ELEGY FOR ELIOT
—Phillip Larrea, Sacramento
Who will embrace this orphan, Eliot?
He wanders certain half-deserted streets,
His nose pressed against the fogged window pane,
On the inside looking out. Longing to
Walk among the bustling half-dead throngs
Commuting from Michelangelo there,
Crossing Renoir’s bridge to Dada End.
On this bitter April Thursday morning,
He scatters remains of last night’s ashes,
Tucks his practical cat in his rucksack,
Hopes to fall in with pilgrims’ progress
In peace to Buddha’s shrine, without a prayer.
His cross to bear—he does not understand.
Doubting Thomas shakes frost off his shoulders,
Wishing to crawl back into the Blessed
Mother Mary’s virgin womb. But she who
Comforts each to each will not comfort him.
He grows old—cast to the side of the road.
Hollowed out by every pound of flesh
Exacted by critics’ ragged claws which
Damn him with faint praise, assent with a leer.
Re-baptized in the water faith, he dies.
Gasping the last air not yet consumed by fire.
A bit of earth marks his passing this way
With all that there really is left to say:
T.S. Eliot begins and ends.
Here, like a struck match, he begins again.
WRONG, RIGHT AND REASONABLE
(adapted from an essay by Benjamin Franklin, 1767)
It is Wrong, O ye Americans, for you to expect hereafter
That we will make any acts of Congress from the time we,
The Gentle Shepherd and his flock, get into power but such
As are calculated to impoverish you—and enrich us.
Our standing maxim is, you exist only for our sake.
Your Lords we are, and slaves we deem ye.
It is Right to call this by the name “bounty”.
We express our Goodness to you more clearly to intimate the
Great Obligation you are under for such Goodness.
Yet—you manifest the ungratefulness of your tempers by objecting,
In return for such Goodness, to take upon yourselves
A burden ten hundred times greater than the bounty!
It is Reasonable, O ye Americans, to charge you with dreaming,
Otherwise we cannot keep you so poor, but you may pay your debt,
Dreaming that you may increase your own strength and prosperity.
Joseph’s brethren hated him for a dream he really dreamed.
We, for a dream you never dreamed, which we only dream
You dreamed, have therefore resolved to hate you most cordially.
WHAT SHE SAW THERE
“High in cerulean skies, weeps the statue...”.
She had been on summer sabbatical
To Sao Paolo was it, I think she said?
No, no—now I recollect it was Rio.
She shows snapshots from her trip. Heartfelt pantoums
Using literate words seldom heard ever.
We display our profound appreciation
With golf claps. Her colleague in the back row
Snaps his fingers. The adjunct on the side
Nods, eyes closed, deeply entranced, no doubt.
Next, she anaconds us down Amazon
Pleistocene rainforests. We smell compost.
Last—an ekphrastic of empty pottery.
Smash show! We defenestrate such poetry.
Has taught us
Than a full.
When you pray,
Skip the saints.
Famous toothpaste man
Squeezed from bottom to top, then
Gets his head lopped off.