By the way, today I saw one of the most amazing sights I've seen in Kansas so far. Hope to take a picture of it tomorrow and post it here, if it's still there. Not sure what it is: religious intervention? reaction piece by a university student? I don't know, but I'll post a picture as soon as a can.
Made notes on this poem by T.R. Hummer this afternoon and then started writing about it. Here's the poem and some opening thoughts on the poem and what will become some ideas I've been kicking around on political poetry in general which may arrive here in installments depending on what's happening this week.
The End of History
An ordinary apocalyptic morning
in the America’s—no earthquakes, no asteroids,Just the benevolent shadow of a broken promise
of rain. The adze of Pacific windHones cumulus clouds to nothing. Or does it
work the other way? And all the newspapersIn the supermarket agree: RICHARD NIXON DEAD.
The gears of identity turn slow,But the mesh is implacable. Gone under
the bonewheel, that spectacular ego, suckedDown the augers of the absolute. I am choosing
the best asparagus, I am buying olive oil,And somewhere the Plasticine face, disturbed
by a permanent stubble, is growing
Even more inhuman. Yes, he was a private citizen,
yes husband and father, yes nothing moreThan carbon, oxygen, hydrogen. But against
the overblown blue screen of memoryNapalm flares up on every channel. Bombs
go off in the vacuum tubes of Saigon.It is a spring afternoon in liberal Oregon,
where skinheads shoot stained glassOut of the facades of synagogues.
I am writing a check, I am pushing my cartIn a contemplative way through the parking lot.
I remember that twisted little figureBeside Mao’s ghost in the shadow of the Wall.
Eisenhower. Kissinger. Hiss. I will not give in
To the fragmentary, I tell myself at the stoplight.
I will make my language whole. I prepareA simple pot roast, I scrub the toilet clean.
Friends come by for dinner, stepchildrenOf clarity, hunted down by the obscure.
By midnight, I am almost asleep, almost readyTo dream again of our common disaster,
the ratchets of expediency tightening I-beams,Stroke, stroke, stroke, in the spine, the brain, the heart.
Time to reinvent humanity, I am thinking,Time to retool the scrotum and the womb.
Liar, what do I know, and whenDo I know it? It will be the monotonous
nightmare again, a thunderhead with the profile
Of a weasel breaking up—or, stalled in the market air
above us all, one crow blacklisting the wind.
from Useless Virtues
One is immediately gripped by the self-assurance and reflective poise Hummer employs in his dismissal of the all too typical disastrous, Biblical endings we are all so familiar with by now. One is reminded of Eliot’s projection in “The Hollow Men” where the world ends “not with a bang, but a whimper.” Here, though, is an end-of-time depicted without the blockbuster fanfare of natural cataclysms one is so accustomed to watching, those explosions and extinctions forecasted by Hollywood’s summertime big screen events. Hummer envisions an ending that is not as much pathetic as it is commonplace: “An ordinary apocalyptic morning / in the America’s—no earthquakes, no asteroids.” For my money, the suggestion of the End as purely mundane is much more disheartening than Eliot’s vision of a feeble pitiful world whining as it dwindles and fades. In Hummer’s vision, the end arrives just like any other day. In fact, every new day that arrives is itself just another ending. Awful.