"Now, from America, empty indifferent things are pouring across, sham things, dummy life. . . . A house, in the American sense, an American apple or a grapevine over there, has nothing in common with the house, the fruit, the grape into which went the hopes and reflections of our forefathers..... Live things, things that lived -- that are conscious of us -- are running out and can no longer be replaced. We are perhaps the last still to have known such things."
This morning, as with so many mornings as of late, I had to undertake an
agonizingly intricate procedure just to pull myself together enough to
drag myself from bed to face another day in the Empire of the Mean and the
Although today, there was, as always, a temptation to simply pull the
cover over my head, recede back into unconsciousness, and dissolve into a
forgetful ocean of oblivion....
To simply dissolve: Shrinking ever smaller -- smaller than granules of
sand, becoming smaller than plankton, then smaller than the molecules
comprising sea salt itself.... Finally, melding into the fabric of the Sea
Until, I'd be far removed from the brutality of powerful men, out of range
of the mendacity of their operatives, deaf to the prevarication of their
official spokesmen, invisible to their henchman, impervious to the vast
harm they do.
I'd drift away -- past soulless strip malls, sterile subdivisions, horrific
I'd no longer covet consumer goods, nor wish to be clothed in bland,
off-the-rack, mall clothing, nor need the company of bland, off-the-rack,
corporate people, I'd no longer crave the sugary, high carbohydrate,
polyunsaturated, corporate lies that I'm fed daily -- I'd be cured of the
chronic dyspepsia caused by the frozen corn dogs, the stale fruit loops,
the viscid, yellow-orange cheese food that the corporate gods created for
us from chemical dust and that I have so greedily swallowed, while I
stared passively at the collapsing world before me, sitting idly,
dumbfounded, blankly watching as forests, mountains, and rivers evaporate
into the meaningless air like coke-rocks burned to weightless ash in the
crack-house of consumerism.
I am inconsolable: As I have drifted away from the brutes and frauds, my
trajectory has also left me distant from friends and lovers. I fear that
to open myself to even a reassuring caress would also leave me open to
unbearable sorrow -- and my grief would be bottomless.
This is why, some mornings: I don't think I can bear to recompose myself.
But, most days, I do make a start of it: Gathering up and then patching
together this tattered flesh-garment of DNA, then attempting to call to
order this swarming termite-cathedral mind, taking a head count of this
aggregate of disparate personage deemed me, and trying to quiet this
nattering self and console this besieged I -- who awakened in redemptive
bed, torn from eternal reverie of the dreaming-ocean cosmos to shuffle to
toilet for Newtonian piss, to the sink for anti-entropic teeth brushing,
then to commit to the wave-particle duality decision of dressing in order
to meet the manifold flesh of the manifest lunch-meat-god world.
Awake, dressed, and partially reconstituted I left the house:
The Age of Epic Junk rose to meet me... Junk groaning and snarling past me
on roadways, Junk music on radios, Junk words spoken into Junk cell
phones, Billboards hawking Junk, Businesses trading Junk for Junk, Lives
spent in the service of the Lord of Junk.
I thought of Lorca -- in truth -- preposterously -- I attempted to pray to
Lorca: For he advised that one should listen for the Heart of God beating
within the Monster of the World -- but I am losing heart searching for the
Monster's Heart, only finding my own spleen as I have touched the
Monster's skin comprised of metal, breathed in its breath of belching
soot, grown anorexic watching its mouth devouring soil, rocks, and trees
and defecating more shopping malls, burger joints and convenience stores.
Before me: The city, Atlanta... glazed in asphalt inferno of mid-June. But
held in the heat-roiled air above, I saw pink mimosa blossoms hoisting
defiant flags above the obscenity of traffic. The effrontery of that
spindly bloom of fuchsia, its colors as raw as my own nettled heart -- it
hurt deep within my chest even to gaze upon that shade of unconquerable
pink. There are colors that are, on certain days, as unbearable for me, as
a glimpse of the face of God must be to an errant saint.
And some days that is all one has.
I want to shake branches of flowering mimosa in the faces of the ministers
and minions of Junk... see if they become stricken as I was, as tickled
pink as I was. I wish to hear reports on the evening news of a million men
in their offices and cubicles inflicted with out-context erections,
suffering from spontaneous longings for the caress of perfumed winds, and
suddenly struck by uncontrollable desires to emerge unto city streets and
genuflect before the spindling glory of these riotous trees.
So, in short, the ministrations of the mimosa convinced me to keep on
living. But I had no appetite for the endeavor: The meals prepared from
this harvest of the Junk turned my stomach. I clamped my teeth tight
against it. I kept searching for divinity's greenhouse, where the eternal
blooms of hothouse heaven might be cultivated, but I kept wandering into
the slaughtering barn. Ordering a dozen roses-- instead a bouquet of raw,
half-frozen, corporate corn dogs would arrive....
How does one find mercy in an age when bullies thrive? Where can one hear
a few gentle words over the venomous sermons delivered in the talk-show
temples of perpetual viciousness? Where does one find beauty in the Empire
of the Brutal and the Bland, where the SUV lion runs the electric/gasoline
hybrid lamb off the road? How does one receive nourishment when the
corporate orchards yield harvests of Trix, Pop Tarts, and Hostess Fruit
Pies? In whom does one glimpse the face of human compassion when searching
the Botox-frozen countenances of the soul-lynching mob?
I began to mutter, "awful." "Awful, awful, awful." Then I chanted it
aloud: "Awful, awful, awful." Then and there, I decided I would make
"awful" my morning and evening prayer. "He's awful, She's awful -- This
food is awful -- The news is awful -- Our leaders are awful. You awful
people have created such an awful mess by living out the awful
implications of your awful lives that all mirrors should be renamed awful
framers. What awful angels swim through the cesspool sky?" I snarled it
and sobbed it, ranted it and riffed on it, whispered it to myself and
bellowed it in public places. I warbled it and choked on it, laughed about
it and wept over it...
And I could not stop it from coming, this time, I could not stem the
I returned to the house laughing and sobbing aloud. I could no longer
keep the floodgates closed: The things of the world, massive and
minuscule, tragic and preposterous, came coursing into me, flooding the
insular, gated-community of my mind: Giant squids and chihuahuas arrived,
death camps and Dollywood arose, diamonds and chicklets were proffered,
intestinal parasites and the mind of Einstein showed up, killing sprees
and hand jobs transpired, world-destroying comets and blue snow cones came
into existence -- and then -- all of these things blended together,
creating bizarre fusions: Taj Mahal trailer courts, the lime-green leisure
suit of Turin, the Goofy Golf courses of the Vatican, Joseph Stalin
singing with Betty Boop, world-destroying blue snow cone comets....
My lover found me in this state, both hungry and queasy, horny and
mortified, desperate for touch and desperate for solitude. She reached for
me as the two fronts within me met, merging the moist breeze of the
tropics and the cold wind of the Arctic, creating pelting hail and huge,
warm rain drops, engendering weeping and caressing, as streams of tears
mingled with flood waters of desire.
All the while, I was chanting, "awful, awful, awful," but the pleasure
struck me momentarily monosyllabic and only an ecstatic "A-W-E" issued
from me. Shuddering, awestruck, awfully grateful -- I collapsed into my
lover's embrace -- awed by her skin, awed by her generosity in faking her
own organism concurrent with my own (sometimes there is such surpassing
grace in such small, selfless lies), awed by the soft light of the scented
candles, awed by the pastel patterns of the awful wallpaper of our tiny
bedroom. Awed by all the awful things outside of our room I resolved I
would fight to endure.
As I drifted towards sleep, I said Kaddish for my convictions. I dreamed
my lips left impressions traced in ash. Braille sheet-music caressed me
from the breeze of an electric fan. All of my points of reference floated
away from me like transmigrating galaxies. Everything was adrift: mind,
sorrows, heart, and heaven. Upon awakening in bed with my love of seven
years, I turned to her and asked, "Pardon me, but have we met?"
I fumbled for conversation -- wanting to make a good first impression.
· · · · · ·
Poetry on Swans
Phil Rockstroh, a self-confessed gasbag monologist, is a poet and a musician who lives in New York City (Manhattan). Rockstroh is co-author, with Chris Chandler, of Protection From All This Safety, (Portals Press, 1997, ISBN: 0916620301). He's had short fiction published in Silver Web Literary Magazine, Thin Ice, Brutarian, and poems included in a few anthologies, such as "From a Bend in the River." Owed royalites gallore by various publishers, Phil Rockstroh sent his first contribution to Swans with the queasy relief that he would not be financially compensated for it.
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