Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Consistent Hobgoblins

(From the Terza Rima epic-in-progress: "The Triumph of Strife")

Adored of tiny statesmen and divines
And often of philosophers as well
A foolish false consistency opines

That on a change of course we should not dwell
For as the iceberg lies just straight ahead
To spin the wheel would turn into the swell

And miss the chance to sink and wind up dead
Which every seasick passenger prefers
To spending one more minute in the head

At thoughts of which the queasy stomach spurs
Revolted retching on the deck and rail
The crazy captain from this scene infers

That straight into the ice he'd rather sail
Than see his ship a stinking vomit pail

Some wise men tried to give him sane advice
But since he hadn’t asked for it, he frowned
He wished play with fire, not deal in ice

And so with burning hair his brow was crowned
Upon the flaming lakes that he had lit
The grinning goblins leaped and danced around

In celebration of his lack of wit
That them had loosed upon a prostrate land
To do as awfully as they saw fit

Precisely the reverse of what he planned
In irony, as ice will quench the fire
His only choice left him no other hand

Like Hobson’s single horse let out for hire
He picked the road that led from worse to dire

Consistently convinced of his success
This wooden-headed statesman’s little mind
Could see no wrong in stupid stubbornness

Nor could he any flaw or defect find
In policies that caused a world to blanche
As shoelaces he knotted in a bind

The bleeding of his troops he could not stanch
And off upon assistants he would fob
The work that he would bring home from the ranch

Which let him take vacation from the job
Whose lightest duties seemed a heavy toil
The schizophrenic double-thinking slob

Upon the waters spread a slick of oil
And with a blowtorch brought it to a boil

He said once he was dead we'd get it right
But since we've got it right, that makes him dead
Which puts some pointed teeth into the bite

Of claims that he has nothing in his head
For whispers softly entering his ears
Come out his mouth with little really said

And what goes in his eyes soon disappears
With no connection made to lights inside
A starless void through which an echo steers

A slope down which the changing stories slide
A lifeless bulb left plugged into a lamp
A disconnected battery that died

For never charging up a single amp
He now deserves his own "rejected" stamp

But Emerson said also that the book
Is made by its good reader if it's good
For he will find with practiced, piercing look

The monk or engine underneath the hood
Identities deposited like gold
For him the author clearly understood

Who knows how to discover and take hold
Of independent thought which plainly sees
The one who never purchased; only sold

Who only borrowed; never paid the fees
Who never once auditioned for the part
Or knew of truths and their discoveries

Who always put the horse behind the cart
No equal, but a lesser mind and heart

Yet still the thousands die because of two
A pair to which no hand should ever draw
Who covered up the necessary clue

To what they meant by terms like shock and awe
Or shuck and jive: the old Vaudeville soft-shoe
Who with their war our pockets pick and paw

While all the time the troops pass in review
Deploying once again to stall for time
As witches on the heath concoct a brew

For Gollum and Macbeth, a riddle rhyme
Fortelling only honest, trifling sums
Betraying consequences more sublime

The goblins sneer and smirk with bleeding gums
Consistently they moon us with their bums

Michael Murry, "The Misfortune Teller," Copyright 2006


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