Tuesday, July 12, 2011

August, 1970: From the Floor of a Silent Sea

By Dee Newman

What in God’s name am I doing here,
me, the mothered illiterate liberal
from the mountain’s of East Tennessee?
Ah – but, it seems so far away
and long ago . . . that TVA town
with its down-by-the-old-mill-stream dreams,
that planned community with its
winding rolling roads,
its up-and-down streets
masquerading beneath the feet
of its children, streets that follow
the natural paths of passing deer,
streets that yet breathe with the laughter
of family and friends, with the hum
of coffee-gossip. Yeah, but streets so planned
there ain’t a black face to be seen.

So, what in God’s name, I ask, am I
(with my Sherwood Anderson dreams and schemes)
doing here in Tucson, Arizona,
in cacti country, listening to this . . .
this diatribe of defecation
inflicted upon us by this beer-bellied
bearded liberal from D.C. in his cowboy boots,
while his six compatriots
wait to complete the composition?
Why . . . why do I sit here like a half-wit
yielding my ear to this crap
as if I were Harpo Marx without a horn to honk?

Nine months of twelve hours a day,
seven days a week pouring my guts out
and for what . . . for who?
The poor?
The hungry?
My God! I actually believe it.
How hideous. I too am nothing more
than one of its pendulating puppets
corporately clinging to the fruit
of its succulent vine as thousands
of bloated-bellied-babies suck
at their withered thumbs.
Oh my God! The realization of it,
the disgust with which it fills me, chokes me,
as I sit here in this Holiday Inn suit
(a stone’s throw away from abject poverty)
listening to these clinging clowns
from White House town,
these VOLT vampires,
these FURPO evaluators
sermonize to us from some ridiculous rule book
concerning the sovereign dogmatic dictums
and edicts of some elite idiot.

Perhaps, if we actually lived
within a democratic society
and not a plutocratic state
the assertion that “there’s no place
for violence in a democracy”
might be germane. But,
when the filthy rich control everything
and the name of the game is
“Capitalism . . . unregulated,”
when the idea and ideal is to accumulate
as much wealth and power as possible
in order to control every aspect
of the means of production,
including land, labor and capital,
when the economic structure of our society
has become so distorted
that a Johnny-come-lately caustic comic
can make more in one week
than the average farm laborer’s family
could make in a lifetime,
then I would say, as Huxley once said,
to “expect a hungry and squalid population
to be anything but violent and gross”
would be perverse!

Don’t these idiots realize
that right out that window
not much farther than I can spit
there are people literally living in pig-pens
while we sit here comfortably and rationally
discussing what we may or may not do
to benefit their lot?

The disparity could not be more blatant!

Don’t these system suckers know
that there are people dying in this country
for the lack of food,
that in Little Hollywood, in Douglas,
on the Papago Reservation, in Yuma,
in every county of A.R.E.
and throughout this state
people are suffering from malnutrition,
that in Phoenix alone last year
fifteen minority group babies
died of malnutrition,
that on the Navajo Reservation
that figure was doubled,
and that while the government, itself,
counts over twenty million
hard core hungry in this country,
it pays some so-called farmer like Boswell
a million dollars in farm subsidies not to grow,
approximately four and half billion dollars
in farm subsidies each year?

And while this gigantic giveaway goes on
fattening the already bulging and powerful
political pockets of the agri-industrialists,
the Chicano laborers
(the men, women and children)
who harvest the food from the fields
of this nation grow hungry.
It is yet another example
(as Charles Abrams once described)
of “socialism for the rich
and free-enterprise for the poor.”

Let's be honest . . .
we are no longer apart of a War on Poverty.
We are apart of a war on the poor,
on the Middle Class,
on what some margarine company
has called “Mother Nature,”
on what I consider to be God.

It is as if we have tried to cut short Her dream,
to impose our misguided will upon Hers,
harnessing Her beauty to service that will,
ravishing Her fertile garden
like a mad prophet in the heat of ecstasy,
stripping Her, plundering Her depths
in a relentless rage to conceive
a corporate child competitive
to any of Her dreams,
a breeched bastard of a child
who has grown into a mindless monster
juggernauting across this country and the world.

And only now, now that we can no longer
keep up with its rampage,
now that it, itself,
has given us the distance,
the objectivity,
are many of us beginning to comprehend
how profound and profane
an outrage we have committed.
For it was certainly more than ambitious
ever to think one could regulate,
control, or conquer God.
It was absurd, insane.
We are not even able now
(as its corporate supplicants chuckle
in quiet corridors with its chambermaids)
to control the very system we conceived.
For we stand not as its ruler,
but as its subjects,
unable to manage its immense technological apparatus,
subservient to its will and whim.

Yes, even now, as corporate crime
becomes the order of the day,
as our children desperately try to crawl
out their drugged dreams,
as we begin to choke and gag at its breath,
as its Colors wave on every window in the nation
the vast majority of us
continue to straddle the fence and quietly
complain of the pain in our crotch.

It seems it has not only taken over our lives,
but our minds, as well,
leaving us senseless,
unable to recognize its kind of tyranny.
Even those of us who have, at last,
begun to perceive a problem
still have not, as yet, discerned the disorder.
We have only found
new and old causes to fight –
population, pollution, poverty, peace.
But, these struggles are only symptoms
of a cunningly deceptive disease,
a disease deliberately implanted
long before we are even able to pronounce
or comprehend the words
(ignorance, fear, bigotry, death),
a diabolical disease,
threatening to kill us all.

When I think it was only a year ago
that I gave up the G.I. Bill
(my educational allotment)
to join Jack here in the desert,
leaving “The Hill”
(The University of Tennessee)
with its middle-class-militants
to fight over the flag,
why, it seems as far-off as when I gave up
dirty t-shirt and pegged-legged pants.
I’ve seen and felt more of life this past year
than all my bell-bottom “yes- sir” years in the Navy,
than all those seemingly significant hours
I failed disputing the suppositions
of tenured professors,
than all those knee-deep daydream days
down in that old gristmill stream
when the only thing (I thought)
worth worrying about was whether
the weather was going to change
in time to take Slendereller home
before Ira became irate.

And now, as one who has been more
than just an observer, who has
touched the faces of hungry children,
felt the anguish of hundreds and hundreds
of families desperately trying
to survive in a country
whose gross national product
has reached the trillion dollar mark,
yes, as one who has worked within
the limitless frustrations
of the so-called System
finding no justification to continue,
I now realize the time has come
to give Sammy the “Up Yours”
before I’m forced to holler – “Uncle!”

I suppose, it is impossible for any man
at the age of twenty-six
to seriously believe he’s a fool,
although, I do recall when I finally
decided to come to Arizona
and help Jack on this project
after he had sent me several letters
accusing me of being Shakespear’s
Prince Hamlet unable to come to a decision,
responding with a quote from Eliot’s “Prufroock”:
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be
Am an attendant Lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At time, indeed, almost ridiculous–
Almost, at times, the Fool.
Looking back now, I fully recognize
the accuracy of that quote,
realizing as well, as Prufrock did:
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floor of silent seas.

1 comment:

mythopolis said...

You ring a lot of bells here. The outrage, the disillusionment. And it could have been written yesterday rather than back then, since little has changed...except for the worse...