This entry is part 27 of 42 in the series Antiphony: Paul Zweig


I’m reading Paul Zweig. This is the ninth poem in the third (“Eternity’s Woods”) section of his Selected and Last Poems, followed by my response. See here for details on this experiment in responsive reading. I’ll remove Zweig’s poems after a week or so to prevent egregious copyright infringement.

A Theory of Needs

I want what has been sliding
Toward me from the corners of the earth;
What the wind lulls along the early morning streets:
The dancing fit of history . . .

[Remainder of poem removed 11-06-05]

* * * *

Bargain (antipoem)

The lead story in the business section of the newspaper the other day said
that Halloween now generates the highest retail profits of any U.S. holiday.
The labor news section of a newspaper in a parallel universe I sometimes visit
leads with a slightly different story:

Components Manufactured in Mexico, Industry Experts Say

The article goes on to point out that Americans increasingly opt for
the convenience & everyday bargain prices available to them
in stores modeled after vast warehouses, where the economies of scale
& hefty taxpayer subsidies allow retailers
to make death more affordable than ever before.
In this alternate universe, advertising copywriters & public relations people
garner all the power and prestige afforded poets in our own society,
or griots & griottes in West Africa.
They author odes to sweet oblivion in all its disguises:
sex, drugs, saturated fats,
excitement, distraction, consumption.
We are holes, they sing. Fill us, fill us, fill us.
If I were one of them, I think I’d write a panegyric to the very fill itself,
that Clean Fill which – the crudely lettered roadside signs announce –
is always Wanted. Because in this much grimmer & grimier universe
in which I seem to be thoroughly enmeshed, all I can do is sputter
& wave my arms about like a moth stuck to the front grill of a truck.
I insist on raising embarrassingly sincere questions about, say,
the need children seem to have for some secret place –
a field grown up to thorns, maybe, or some beloved mess of trees.
An Unimproved Woodlot, the bards of the bargain would say.
Ripe for Development. Part of a tax-free
Opportunity Zone, where soon you’ll be able
to stop at the new Village Commons or Town Centre
for a Grande cup of Americano on your way to somewhere else.
A tricky place, this parallel universe: it’s hard to know
when you’ve arrived. One minute you’re there, the next you’re not.
I want to need to want to need to want, they chant, ad infinitum.
But most days that sounds like so much work! I’m glad I don’t live there –
though it can be, as they say, a nice place to visit.
There’s plenty of parking.
At the end of a long day, though, all I want is to put my feet up
for a little while before sinking into sleep,
which is, in this more humdrum & sadly impoverished universe,
still almost completely ad-free.
I need a new television, they tell me: one with High Definition,
whatever that means. I like the wildlife shows.
I don’t want to miss the minutest detail in those epic battles for survival,
those great escapes.

Credit (or blame) for this goes to a post in Creature of the Shade, which led me to James Howard Kunstler’s newly blogified Clusterfuck Nation columns for the first time in months.

The deliberately unlyrical antipoem was pioneered by the 20th Century Chilean poet Nicanor Parra, and was characterized by “a sense of the unspeakable and a comedy shout,” according to Miller Williams.

Series Navigation← The burden of becoming humanIn slough time →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.