Friday, October 06, 2006

Time for a bit of bile

Here's a poem from the beautifully splenetic John Ahearn, America's greatest living unpublished poet. Read it and smile and have a good weekend.

Lines to a Graduating Class
I Will Never Be Invited
To Address

Salutations, Bachelors
of All that Stuff you crammed,
nothing could be naturaler
than oat bran and jam.

Go forth and prospect
with your new picks and pans;
mediocrity has prospered
since the world began.

Don’t be seen to be offended
no matter what you find;
when the ceremony’s ended
it’s your life on the line:

then we’ll damned well see
what you learned in school,
how seamlessly you scheme and cheat,
how nimbly play the fool.

Highly marketable skills,
and nowadays the heart
of our pre-employment training mill’s
curriculum of orts

and seances, I’m more than proud
to be sober enough to say.
Ask the cheaters who endowed us,
the fools who pay our way.

Now, there are those among you who
evince peculiar drives,
who will choose to lead exemplary, true,
loving and creative lives,

but if you do, don’t expect
any mercy from us:
such behavior’s always been suspect,
and virtues don’t become us,

as a rule are seen as ostentation,
ornament, perfume,
and often enough the situation’s
just what we assume.

But if virtue is its own reward
you’ll get what you deserve;
you’ll soon learn that mum’s the word,
that virtue’s in reserve.

Above all, don’t delude yourselves
(strange to say that here!)
that all those goodies on the shelves
are quite as they appear.

Possessed, the prizes glitter less,
but with new ones every year
your marriages may be a mess,
but not your kitchen gear.

Those who have Da’s Kapital
may think you’re off the hook,
but the real world’s a mer de mal:
keep your own set of books.

Out there you watch yourself;
out there it’s sink or swim
in the high seas of sex and pelf,
and pelagic, magic gin.

Go. Be fruitful. Multiply.
And if you hate your kids
it’s more the times they’re living in
than anything you did

to make them the obnoxious things
they all too often are,
especially since, most evenings,
you work late at the bar,

or over at your secretary’s,
befriending his or her
obnoxious tots who look so very
young, like yours were.

Of course, one needn’t reproduce,
it’s not a law, certainly;
one can play it fast and loose.
One’s fertility

may be superseded very neatly
without much stress,
except that one is never completely
sure if one’s loneliness

is one’s alone, and not an aspect
of issueless maturity,
the thought of dying isolate, relict,
absent futurity.

Parents know better than to dwell
on questions such as these.
They know we’re all alone in hell,
whether we burn or freeze.

Either way, there’s no relief.
The universe is curved:
it doubles back to give us grief
whatever gods we serve.

So as you pack your mortarboards
and head for Easy Street,
find a room you can afford
and try to bear the small defeats

which are undoubtedly to come
with reasonable cheer:
everybody starts out dumb
and wet behind the ears,

and then you’re down the rabbit hole
of what can be achieved.
Welcome to the rocks and shoals
of Master Make Believe.

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