Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Poem for New Year's Day

Waking Early New Year's Day, Without a Hangover

Look at the map and tell me where
A conscious mind would not despair.
In Poland? Palestine? Peru?
In Angkor Wat? In Timbuktu?
Twist as you will upon the grid
Of North, South, East, and West, amid
Whatever fleshpots Rome may boast,
Or safe at home with buttered toast,
At least it all comes down to this --
The world's too big for bombs to miss,
The law too weak, the door too wide
To forestall every suicide.
While there are motive, means, and time,
There will, as sure as death, be crime.
Our hope must be that those who've got
The right, or guns, to have us shot
Will set a limit to their catch
And feel no need to fire the thatch;
That just as long as power buys
Good opera seats and alibis
The guilty rich will be content
Still to convene their Parliament,
Still to resist the urge to wreak
Some vengeance on their heirs, the meek.
How like the thief's benign reprieve,
Who'd spare our lives and only thieve,
So long as we do not protest
We even may enjoy the jest.
This is the social contract we
In 1986 A.D.
Must live by if we mean to live,
Committing sins we can't forgive
With every coffee bean we grind,
And every heart, and every mind.
(For surely if you've wit to trace
A line of logic through this lace
Of verses, you're among the few
Who're well -- or well-enough -- to-do
And can't too bitterly complain;
For thoughtful minds are free of pain
To the degree that they can think
And alchemize their thoughts to ink.
Happy the man who can declare
His angst with any savoir faire.
More happy still if he repine
Over a five-buck jug of wine.)
How swiftly, ably fear deflects
The squeamish eye away from texts
So dire toward each bright ad's plea
For booze and equanimity.
Internalized that turns the eye
And tunes the slavish tongue to praise
Our meted lengths of rope and days?
Laud we the god, for yet we breathe,
And hang in heaven a smoky wreath
Of thanks for yielding yet a year
More to the time we're sentenced here.
Between the jailer and the jailed
There's no hope lost. The god that failed
To intervene at Buchenwald
Will not decide to be appalled
At infamies that shall be nameless.
That god is dead, and history aimless
Enough of peeling New Year's chimes.
I want my coffee and The Times.

-- Thomas M. Disch

The link is to Disch's livejournal, where he posts poetry occasionally. More Disch poetry can be found here.

Happy New Year's, everyone.

Update, Fifteen Minutes Later: Glancing over the text of this poem after it had been posted (I always look over my posts after putting them up) I wondered if "savior faire" should be italicized or not, as a foreign phrase. Thinking to check other online texts of the poem*, I googled the title and author... and found that this blog post was already the third result for that search. Holy crap! That's really disturbingly fast.

(*Verdict: not italicized. Some of the texts put in double-space breaks though... I'll have to go track down a printed version now and find out what's right. Frack.)

...and now checking the above link it came in at number one. Maybe this is just an individualized result because the computer knows I am an egotistical maniac I visit this site a lot? If anyone's reading this, please, check that link and let me know in comments. I'm quite curious. I know google redoes its rankings a lot, but this is ridiculous. (Later Update: In comments, Hugo Schwyzer and Derik Badman confirmed the ranking. Thanks, guys! What can I say -- Google's scary fast.)


Hugo Schwyzer said...

It checked out on my computer too... wonderful poem, Happy New Year!

Stephen said...

Thanks, Hugo. Happy New Year to you too!

derik-badman said...

It's number one for me too.

Happy new year!