will work for intelligent life…

excuse me mister
mister
you don’t have to turn away
i ain’t asking for a handout or anything
i ain’t like the folks you see outside the grocery store
on their cellphones
drinking starbucks
asking for your spare change
and i hope you don’t mind too much
that i interrupted what you’ve been thinking ’bout
cuz i’ve been told
that such direct conversations
are very disturbing to some folks
but i was just  recalling when i studied candide in high school
oh..i know
i’m supposed to be illiterate
my being homeless and such
but that’s just a sales pitch some folks use
to tell you the truth
not many of us really want to be out here on the street
but any ways..
i keep thinking about dr. pangloss
you know the
this in the best of all possible worlds guy
so when i was reading it
i thought what kind of fool is this
who would ever believe
that given every thing that went down
he could continue to say
the same old damn tihing
then i was reading about escalante
in that paper you threw away earlier
now there’s a man who
really got his students ready for life
and continues to teach in his own way to others
but jealousy proved to be his portuguese inquisition
now he’s just another victim of health care in the country he served
just like all those folks who came back from vietnam
just another hero whose song has been forgotten
with the birth of another war
and lord knows the american people
are very good at friendly fire
but don’t get me started on that
i’m really just concerned about how intelligent people like you
could believe that this country is going to be just like it was
that
best of possible world syndrome again
cuz when i was in the library i googled this article
that said things ain’t going to be the way they were
but maybe there’ll be an earthquake during the hanging
like for pangloss and we’ll just get flogged financially again
so here’s what i don’t get
if religion is the foundation of this country
how the hell can people let
children die
because they couldn’t afford a doctor
or they waited too long
because they needed to feed the child first
why would we treat them like cunegonde
it just doesn’t make sense to me
does it
to
you

13 thoughts on “will work for intelligent life…

  1. Charles, properly commenting upon this masterpiece would require an essay, or maybe a conference.

    I have been to the US once, back in ’96, and I stayed for something like two months. Obviously, assessing a nation’s cultural profile after two months would be the same as determining someone’s level of mental health within five minutes. I have heard many Americans condemn the relative naivete of their country men, and especially lately most American discourse is mainly about a certain feeling of imminent doom – be it financial, cultural, or merely personal.

    All I wish to say is that we people in Romania feel the same about our own country. As a matter of fact, doom is so much a dominant part of Romanian mentality, that it becomes an all-encompassing state of mind. Let me tell you a dew things, hoping I will not bore you to death. One of our national epics (called “Miorita”, a semi-affectionate term for a sheep) deals with a shepherd somewhere in the idyllic mountains of Romania who is being told by his belove sheep that two other shepherds who have spent their life envying him are coming to kill him. Do you know what he does? He sits down on the ground and starts giving the sheep instructions about his funeral and about how to comfort his grieving mother. So, let me set this straight: someone is coming for you and all you think of doing is envisaging your burial place and sugar-talking to a sheep??? This is Romanian fatalism par excellence. We expect shit to happen – and then we go ahead and embrace it.

    I know this is a very sensitive topic, and I hope I don’t sound too didactic or biased, but I have to say this. The feeling of doom exists on both sides, American and Romanian. But whereas an American, even in the face of doom, will at least be outraged by it, or spit out in disgust, or bang his fist against the wall, or do something, whatever that something is – the Romanian will sit there saying “Why bother? It’ll happen anyway.” Which gets to me more than I could ever tell you.

    Of course these are generalizations, an I am well aware of that. But still, if you think about it, you will see what I mean. I don’t intend to say that the US is a candy-store land where nectar and ambrosia are pouring down from the Empire State building and Wall Street is flooded with milk and honey. I just mean to say that at least your people still believe they can make a change. Ours have given up from the very beginning. Without even the intention of a fight.

  2. Just meaning to apologize for the typos in the other post (it was still verrry early in the morning) and to recommend a book I hold to be perfect reading in the context of the previous doom/apocalypse discussion. It’s Frank Kermode’s Sense of an Ending. I usually don’t like Kermode, he’s the kind of guy you’d picture walking the streets with a pipe, a superior look and a British accent, but this one is really good writing. Basically what he says is that the sense of apocalypse, or rather of crisis, has been present in all epochs, with all people. One need only think of the Roman Empire, fin de siecle, or modernism. OK, I’m done with logorhea for today ;-).

    PS Did I mention I love the poem?

  3. So good Charlie!
    This is one of the rare times you address political issues in your poems, good job.
    About the homeless: I remember the two most interesting homeless men I have ever met in my life: the first one was a in Beirut, he used to hang outside the gate of my law school, stinking like hell, but correcting the grammar of the newspapers. It turned out that he was a lawyer who lost his money/and mind.
    The second interesting homeless I have met, was here in my county in Virginia, when I was volunteering at the homeless winter shelter, he spoke fluently 4 languages, one of the languages was French.
    Weird life, weird world!

  4. Really good and timely! The true story of “no child left behind”… Also, what an interesting diatribe from jadepaloma — I love her perspective. I think the fatalism is so ingrained in the Eastern European mind! In my own experience the Russians are the same way. I am re-reading Karenina right now, and it all comes rushing back.

  5. I love how this reads. I’m going to hold up my hands here and admit that I wasn’t familiar with all the names referenced here, but – in a way – that was a nice effect, as it reinforced the feeling that your homeless guy is better-read and better-informed than I am, so it helped to invert the expectations. That said, all the ideas are communicated in a fluid and accessible way, so it didn’t feel like I needed to Google every reference in order to appreciate the piece. The conversational tone kept it flowing and casually graceful. I really warmed to the narrative voice, in particular the unassuming intellect and the carefully non-confrontational way of raising challenging ideas.

    Cheers for the read.

  6. You said here what I have been trying to say splayed out over a two dozen rationalizing cultural and political analyses.

    Well done, bringing it all together in one sweeping gesture, both intimate and broad.

  7. Hey nice poem, really liked the way you used current verse in your poem.
    Quite an interesting read, very thought provoking 🙂

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