Tuesday, May 25, 2010

If the Catastrophe Goes On

April 20-May 22, 2010

by Franz Wright

(originally posted on Poets for Living Waters; reproduced by permission of the author)


Every dawn a fog of dead leaves, a wintriness of voices past, whispers along the wires of a deserted Midwest, the capital inexplicably deprived of electricity, all computers down, and at night the streets dark as a noble person’s chances on election day, I saw this; and a wind, like a mort darkly, endlessly sounded, I heard it, emanating from the world of dreams and death, place from which originates the impulse to rise from the bed, dress, leave the house or apartment, and face all that will happen as a consequence; the world we are so homesick for, so lost here, psychotic ward with-out end, halls of a wandering library of illiterates. Behold, on the thirtieth day I saw them, swarms of cockroaches innumerable as stars I saw, like some kind of rapidly replicating virus. I glimp- sed them, from that place where unendurable indignation can no longer stab me in the heart, from no more Please Sir may I have some more suffering, or Please Sir may I have some more psych meds, or Yeah but what difference would it make—yabitt yabbit have another bong hit dude, or I heard it was caused by a moon-quake you know or maybe it was the Minoan Multiphasic Personality Inventory gone berserk . . . Are they human, brutal slobs like Reagan, Thatcher, Bush, Cheney and Palin the Wolfslayer, the sacrificial visible and known, and the one hundred or so others whose faces, whose very names no one would recognize . . . And look who’s writing, his words represented by pages and oil-colored oink-colored ink owned by people who picked up the ball from the father and son SS members who owned me back when they were the primary publishers of Hitlerian darkness . . . Yabitt rapt in a vision I saw them, scurrying across the floors of the White House, up and down the Washinton Monument, on the thirtieth day of death’s orgasm, I saw them; across the dome of the Capitol Building, even the unfinished addition at Rushmore of the mighty likeness of Crazy Horse, execrescence heresy and obamanation to many, not to mention the unguarded Tomb of theUnknown Blind Eighteen-Year-Old Asshole Sacker of Ancient Cities. I saw cockroaches crawling like magnified lice over the head of the great one, savior of our nation, enthroned in his shadowy hall, and leaving alas their trails of corrosive yellow slime in texture like unto snot all over his great copper face.

What if it goes on for another month? What if it goes on for a year? What if it goes on until the waters around the earth have been murdered by some normal sane hard working family man pink pig faced cocksucker of a businessman? Then will you get mad? Then will you wake up, all you medicated zombies in schools across the land? Then will you rise up in rage and horror and fight back finally? You don’t want to know my opinion on this; you don’t want to know what I think.

And what if I never finish writing this, that’s right, I am never going to stop, not until I fall at last, like one of those great an-cient fir trees in the middle of northern nowhere, one which big stupid men with big axes have been working away at for a long time.

–Franz Wright



It’s weird, for me, to think that this piece started out one minute as a kind of parody of the prophetic/Whitman/Eliot/Ginsberg style and the next—about thirty hours later—had apparently supplied the flawed but momentarily satisfying means to express the little personal silent howl of horror, rage, and frustration I have been stiffling for over a month now. I was then almost immediately silenced by a sense of my own complicity in the current catastrophe, a sense of personal guilt I don’t know if I can ever fathom or express. The seemingly unstoppable nature of this event has reawakened the feelings I had as a teenager in the late sixties and early seventies as the Dow Chemical Corporation poisoned, perhaps for centuries to come, the farmlands of Vietnam, as well as my sense of helpless despair during the days following Chernobyl. My wife Elizabeth was involved for a while, here in Boston, in the selection and exhibition of art works by children born with various forms of cancer clearly related to the nuclear disaster, while they were being treated by physicians in the area; I was present one evening when some of those children filed, strangely, into the ballroom of some glittery hotel after their long flight to this country, and my memory of that moment is one I am still far from fully confronting. But the absolute absence of self-pity in these children is linked in my mind somehow with the pictures of birds affected by our Alaskan oil disaster. I am already losing the mental thread here, I simply cannot think straight in the face of these occurrences. I can say that a friend of mine recently referred to the current catastophe as merely a “once-in-a-lifetime event” and that the moment I read those words of his he ceased to be my friend. He can go to hell. And so can I.

–Franz Wright, 5/24/10


Lemon Hound said...

"...been murdered by some normal sane hard working family man pink pig faced cocksucker of a businessman?"

Say it, Franz. Sometimes it's refreshing to have a poet simply say what others are trying to work into delicate origami.

Blunt. Hard headed. And appropriate to the moment.

Ms Baroque said...


But it IS once-in-a-lifetime, right? If we're lucky?

Anonymous said...

Has Ms Baroque no comprehension of the word "Chernobyl", or the systematic and deliberate poisoning of another country's farmlands for centuries
not to mention the birth-defects produced in human beings (something not even the Germans in WWII thought of)? That's two more, there are about five others. It is far too late for this to be a once-in-a-lifetime catastrophe.FW

chuck.godwin said...

It is not a once in a lifetime event. This kind of corporate greed driven destruction of our lives and the planet happens daily, hourly. This IS our lifetime.

Lemon Hound said...

And it will impact many lifetimes...

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

I have lived on the Gulf coast for nearly forty years and have many friends and family members in Louisiana, Mississippi and western Florida. Believe me, as far as southern Louisiana is concerned, this disaster IS Chernobyl. Generations of fishing families that may not be able to fish again for generations.

I wrote this poem about ten years ago. Little did I know how relevant it would one day become.


A sloop on the horizon, approaching,
white sails and black flag on blue seas.
Closing on a fat, laden galleon, rolling
like a pig in the swell, heavy with gold
from a government's plunder,
the theft of a culture,
now plundered by those of no flag.
Sound and smoke of a cannon.
A predator encroaching, surrender demanded
from men condemned to have no tales to tell,
on a vessel abandoned and reeling
and soon to go under.
A raw justice, indeed. An irony
by the buccaneers laid:
the theft of that which was stolen.

Today the pirates still plunder,
but black flags in the breeze don't portend the raid,
for those that are taking the treasure
pillage all that will sell or is sold,
all that's of value to bring them more wealth;
privateers underhanded and stealing,
not silver or rum or emeralds or lace,
but the womb of our birth,
the soil and the oil and the trees.
No more honor among thieves
or a brigand's democracy,
for nothing is sacred except money,
not even the adventure of obtaining it.
A raw injustice, indeed,
for they commandeer not the gold
from government ships, but rape and disgrace
the very Earth.

Copyright 2005 – Evolving – Poems 1965-2005, Gary B. Fitzgerald

Lemon Hound said...

I used to think Canada was environmentally astute--now I realize we simply haven't had the opportunity to completely devastate our environment. Well, not any more. The Arctic is next. And British Columbia is ridden with oil, gas, and massive hydro applications, largely from off-off-shore speculators.

Not good news. Not in any way good news.

Need to end the oil nightmare. But until the corporate minds find a way to make green work in their corporate profit sharing schemes that doesn't seem likely to happen.

Guess I'm just feeling upbeat today.


See the trailer for Under Rich Earth, a film by an old friend of mine...that's a positive ending for now at least.