Sunday, June 24, 2012

When Jaundice Comes Marching Home

When Jaundice comes marching home once more,
Guffaw! Guffaw!
We’ll know what its masters have in store,
Guffaw! Guffaw!
A shiver of terror to run up the spine,
At the thought of what’s next if we don’t fall in line
Oh they’d like us scared when
Jaundice comes marching home

When Jaundice comes snarling home this time
Guffaw! Guffaw!
We’ll spit in its face with a jeering rhyme
Guffaw! Guffaw!
Our leaders who screwed up and shot our wad
Will tell us they did it for country and GAWD
But we’ll know they lie when
Jaundice comes snarling home

When Jaundice comes limping home to hate
Guffaw! Guffaw!
The wars that it lost and the shit on its plate
Guffaw! Guffaw!
The ones who deployed it to bomb and kill
Now find that they’ve used up the easy thrill
So they’ll have to hide when
Jaundice comes limping home

When Jaundice has marched in its last parade
Guffaw! Guffaw!
And laid down to sleep in the endless shade
Guffaw! Guffaw!
We’ll have us a wake for the late deceased
From whose awful clutches we’re now released
How we’ll all breathe free when
Jaundice has marched its last

Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Boobies of Fernando Po

(The inaugural episode of Fernando Po, U.S.A., America’s post-literate retreat to Plato’s Cave)

The Island of Fernando Po
Once knew a fleeting fame
As home to aborigines
The Boobies were their name
Who -- legend has it -- only spoke
By light of fire's flame

Their basic primate language showed
That Boobies had devolved:
Whatever they had figured out
They also had unsolved,
Reverting to forgetfulness
And culture long dissolved

They had the means of making noise
As all rude peoples do
And yet just like the deaf and mute
They had to see words, too,
Or else they could not cogitate
Or any thoughts construe

The Boobies of Fernando Po
Could neither read nor write,
Instead, they “acted out” their speech,
“Performing” it despite
Unconsciousness of language arts
Of which they’d long lost sight

Their spoken tongue made little use
Of sentences and words,
Thus they communicated like
A flock of chirping birds
Or else like fatted cows content
To graze within their herds

Dependence on the visual
Constrained their use of sound
To something less than merely noise
Unorganized and bound
To grotesque facial grimaces
And gestures unprofound

They'd slap their foreheads; roll their eyes;
In slack-jawed pantomime
Of something they'd done yesterday
While only killing time
In mindless mimicry that had
No reason and no rhyme

"I'm all like going 'duh'," they'd say,
Which usage left aghast
Their teachers who had worked so hard
But realized at last
That Boobies couldn't separate
The present from the past

In cultures that have languages
Like Chinese, French, and Basque
Linguistic tools like verbs and nouns
Perform the needed task
Of formulating answers to
The questions Boobies ask

But Boobies need their hands and feet
To illustrate their themes
They “point” and “walk” and “pose” because
They've no semantic memes
To pass among themselves for use
As metaphoric schemes

They live imprisoned in the Now,
All Boobies preordained
To do the things their parents did,
Each generation chained
To labor on a treadmill
Giving up what they had gained

The rooster crowed; the sun came up
Which taught them quite a lot
The cows came home; the sun went down
Which didn't teach them squat
At sunrise they began to learn
At sundown they forgot

They could not tell this day from that
They had no memory
Each moment died at birth and left
No known posterity
The Boobies had no ancestors,
No living history

They could not tell where they had been
They knew not where they went
As far as they could figure out
Each thought came to them sent
Prefabricated "up above"
From "Heaven's" firmament

This made them existentialists
A philosophic breed
Who dealt in isolated facts
And never saw the need
To add their observations up
Into a larger creed

Yet starting at the other end
As Plato chose to do
With abstract "essences" and spooks
And "gods" not real or few
Would only have made matters worse
By proving falsehood true

The Boobies just threw up their hands
And thought whichever way
Which made it easy for the priest
To hold them in his sway
Performing magic rites that made
The sun come up each day

The Boobies let their children grow
As they themselves had done
By joining dots with crayon lines
And having lots of fun
While limiting arithmetic
To just the number one

"It's all the same!" the Boobies cried;
And they believed it, too;
Which made their basic monism
So easy to imbue.
"If everything is One," they said
"Who needs the number `two'?"

And so the Boobies on this isle
Endured the Dumb disease:
A simple, savage livelihood
That mainly served to please
The tribal chief and witch doctor
In their concerted ease

Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006, 2009

Introduction to "Fernando Po, U.S.A., America's post-literate retreat to Plato's Cave"

The word "Boobie," as used in the ever-unfolding verse essay, Fernando Po., U.S..A., refers to an epigram to Chapter One of The Meaning of Meaning (1925), by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards, two pioneering British scholars in the field Semiotics, namely:

"Let us get nearer to the fire, so that we may see what we are saying" -- the Bubis of Fernando Po.

As a bit of history, it seems that ethnographers of the late nineteenth century had come across a small group of aborigines on an island off the coast of Africa called Fernando Po: a people so culturally devolved that they could no longer communicate with each other unless they could also see one another physically gesturing or striking poses. Joseph Campbell picked up on this history when he mentioned "The Boobies" in his book The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology (1959).

I began composing Fernando Po, U.S.A. after reading Ron Suskind's now-canonical article, "Without a Doubt," in the New York Times Magazine (October 17, 2004). Practically the entire world now knows of  the Bush administration official who boasted: 
"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
But for me the money quote came from Mark McKinnon, the Bush media guru whom Suskind quotes saying of Bush loyalists:
And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!" In this instance, the final "you," of course, meant the entire reality-based community.
I tried to visualize the stumbling and bumbling AWOL Texas Air National Guardsman "walking" and "pointing" and "exuding" but I had no luck at it. But something else did occur to me. Something about Boobies. Something about Lewis Carroll's "the Walrus and the Carpenter". And so this happened: 
They like the way he "points," they say
They like the way he "walks,"
Despite the fact that no one can
Decipher how he talks.
Yet when he mimics "standing tall,"
The stupid Boobie gawks.
Everything just followed and flowed from there -- for years. I couldn't stop interpreting everything I saw and heard from America's corporate media as little more than flickering shadows on a cave wall aimed straight at a tribe of illiterate Boobie aborigines camped around their television fires striking poses, pulling grotesque faces, and uttering inchoate noises at each other -- the perfect paradigm explaining and exemplifying Fernando Po, U.S.A., America's post-literate retreat to Plato's cave.

Like many anti-war Vietnam Veterans, I recoiled immediately at the prospect of former President George "Deputy Dubya" Bush launching his stud-hamster vendetta against Saddam Hussein's Iraq (with Afghanistan as a mere warm-up) in an effort to expunge a deep-seated filial antagonism towards his father's more reasonable legacy. And as the predictable tragedy unfolded, I only grew more agitated at my helplessness. I couldn't stop any of it. The disaster would simply have to run its tortured course until sheer exhaustion and/or national bankruptcy brought it to a reluctant close. So to get through the impotent interim, I turned inward to creative therapy, as I had read of other Vietnam Veterans doing. I found that in composing verse, I could at least do something to dissipate the anger. I have since branched out into  many other verse formats, but Fernando Po, U.S.A. pretty much started it all off for me. And I can see no end to it ...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Felonious Military Age Muslims

In America, the "military age" extends from 18 to 62 years of age.

In Muslim countries occupied and/or bombed by the U.S. Military, the "military age" extends from 16 to 35 years of age.

In America, "military age" males can own a gun and not serve in the military and yet not find themselves indefinitely imprisoned without charge or trial or summarily murdered by the President of the United States acting arbitrarily and in secret. 

In Muslim countries occupied and/or bombed by the U.S. Military, simply "being" of "military age" constitutes a crime against the United States of America, which "crime of being" then forces the President of the United States, despite his "deep moral reserve" and frequent contemplation of Thomas Acquinas, to summarily murder or indefinitely incarcerate without charge or trial any such male of any such age -- even American citizens -- or anyone else within a blast radius of them on the grounds that they might someday harbor unkind thoughts about the United States and how it behaves towards Muslim countries.

Which leads to thoughts in verse concerning:

“Felonious Military Age Muslims”

You’ve reached the age of sixteen years
Or maybe thirty-five
This makes of you a “militant”
So why are you alive?

Our president can kill you now
His list contains your name.
Intended, or if by mistake,
He’ll kill you just the same

The bomb will kill the one it hits,
As well as those nearby
Who had no business being born
Unless it was to die.

A free-fire-zone we called this dodge,
All over Vietnam,
Which meant to shoot just anywhere.
Who gives a bloody damn?

Obama’s body counts reveal
Upon his magic map
Some “progress” after decades spent
Repeating this same crap.

But Democrats now think him “tough”
And cheer at each new kill.
Republicans, of course, do not,
And never ever will.

And so the country lurches right
As scapegoat Muslims fall,
And fascist brownshirts thrill to see
Obama “standing tall.”

Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2012