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Everything and Nothing: The Argument


1
Listen: all is everything. It's nothing, too:
What signifies to me may signify so much less to you.
A thought for paradise or a smaller heaven
Might occupy the mind of a sullen nation
Were it mindful, the August sun spilling light
Between cumular columns in the sky.

2
Now howling dogs, neglected in rooms,
Tell the world that slaves, the dears,
Make the worst of masters
Once they are free to accumulate
Everything, anything and nothing,
The August sun spilling light
Through the windows of a million cubicles.

3
Yes, the August sun spills its largesse
That drifts, because it must, against
Thinking brows and pearly, mindless cloud,
Souls suffering in dreams, souls walking through doors
With love they don’t have, with joy they lack,
With pain, if they’re old, and regretting much—

4
And yet old Mrs Orlow happily grinds her jewels
In her shop of stones and baubles
Where biddies and male fussbudgets meet
And complain of things.

5
And she’s always grinning, this unsorrowing
Ancient imp who knows God’s bent – that one can’t know it
And that dogs will mew when unimpressed
With the more liberal of your liberal intentions.
I spit on your fine poems.

6
And old Holmes, her red lips sanguine,
Prices her stock of used cassettes –
Creepy musicals and creepy flicks –
There in her emporium of paperbacks
Where biddies and male fussbudgets meet
And complain of sicknesses.

7
Beneath which spilling of the light
I reach deep in my sack of what I have for you: and I spit on the best
Of your best theories of
Mugabe madness and cougar love
And all the rest—

8
Now did you know (Holmes hadn’t a clue)
That Tacitus, son-in-law of Agricola who ministered Britain,
Went hard on Tiberius Caesar, withered goat
Who knubbled the private parts of pubescents?
Tiberius Caesar, competent, murderous and burned out,
Cried muddy tears for lost ideals
When he figured no one noticed—
No, can’t say I knew or noticed.
But you want a deal? I got ‘A Touch So Wicked’ and
‘Lady in Green and Minor Discretions’
To sell to you, at discount—

9
Beneath which spilling of the light, Leduc, white-haired
And toothless in Quebec, all jammed up in his joints,
Man of the street, consummate romantic,
Roams the street in search of glass,
Plastic, aluminum and honest men
And so, the man turns satanic mills
Into his cost-benefit.

10
Just that we had him to table, last night.
And he who had us in stitches, laughed,
Had earlier come upon, minding his own business, mind you,
Strange lusts at the rear of the funeral parlour, merde,
Suits going at it, and in this heat—

11
With love one doesn’t have, with joy one lacks

12
In light of which Sophie said, ‘Cool’, and Abigail,
The famous ungainly Abigail, needing always to be
In the best of fits with bosom pals, at the exact centre of regard,
Ears flushed pink at mention of sex,
Rattled the locks of her chaste favours
As if they were so many come-hither
Castanets.

13
Beneath which spilling of the light
I stick out my foot and trip your fine poems
That, in all modesty, like Cleopatra’s barge,
Would wend their way up the Broad Nile of Life
To Legendary Status.

14
Now did you know that Tacitus who wrote the deluxe
Treatment of Rome’s imperial highlights – as when Nero aced his mum
Or that he killed her mortally dead
And thought to have a go at her mortified corpse –
Came to see we’re rot and filth.
Appetites obscure the will of the gods,
Lovely, death-defying appetites.
The worst of those hungers is ‘clarity of mind’.

15
Sophie, however, launches into Harry Potter
That is her sense and sensibility
When she’s not depressed—

16
And she, anxious, shallow and deep,
As playful as a pup when not depressed,
Looks for love first, and if love is wanting, will
Settle for sensibility, no sense to be had—

17
But as for Abigail, kindly and snobbish,
She mustn’t, she won’t and so, she’ll sniff
At thoughts of sin and peccadillo,
But even Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario
Is so much old hat, so much been there done that

18
And yet, make mention of – careful now – the political,
And of a sudden, the lass, she’s burbling at the moon
Baying down at her. She knows how infamous
It all is, her famous golden eyes become bronze again
Because, like any throwback, she’d hear more
Lubricious details:
“Oh, do tell more. Don’t spare me.
The Congressional Record – my, how fab—“

19
And Sophie and Abigail, part party girls, part choristers of doom
That one might easily enough dream into being
As they cluck cool tongues that lick hot sorbets
On the Via Dolorosa – “Poor guy –
They aren’t Faberge, those thorns” –
At any rate, these girls commandeer the lust
Of all the Beccos of the world,
Nominal anti-fascists each of them—

20
Beneath which spilling of the light
I spit on your fine poems.
Can you imagine – post-textual as reverie? Are there pills?

21
Meanwhile, a social-democratic scribe,
There in the Show Me state where
The taste of persimmons once puckered my eyes,
With dark guffaws, remarked that, back then,
A reckless and piously psychotic
Political party was willing
To take down the Union in the cause
Of its own provincial interests

(Just that the action applies now, and in a brand new game
Of antebellum American roulette
)—

22
And the far-seer, having remarked thus,
Took himself to the nearest gasthaus
For a riesling, for schnitzel and spaetzl and else,
What with the taste of ruin puckering his
Intestines, St Louis on the Tiber, the Tiber gaining
On the Missouri

23
Beneath which spilling of the light
An early morning thunderstorm
(As if lightening in a jar) produced a name but few details
In my half awake mind: Gratianus. Ah yes, he was the last Roman
To cross the Rhine in battle chase. And then he went indolent, knuckling under
Ambrose who reaped the ruin, inimical to Zeus,
But no matter—

24
For here at home, higher powers,
The bank officers Jack and Jill at lunch,
(Born-again, they cancel heaven),
Know that, if time permits, they’ll fornicate
And then foreclose—

25
A better argument: that Mrs Orlow hears out Puccini
Every third Sunday of the month
Which also happens to be
Her Sunday for red cabbage and pot roast,—
And then a little fruit with a little cream,—
And, bourgeoise wind in my sails,
I spit on your fine poems
With my garrulity

26
Further argument: That who knows how the senate will vote.
Bean counters know how the senate will vote,
And so, the bean counters count, and a petit-bourgeoise wind, meanwhile,
Caresses a little the foliage-ample maple boughs
And the light as air fabric with which
Abigail staunches the knock-on effect
Of her famous bosom. But didn’t I know,
Surely I must’ve known that the very same men
Who impeached the president for his trysts
Were, on the sly, diddling their trophy sluts?

27
As for that hole in the dome of Hadrian’s Pantheon –
The ocular, jocular, ocularity
Such as lets the August sun spill light,
Through which the sky sometimes pisses
On the foot-worn marble that now and then refracts
The thunder, the lightning, the rain –
It used to impart to emperors godhead,
But to us travellers on the cheap
The buzz of it all.

28
Went up to a woman in the park.
She, under leafy boughs of shade,
Was selling extraneous household bits
And some hag-celebrity's 'meem-wars'.
And she said, and she was the muse:
“Can’t vend to the likes of you,
You patrician of the last principate,
Your feet made not of clay but of snits
—“

29
The nation-state redundant, corporate ways the thing,
Corporate wags on Charlie Rose joke:
How easy it was to pillage and rape,
And all one required was a little insight
And a little stomach with which to gut
Ohio, the August sun spilling light
Between cumular columns in the sky,
Born-agains praying at a fab god,
Catholics praying to a Catholic god,
And the rest of us to various and sundry gods—

30
Yes, and one hears Mexican love songs at ‘bratwurst’ where
Persians eat aubergine and brain and chilies,
The August sun spilling light
Between cumular columns in the sky,
And one considers that men can cluck,
Arguing flight-schedules and the workings of
The Treasury, not to mention Abigail and her
Sweet tooth for insider-trading.
Just that men squawk louder than they cluck
When it comes to what truth
Is truly on the money—

31
But then, strike a techno-beat and some left-over god,
Heavy-lifter, still, comes around
In silk and leather, with retro-fitting
Lorgnette,

32
Says this Mr Zeus to Miss Mamselle: “Abigail, good golly, girl,
Yours is the chin of the west’s wicked witch.
How it poses. How it pouts. Why, it pirouettes.
Would score points for celibate filth
As would supravene the human legislature
From its thoughts of filthy virtue,
The once great promise of democracy
Tyrants with cell phones,
Wonks without class.
I spit on your fine poems—”

33
Under which spilling of the August light
Old Orlow and the Holmes woman see
To things, see to business, keep dead marriages
Alive, as their husbands are dead and buried
But not necessarily lamented.

34
Whereas Sophie in bathrobe, drying an ear
With a finger poked in a towel,
Understands that when the police come for her,
It will be for reasons that have to do
With what was au courant before
She was even born to this world—

35
And though an amateur of the word once counselled against
The word indeed (use of which makes one out a ponce),
I no longer register results with critics.
But to invoke Eros and Thanatos in a single breath
Is to suspire, like they say, on sex and death,
The two ever in a state of au pair
In the higher registers of bliss
When one not only discerns the rainbow gases
Of Venus, Bacchus and other mischief, one picks out
A certain silence in one’s ears: the infinite.
Yes, indeed.

36
And everything is all and nothing is all
To you, perhaps, and most likely, to me,
Just that, in light of everything and nothing and all
Their import, signification, crux,
There is always the late lamented embarrassment of sex,
The laughing, the crying, the howling, the messing up,
And the gossip of demise.

 

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