancy, well before their ninety ninth year. He may have some grounds for supposing this, by reason of heredity, since family on his mother's side at least tended to be long-lived, and robust and active 'til the end. A great aunt died at the age of ninety six, of a heart attack, on the bus that was taking her home from the market with two bags of groceries she'd just bought.
2. A war party at this time had established a beachhead in the Presidential chamber and cabinet of the most weapon-ready power on earth. A peculiarity of this war cabinet, from its President on down, is that while their mouths were lasciviously eager for war, their brainpans inflamed with a lust for it at every opportunity, their feet had kept well clear of combat boots every occasion that offered itself to wear 'em. What they called cowardice in others, on good evidence, bad evidence or no evidence at all, they called prudence in themselves. But equally mixed in I think was aristocratic disdain: "The poor will do our dying for us."
They jettisoned early the one cabinet member who'd seen extensive combat, because he spoke too much of what actually happens in war, too little in the wap 'em! zap 'em! video game language these fantasists preferred.
Most curious of all: from the President on down, these timorous grooms of Bellona aggressively declaimed faith in a God; yet seemed not to live in the slightest small fear of a judgment day.
3. These few skimpy samples of a near-inexhaustible subject are bound to strike some readers as pinchbeck. I've far from exhausted even the limited subject of bombs, cluster bombs, land mines and others each adding their own interesting variance. Then there are the airborne gases and bacterial agents, the former comparatively merciful: they choke the life out of only those in the immediate vicinity who breathe them; the latter more terrible by far; they infect with disease and turn those who breathe them into unwilling carriers. Then, what of small arms and artillery? those all advance prodigiously with the pricily purchased brains of leading scientists and technologues ever scheming, ever devising. In my defence I can only say that a simple catalogue of modern weapons and their significant effects would be the length of a mid-size novel. To turn it all into rhymed couplets would be tedious for writer and reader alike.