Jokes From Under the Couch

Wordsworth’s shoes warn’t no dancer’s dainties
His frock possessed nothing of the saintly.
Poems will always defy the haberdash
In William’s case he also earned some cash…

**

In a silly mood just own it. Shove Wittgenstein under the sofa.
“A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.”

But only under the couch….

**

There are many jokes devised on couches I’m certain
And more than a few came from behind the curtains.
Of men, jokes that start on mattresses
Generally lead to fratricides….
Steal this if you must
In jokes we trust….

**
“Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself.”
Don ’t I know it, Wittgenstein.
Let’s not drink the turpentine.
Not today at any rate.
“Don’t for heaven’s sake, be afraid of talking nonsense!
But you must pay attention to your nonsense.”

**

People on TV tearing each other apart…
Fifty years ago, people on TV tearing each other apart.
America, always like a dog at bay.
As James Tate said,
“and the Cokes were far far away….”

Thinking of Dante While Getting Old

Shoe, I have not loved you with my whole heart;
Truss, I fear you’re coming…

Emergence of old age.

Dante: “we call shaggy all words that are ornamental.”
Ornaments of this aging vulgar tongue…
Pray the noblest words alone remain in the sieve….

For Dante, language was new—his language, the juicy vernacular. English ain’t so new anymore. “Make it new, make it new,” he cries, waving his stick. That “he” is me.

Spoon me some glottal stops, shout me some noble ballate.
Had me a literary education. Learned about recitations charmingly delivered. But by night I kicked frozen turds on the icy street. In those days I talked to anyone. Fable fable.

Gettin’ old. Just want to rest my head on the bosom of moral philosophy. Ain’t that the way of it? Start and end with moldy books.

The morning was green and my heart was green…

Shall I say Wordsworth—
Skiff of mind in the shallows
All those minnows bright as dimes…

O past tense, call the goddess
We’ll stop here
Step from the boat
Walk across the lilies.

**

Passing houses in any neighborhood—“that looks like my boyhood home….”

It was said of Dante “no other poet knew how to praise or blame with such excellence….” (Was it Benvenuto?)

I walk past houses….praise and blame the memories….

**

“Love insists the loved loves back” (Dante)

Love this moment.

More About the Semblance State

Yesterday I wrote about “the semblance state”—the predicament of this nation, these United States, where seeming competence has taken the place of governance. I gave no quarter to the Republicans or the Democrats. Both parties spent the last forty years greasing the engines of profits over vision, eschewing long term plans, caring not a whit about the average citizen (who we once called middle class but who’s now fallen from the wheel of fortune into the soupy suspension of the new poverty: both parties share the blame.) In the semblance state hardly anyone shoulders responsibility. There’s only pathos, raw anger directed at whoever doesn’t look like you. In this way the GOP and the Democrats (and their splinters) are un-American. Even the IWW believed in communitarian principles.

In her excellent book “American Enlightenments” Caroline Winterer reminds us that 18th century Americans held a different view of happiness than the self-help individualized notion most people cling to today. She writes:

“The happiness of humanity. Crèvecoeur’s words—and Thomas Jefferson’s far more famous ones in the Declaration of Independence, “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”—remind us that the pursuit of happiness was one of the principal quests of enlightened people. But happiness meant something different in the eighteenth century from its meaning today. In our era, an industry of self-help books reminds us that modern happiness is an emotional state of self-fulfillment and personal well-being. Eighteenth-century people would have been puzzled by our narrow definition. For them, happiness first of all had expansive, public meanings. People at that time often spoke of a happy people and a happy society. A society was happy when its people enjoyed the security, stability, and peace that allowed them to prosper. The purpose of government was to create public or social happiness by shielding the state from foreign enemies and internal threats. The opposite of public happiness was not sorrow but anarchy or tyranny. Educated leaders would be the architects of the good government that led to a happy society.”

Watching Donald Trump ignore the greatest public health crisis in history reveals the petty tyranny of a self-help mind which holds that successful people eschew any engagement with social happiness and indeed, must hate government itself. In the semblance state where most individuals believe they’re victims and that malign others are getting more than their fair share well, the happy society is not only inadmissible, it should be despised. This is why Trump spent Mothers Day sending over a hundred vitriolic, childish, toxic “tweets” while ignoring the climbing death rates in the US.

The Semblance State

America is neither left or right, neither a nation of corporate responsibility or one that fully embraces fascism. It is a semblance state—a country wherein appearing to be a developed Western democracy is deemed all that’s necessary. In this reality TV no man’s land the dignity of the individual has been painted over with angry appeals to emotion alone, what the Greeks called pathos. This is why Donald Trump is not compelled to do anything about the Coronavirus pandemic, in the semblance state its enough to incite emotions and imagine everything can go back to business as usual. Fakery has been both profitable and ubiquitous since Reagan.

The superannuated Democrats don’t get a pass either. Arguing the banks or pharmaceutical companies are the bogey men behind the decline of the nation’s middle class is also pathos, a straw man appeal to distrust bigness itself when the more nuanced and useful position that the economy needs a dose of Teddy Roosevelt’s conservative regulation is lost. The semblance state is “emo” 24-7. It’s a tricked out supersonic laser show of induced suspicions, gratifying hatreds, phony culture wars with hot rage as an end in itself. When Barack Obama bailed out General Motors and Chrysler he let them close small dealerships, not exactly the “new new deal.” It was just another day in the semblance state’s “business as usual” ethos.

Rick Perlstein’s review
in The Nation of Nicholas Lemann’s new book, “Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of the American Dream” contains an illustrative anecdote—Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s Secretory of Labor gets called in to the Treasury Department by Robert Rubin who scolds him for using the phrase “corporate responsibility” in s speech. In the semblance state all that’s necessary is to appear to be profitable. In other words, forget the little car dealer. That the Democrats got their comeuppance for embracing the semblance state is without question. The rightward embrace of appearance over substance is less benign and as we can see from the Trump stampede to reopen the economy by shoving unprotected workers into dangerous workplaces, appearance over conscience is still fully in force.

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue 2020

Little fuhrer feet, tippy toe, tippy toe,
Donald Trump in his “onesie” pajamas
Comfy tyrant still a babe
Late night twittering with alphabet blocks…
Niceums little baby named Trumpy Tuckoo
Sucks milk and iodine from a rubber shoe,
I’m a big boy, he shouts at nurse
And real children die in the grass…

Dear Life and the GOP

In her excellent book “Dear Life: Caring for the Elderly” Karen Hitchcock writes: “If we are all just economic units who lift or lean, then very little is “lost” when a nursing home resident or anyone getting on in their years dies prematurely. In fact money might be saved – one less nursing-home bed to fund, and the kids can finally get their hands on the house.”

This describes the GOP’s stampede to re-open the American economy without healthcare, testing, oversight, and social justice. Think about Donald Trump, mask-less last week while loudspeakers played Paul McCartney’s Bond theme “Live and Let Die.” (I thought, perhaps they can do a mix of McCartney with Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger?”)

Like all disabled I’ve lived the effects of symbolic reductions owing to social constructions of economy and its Darwinisms. Despite what I may be able to do or can do, my blindness sails ahead of my life like the carved figurehead at the bow of a ship.

I’m one of the millions the new GOP believes is worth an early grave.

Remember the quaint old days when Barack Obama was trying to create a Romney style health care plan and Chuck Grassley said if the plan was passed it would lead to “death panels” and these in turn would ‘un-plug grandma.”? Remember? I do. Well it’s way beyond Grandma now kiddies—if you’re not rich they want you to step up and offer to die behind the counter in the dry cleaning store. Hurry up! If you drop dead more of us can get our hands on the house!

I haven’t heard Chuck Grassley speaking up. What’s the matter Chuck? Your home state of Iowa is pushing innocent people back to work with absolute cruelty and no public health plans.

As Lou Reed once put it: “Let’s get ‘em out on the dirty boulevard.”