The Sorrows of Old Poets & Such Stuff

Wasteland
1.

Robert Rauschenberg is gone – he who is considered an American post-war modernist “who defied the traditional idea that an artist stick to one medium or style” & felt “sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly because they are surrounded by things like that all day long and it must make things miserable” turns Eliot’s Wasteland into Minerva’s junkyard. His “acquiring eyes” [Beller] had appropriated the given in technological age without setting up a demarcation line between the dreadful & the lyrical – his act of reception offering the production of surplus value in the material exchange. [His art after all would rake in millions he would return to the world anyway.]

“Being correct,” according to a summing-up by Michael Kimmelman, “is never the point.” After all, “being right can stop all the momentum of a very interesting idea.”

This, certainly, is advice to workshop gurus who prescribe/proscribe, pointing toward a path well-trodden, snuffing the while the irreverence of youngblood because the elders took it upon themselves to serve a theory of clarity that brooks no headstrong counterpoint.

Said he: “I have an almost fanatically correct assistand, and by the time she re-spells my words and corrects my punctuation, I can’t read what I wrote…”

Ideological analysis relatedly tends to hew to the methodically given, barely employing the rude possibility that an x-factor lurks elsewhere – a deconstructive absence, no less – is unaccounted for like a quark so that the past always prefigures the present & consequently the future, as if no radical rupture beholden to nothing existed before: & we are left desolate & pauperized by it all.

Shall we pronounce an oracle with acute certainty? Shall we plot the course of history with exactitude as if the age of reason is basically Cartesian?

But this is not to digress we all face a blank wall; rather, as the artist was wont to air his belief in the spirit of a maverick who alters the order of thngs like a blind man shuffling his cards to discover new sensations, the political combatants must be reflexively capable of laughing at errors & coshere a positive despair to enable them to rework themselves out of the chaos of the time.

Yeah, it’s not contending that “we must be right;” rather, that we accept the right to be wrong to land on the right track.

Teleology is a blessing & a curse, a dead-end & a route, a trap & an opening.

The Asian Mao Tse-tung started as a maverick in a feudal context, but ended up, in the eyes of the Eastern European Zizek, an emperor.

The Cuban Fidel Castro shut tight the room, as it were, but it has to be his brother Raul, who has left the door ajar for air to blow in.

The Venezuelan Hugo Chavez keeps Gringos at bay, but how long could he rally the fickle people behind him?

The American George Bush Jr. is riding into the sunset, but Obama, Clinton or McCain will merely put on a new face of imperialism.

Change is a double-edged shibboleth.

2.
Ka Bay, Ka Nic

A.

They’re no longer around for children to ask how things were in their mortal time… If ever, they will perhaps let on certain funny events, but lapse into silence as though having breached a wall of containment. Young novelists who are clueless of their personal suffering will instead conjure something dramatically imagined. O Why do old fogeys prefer the hidden solitude of their aging years? Of course, orphans will vainly collate the bits & pieces of their legends, but their ghosts won’t return from the undiscovered country to neither denounce nor confirm. So we who salute the departed must seek a memory to fit their history.

B.

The young writers are quick to text stories they never suffered – so the avalanche of words pours down like acid rain to scalp every hearer of the imaginary conversation they say is truth of their telling. In due time they will believe their own lies, & insist this is the event, the phenomenon, exactly the reality of futures reckoning.

C.

They only tell stories among themselves: You can eavesdrop… Once they sense your unsolicited presence they will clam up as if everything should be held in quiet confidence. [Never show despair before wide-eyed children.] You can only therefore produce your own tall tales – & kids of your own days will have a hell of a time prying the secrets off your generation’s tears.

D.

He doesn’t have the energy anymore to fill up a page when once he would burn the midnight oil sifting word upon word that he hoped – with mind’s fingers crossed – would shake the world. But he has forgotten all those minutiae of things he once treasured as necessary force to pin down the quintessential discourse to prove this, disprove that for the sake of the working class. The abstract doesn’t matter anymore, only that moment – empirical, limited, small – when he says his friends will be coming over to minister… His world has shrunk to the size of his sick bed but they’re all he’s got, the company he keeps between pain & sadness – never the philosophy he used to wager for.

E.

The children never knew their father: he was somewhere in Luzon under a nom de guerre when they were growing out of the crib under the watchful eyes of their mother & they would always feel betrayed as the patriarch was never there at the hour of need. But here at the wake, it finally dawned like an exploding bomb inside their heads that he was committed for all, seizing the future for the present that monstrously devours unwary fools.

F.

The young mourners are at a loss as to how to show proper emotion: should they go by the book & appear solemn & ceremoniously tactful or be themselves – ? Envelop their counterparts with warm officialese because grief is something new & strange: it takes, after all, a lot of experience to hide true grief & grit. Come burial hour, they’ll be puzzled why they can barely shed a tear unlike those oldtimers, but fiddle with their thumbs & hope the Catholic rites be over. Tomorrow there will be no reading of the will: the poor don’t have such privilege, but only memory in pictures & relics long relinquished to their care which in due time, dust, as if customary, will take over.

G.

The elders watch with stolid sadness: they’ve graced so many leavetakings before, & this one is no different from the other – Only the solitary departed fills a room of memory in their hands & they cannot wring out of their hearts a word, a grunt to express essential sentiment. This scene will unfold time & time again until its their turn… & same events will recur as the dutiful but indifferent crew wheels their coffins into the grave. Soon, all the tears & laughter will “melt into air” with the knell of bells.

3.
Couch Potato

He feels every tremor of the world that conjures sadness & desolation: the cyclone in Myanmar, where generals refuse aid & allow the dead to rot; the earthquake in Mianyang, where children die under the rubble & old men cry because they can’t understand disasters anymore; the flood in Quezon City where sewage cleaners are swept into the intestines of the estero… He is there, like kilroy, where disasters conjunct in living color via the tube: he rises from the couch, disconsolately drained, never relishing a secret joy at somebody’s misfortune, but helpless like an idiot puzzled by the strange letters of Death’s alphabet. O if only the electronic images do not squeeze his heart – but he claims to be a sensitive man, & is always exhausted, stupidly angry at the world that isn’t Hegelian, & won’t turn at his command.

4.
Hawking meets Mandela

A.

Hawking strapped to his chair, pensively staring at the crowd around him, his voice box turned on for whatever he would strainly utter, & Mandela, benign like an old wise man, who had known the logic of sufferance on the prison island could only measure the vastness of each other’s depth that is more real & intimate than the black hole of the universe they seek to explore: the one, via God’s mathematical wisdom, the other, via the heart’s zeitgeist of joy & doom. The silence of language is a relay station: How the universe is finite & may meet its end yet wars & cruelty continue to plague humanity like planet earth were without end. Too old a question, too easy a solution: Yet only a few dare to raise the sword to cut the tangled knot of a maelstrom.

B.

& so we are confronted with the horror of Reinhard S., who “told the police that he had butchered hist relative – his 42-year-old wife and 7-year-old daughter… after running up $466,000 in debt from investments in shares and options gone sour.”

Investigators added “that he is still of the opinion he acted correctly… and felt exhausted and relieved” that his “family wouldn’t have to bear the shame of financial ruin.”

It’s a systemic correction for the loss, this insolvency in capitalism that reduces everyone into commodities & market plays. His subjectivity allowed him to do away with assets that might be forfeited – & any living thing is consequently subject to tactical modes to circumvent the rules.

Hawking would have been petrified & cryptically amused at the human quirk in contemporary situation; Mandela would probably close his eyes as when during his prison camp, he’d brood over the absurdity of it all.

5.
Queen Bees

The woman on board the junkheap of a jeep were digesting information about a frisky child born to a daughter who had been barren for years; they were matronly pleased she had finally done the socio-biological imperative of womanhood, & the rattling conversation droned on like a foregone conclusion. The dismal future is just around the corner but everyone smells it like a rose – life, no matter how brutal or banal, they insist must go on.

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