This second part of the limerick project—which began in May 2017 with Pence, Trump and Comey—focuses on injustice and other illnesses, as well as on poetry (and Trump). This part takes the collection from July 2 to August 12, 2017, a new poem having been added daily. Part I (Pence, Trump, Mueller, Capitalism) covers May 16 until July 2. Part III (Animals, Capitalism, the News, First Impressions), runs from August 13 to September 3; and Part IV (No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals): September 4 to . . . ? And check out various cousins: Oh, say, can you see . . . ; The only show left in town; or Despondent White House Criminals Should Look Up.
Far below is a brief explanation of what and how this series is or first was and of how and why it has been evolving. It may be noted that the project involves, inter alia, exploring the limits of (or deforming?) the limerick form.
Poetry is an affair of sanity, of seeing things as they are. — Philip Larkin
Kim Jong-un found his blustering much less attractive
After we deployed our weapon the most radioactive—
After the Donald and his mop
On Pyongyang were gently dropped.
The crowds, the last tweet reads, have been “fantastic.”
The rich these days enjoy a nouvelle cuisine—
From ingredients pas chers, des saveurs exquis.
Bravo les nouveaux chefs et leurs assistants,
Expanding profit margins d’une façon si charmante.
Not vegans but capitalists of choice flesh will us wean.
§ Source: Lately I have been sampling some of Geneva’s more ambitious restaurants, such as Le Neptune, Café de la Paix and La Bottega. They have offered me various delicacies, including watermelon with cheese, mussels with tofu, and handmade ravioli containing butter, cheese and lemon. While I have appreciated the flavors, the chefs’ creativity and the sous-chefs’ talents, I have also noted the low cost of the ingredients. I explored this subject at greater length in my 2014 essay On Savoring.
- pas chers, des saveurs exquis—inexpensive yet delicious
- d’une façon si charmante—in such a charming way
Might we again have an old-fashioned President
Without the daily photos our eyes to torment?
Without the daily soundbites our ears to distress
Of vacations, golf and relatives a good deal less?
No matter who started this (FDR or NBC?)—Please relent.
The Swiss news loves sustainable development
The Geneva IKEA stuffs people’s apartments
Raw fish in thick aluminum is wrapped
Each fruit and vegetable gets its plastic bag
Showy eco-projects a noxious economy supplement?
Where was I going to go, inshallah?
And to do what? I wonder,
Into whom would I have blundered?
In Geneva I’m a patient, not a wanderer.
§ Drawing at right is of a wanderer, sketched while in a ticket line at the Lyon-Part-Dieu train station.
Forty-seven million sperm—a fool’s paradise
Nineteen million words—for reading is not nice
One is all the average man’s got left
Another of UN documents suggests the heft
Would that pesticides made our writing more concise?
§ The 47 million sperm (per milliliter of ejaculate) is a decline from the average of 99 million estimated forty years ago. The 19 million words are the number translated, year in and year out, by the French Translation Service at the United Nations Office at Geneva, Switzerland. This is just one of dozens of UN translation services around the world. To date there would seem to be no estimates of how many of the words being produced are being read, or were read in their original versions.
From one of the many newspaper articles written about the sperm-count report:
Writing in the journal Human Reproduction Update, . . . researchers—from Israel, the US, Denmark, Brazil and Spain—said total sperm count had fallen by 59.3 per cent between 1971 and 2011 in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Sperm concentration fell by 52.4 per cent.
“Sperm count and other semen parameters have been plausibly associated with multiple environmental influences, including endocrine disrupting chemicals, pesticides, heat and lifestyle factors, including diet, stress, smoking and body-mass index,” the paper said. . . .
Chemicals linked to lowering sperm count include some used to make plastics more flexible and flame retardants used in furniture.
The article: Sperm counts in the West plunge by 60% in 40 years as ‘modern life’ damages men’s health, The Independent, UK, 25 July 2017. Related articles offered by the online version of the article have included: “Fracking chemicals lower sperm count in mice, says research”; “Men who eat high-pesticide diets have dramatically lower sperm counts”; and “Everyday chemicals ‘reduce sperm count.’”
For a while there was a simple set of facts
And diverging interpretations—Repubs’ & Democrats’.
Now they have their truths well-proven,
Which for us, with ours, are delusions.
Thus Catholics and Protestants long savagely attacked?
Compartments of reinforced concrete, with balconies unobstructed.
So that nature, the world—and the enemy?—
May be seen fast advancing—or hurrying away?
In a New York luxury condo one may find one’s soul abducted.
Heroic Jane Eyre having achieved independence
Runs to embrace a father figure, now her dependent
What (in God’s name) do we really want?
To be on top, the bottom, or deviant?
With lofty principles enjoy erotic transcendence?
§ The scholarly might see Jean Wyatt, Reconstructing Desire: The Role of the Unconscious in Women’s Reading and Writing (University of North Carolina Press, 1990). From page 23: “Part of the Jane Eyre’s appeal lies in the way it allows in the way it allows female readers to work out fantasies of desire for the father and rage against him, fantasies that seem to stem from the power and inaccessibility of a father in a traditional nuclear family structure and his ambiguous position with regard to his daughter’s sexuality.”
Readers, female and male, may also note that by the end of the novel the now happy heroine is a long ways from the ideal she so wonderfully, passionately stated toward the beginning of her journey:
Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.
An event unexpected and unhealthy
Has my pants pocket reduced to one key
Though bypassed, my heart likes this freedom
Because our keys are for misers and for prisons?
And we’re lucky that certain sicknesses bring simplicity?
The night nurse arrives with her whole night planned
And you upset everything with your silly demands
She wants to watch TV
And you want to brush your teeth?
Understaffing and priorities, what can’t you understand?
But then in huff
She re-arranges all your stuff
And decides that, in fact, you’re her man!
A foul-mouthed, front-stabbing invector
Among his various tweets
His Air Force One seat
Till John Kelly pressed the ejector.
§ Source: So Much for the Mooch, “In going after Priebus, Scaramucci sowed the seeds of his own demise”; New York Times, July 31, 2017.
The beavers’ dams are permissive developments—
Low-tech, diversifying and without government.
Dragonflies, birds and amphibians
Enjoy watery homes by the mill-i-ons,
While farmers, highways and drains may be less content.
§ Source: Article in the Tribune de Genève —L’embarrassant retour du castor—on how the Swiss beaver population has grown since the species was re-introduced in 1956, but farmers and others are now complaining. For biodiversity, the species, however unintentionally, is a great boon; for human infrastructure and agricultural productivity, at least from a narrow perspective, it causes some problems. Interestingly, the same, July 31, 2017, issue of the paper had an article about taking cold water from the bottom of le lac Léman (Lake Geneva) to cool people on the shore. Apparently Hawaiians have previously done similarly with seawater. But what the article did not discuss at all were the potential effects of such water removal and temperature change on ecosystems. Of course beavers are not submitting environmental impact statements, and yet one is struck by how we humans, all our science notwithstanding, so often act as if we are the only species that matters. Even to we ourselves: that is, we often seem to feel that our lives would be better if there were no other species around—let alone re-introduced—to create problems for us.
Ah, traveling brings us so much that is new—
New customs and flavors, languages and views;
But the only lesson there is to learn
Is painful and old, simple and stern—
Of the nature of the whole our clues are so few.
She may lead me, with penis, to feel some kind of
Best, as I her warm clitoris lure from its glove.
But with generosity, tenderness and trust
At times we outstrip the pinnacles of lust.
And loyalty, patience and responsibility also make love.
Project causes, draw conclusions and science invent.
In the process we may save millions of lives
And deepen the confusions that our data belie.
It seems not by correlations that my life has been bent.
§ That is, some of my cardiologists and physical therapists—trying to explain why I, relatively young and with hardly a “risk factor” in sight, ended up with a heart attack—have proposed, using their own terminology, that by forces unknown are our lives often bent. Others have decided that I did not have too much bad cholesterol; I had too much bad bad cholesterol (the sticky kind).
The Articles of Confederation; the War of Secession;
Presidents for thieves and themselves; the Great Depression—
Three existential crises the US has faced down
Temporarily found ways, core conflicts to get around
With the union each time tightened—and still wide open to question.
§ Journalists and pundits these days love to call the Trump presidency unprecedented, and yet it is difficult to read far into American history without finding parallels. “My” journal Zeteo has recently explored two: the Know Nothing movement and how Woodrow Wilson’s narcissism was manipulated by the British to get the US to enter the First World War on their side. As for Presidents who have used the office to enrich their particular thief allies, we might be surprised to discover how many Presidencies could be described in this way. George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, and the invasion of Iraq come quickly to mind.
In substituting for lovemaking their exercises intense
Their hearts inflame – plaque – arteries dense,
Their blood fighting to maintain its flow,
Lungs – oxygen – to hungry muscles slow.
And how little love will they have made – lives spent.
§ Source: Social commentary aside, this is also a personal poem as I seem to be one of those who, in part because of physical fitness, have suffered a heart attack at a relatively early age (62). Among the many impossible-to-verify and likely too simplistic explanations: high-intensity anaerobic exercise can cause inflammation which creates plaque. And I have often thought that such exercise, like sex or in its stead, has a satisfying draining, exhausting quality. It becomes a way of relaxing, if not always a healthy or love-making one.
At that time, in order not to punish the guilty,
they mistreated the poor.
Except for police officers and many others, racism has become taboo;
Instead of segregated facilities and lynchings, a “war on drugs” must do.
This means the search, the extortion and the imprisoning
Of male and female citizens who happen to have colored skin,
While the toxic frauds of drug companies continue to accrue.
§ Relevant articles: A Warrant to Search Your Vagina, New York Times; How the War on Drugs is Destroying Black America, Cato Institute; The Drug War is the New Jim Crow, NACLA Report on the Americas; Report: Aide says Nixon’s war on drugs targeted blacks, hippies, CNN. And there is Attorney-General Sessions’ dubious claim of there being a ‘surge’ in violent crime, when there seems, rather, to be a surge in white-collar crime in and around the White House and Trump Tower in New York.
Epigraph is an adaptation of the epigraph to Paul Eluard’s 1944 poem, Comprenne qui voudra (Understand Who Will):
“En ce temps-là, pour ne pas châtier les coupables, on maltraitait des filles. On allait même jusqu’à les tondre.” At that time [after the liberation of Paris from the Germans and the Vichy regime], in order not to punish the guilty [those who had collaborated more significantly with the Germans], they [the people of Paris] mistreated prostitutes. They even went so far as to shave their heads [and parade them through the streets, yelling and spitting at them].
With firings and pardons and personal attacks
The Suspect in Chief details how he’ll fight back.
So Mueller’s team their own defenses may well prepare,
Of both staff and law enforcement taking special care.
Future generations also deserve a record of every last fact.
It takes my money, gives me my change, all beeping and pristine.
In other stores will there soon be hands,
Égouttant tout sainement more intimate demands?
Except that desire for human warmth—which will come to seem obscene.
§ Quelle deception : What a letdown. Égouttant tout sainement : Healthily draining (like spaghetti or broccoli rabe, with colander and sink). L’égout : the sewer. And this note from Thoreau, Walden: “Trade curses everything it handles”.
Of course there are now automatic cashiers like this in all sorts of stores around the world, but what made this particular one, in La Croix-Rousse neighborhood of Lyon, more striking was that the customers’ use of it was being carefully superintended by a human being, who might have rather been manually, tactilely, exchanging money with the customers. Instead she was tasked with promoting the future of the machine and not only her own obsolescence, but also (ultimately) the obsolescence of interpersonal relations.
As for the eventual obscenity of the desire for human warmth, I have been struck by an ad—for a help line—that is running on the buses in Geneva, Switzerland. A young woman is shown saying “Mon mari me forcait à avoir des rapports sexuels.” My husband was forcing me to have sex. Of course we understand the problem—or crime—here. And yet somewhere in the background lie questions such as these:
- Is marriage becoming a non-sexual, legal union?
- To what extent are people now marrying or staying married to good friends even though at least one of them has no enthusiasm for intimate relations or even though an initial excitement has rapidly cooled, or cooled after children were born?
- And may it be coming to seem outrageous, or obscene, if one of the members of such a couple remains attached to an outmoded or barbarous idea: that sex and sexual pleasure are an essential part of a marital union?
To give an idea of how far we have come I quote from an article on Kosher Sex: Jewish Attitudes Towards Sexuality, from a “Judaism 101” website:
Sex is the woman’s right, not the man’s. A man has a duty to give his wife sex regularly and to ensure that sex is pleasurable for her. He is also obligated to watch for signs that his wife wants sex, and to offer it to her without her asking for it. The woman’s right to sexual intercourse is referred to as onah, and it is one of a wife’s three basic rights (the others are food and clothing), which a husband may not reduce. The Talmud specifies both the quantity and quality of sex that a man must give his wife. It specifies the frequency of sexual obligation based on the husband’s occupation, although this obligation can be modified in the ketubah (marriage contract). A man may not take a vow to abstain from sex for an extended period of time, and may not take a journey for an extended period of time, because that would deprive his wife of sexual relations. In addition, a husband’s consistent refusal to engage in sexual relations is grounds for compelling a man to divorce his wife, even if the couple has already fulfilled the halakhic obligation to procreate. [Italics mine.]
If your life memorialize you would in limericks,
My anapests and rhyming schemes can likely do the trick.
The price, however, though already paid, may seem a bit too steep.
I mean the price of feelings—for ideals now put to sleep.
A poet’s words in these hateful days must reek of politics.
Source: A friend has proposed I put out a shingle, offering to write limericks for people, as I have done in #67 and #61, writing about friends’ woodchucks. Wonderful Wiktionary tells me that the word “anapest”—a metrical foot consisting of three syllables, two unstressed and one stressed (e.g. the word “interrupt”)—comes from the Latin anapaestus, from the Ancient Greek ἀνάπαιστος (“struck back”, “reversed”). With my limericks I am striking back?
In the opening to his essay Narcissus as Narcissus (1938), Allen Tate noted, albeit mockingly, the theory that a
poem is an indirect effort of a shaky man to justify himself to happier men, or to present a superior account of his relation to a world that allows him but little certainty, and would allow equally little to the happier men if they did not wear blinders—according to the poet. For example, a poet might be a man who could not get enough self-justification out of being an automobile salesman (whose certainty is a fixed quota of cars every month) to rest comfortably upon it. So the poet, who wants to be something that he cannot be, and is a failure in plain life, makes up fictitious versions of his predicament that are interesting even to other persons because nobody is a perfect automobile salesman.
From their pool across their lawn the humans dripping pawed,
A grill cover from a woodchuck to violently withdraw.
He knew little of cooking, even less of crime,
But the cover’s burnished red was pleasing to his eye,
And, like many in power, on one truth he chawed:
How strong teeth are nine-tenths of the law.
Note: A younger generation may not know the expression “possession is nine-tenths of the law”; i.e. if you’ve already got your mitts on something, it is easier, even under the rule of law, to hold on to it. Wikipedia adds that the principle bears some similarity to uti possidetis (“as you possess, so may you continue to possess”). This principle now underlies the international legal doctrine that colonial administrative boundaries become international boundaries when a political subdivision or colony achieves independence. Under Roman law, however—and from the woodchuck’s perspective as well—uti possidetis has been an interdictum ordering that a legal party maintain possession of, say, a grill cover until it could be determined who in fact had the greater legal right to the property. (And, from a historical perspective, a Home Depot receipt is ephemeral at best.)
With thanks again to Walter and Alison for keeping me supplied with woodchuck fables. (See limerick 61 below.)
Unjust business interests not wishing to disappoint
With the new by past injustices more than qualified
Signs of any judiciousness not sought, or denied
Has the rape of this vast country just been the main point?
News: The One Area Where Trump Has Been Wildly Successful, by Ronald A. Klain, Washington Post, July 19, 2017:
[Trump] not only put Neil M. Gorsuch in the Supreme Court vacancy created by Merrick Garland’s blocked confirmation, but he also selected 27 lower-court judges as of mid-July. . . . That’s three times Obama’s total and more than double the totals of Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton—combined. For the Courts of Appeals—the final authority for 95 percent of federal cases—no president before Trump named more than three judges whose nominations were processed in his first six months; Trump has named nine. Trump is on pace to more than double the number of federal judges nominated by any president in his first year. . . .
How conservative are Trump’s picks? Dubbed “polemicists in robes” in a headline on a piece by Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, Trump’s nominees are strikingly . . . Trumpian. One Trump nominee blogged that [Supreme Court Justice Kennedy] was a “judicial prostitute” for trying to find a middle ground on the court, and said that he “strongly disagree[d]” with the court’s decision striking down prosecution of gay people under sodomy laws. Another equated the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, upholding a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, to the court’s 19th-century Dred Scott finding that black people could not be U.S. citizens. Another advocated an Alabama law that denied counsel to death-row inmates. . . .
Trump is nominating candidates before they are reviewed by the American Bar Association; Judiciary Committee Republicans are arguing that nominees’ writings, legal representations and public statements are irrelevant to confirmation. . . .
Libido, that’s one thing; performance another;
Escaping the first, monks serenity discover?
Lacking the second, yet keeping the first—
For billions, we might say, this is the worst;
Deprived of satisfaction; hope a lost lover.
Cheating a little (explicating my own poem), I would stress that, while “libido” calls sex to mind, and this is where my thoughts began, when I got to the “billions,” I had in mind, too, all the many other ways that people—be they desirous of food and clean water they cannot obtain, or, say, warm if non-sexual companionship, or perhaps even immortality—people often find themselves filled with many more desires than they are able to satisfy. This is a large part of the human predicament, and I doubt that even the greatest monks truly escape from desire. Thanks to tremendous self-discipline, they may be able to ignore or suppress desire. But this could be like pushing and holding water down at the bottom of a well. Among other things, such an endeavor, such discipline, might require a goodly portion of one’s psychic energy.
Grave illness can teach us to stare at the air,
At a book on a table, clouds in a window square.
And we want nothing more,
Even our health we ignore;
With time we are at peace, exalted by our cares.
Then professors, from backyard birds and woodchucks divined
Truths that I, graying, to sins of politics
And to capitalists, insatiable, sadly find affixed,
While those pleasures more sweet, those pleasures more animal—
They lag far behind.
In Macbeth a strong man is by his own crimes laid low.
He too frightened and too vulnerable, his kingdom overthrown.
Some say that so the Donald can only watch TV
And put on weight and tweet away, a specter of a he.
A warning to all graspers deceitful? Would that this were so!
§ This limerick stems from having seen a French-language production of Macbeth at le Théâtre de l’Orangerie in Geneva, Switzerland. The play was set in a hotel room with nothing but a couch and a bar covered with whiskey and glasses. And the male leads were men who hardly looked strong, let alone kingly, and who wore cheap suits and shoes—as if they were just one more set of nebbishes among the millions these days. That they might be competing and killing for power—a joke at best. This called my attention to the extent to which in the great tragedies—Macbeth, Lear, Othello, Hamlet—Shakespeare was not writing about great heroes of centuries gone by, but about a whole raft of corporate functionaries, small businessmen, schoolteachers, girlfriends and housewives of centuries yet to come. Caught up in the social machinery and eaten by neurosis, such men and women have gotten along, barely, with some help from drink or other drugs, and from therapists of various kinds, and the occasional kick in the pants from an at least equally neurotic spouse. I was also struck by the extent to which Macbeth is designed to warn any who might be considering regicide or coups d’état—not only will you be quickly defeated by the forces of righteousness and legitimate power, but you yourself will descend into a psychic hell on Earth. It does not, however, strike me, even in observing Trump from afar, that this is the case. My sense is that Trump’s psychic hell began in early childhood and has been cause not consequence of his sociopathic life.
Four young woodchucks with a house cat enjoyed a bit of play
Until two red foxes, toothily, wished to join in the fray
Until next arrived a broom and an indignant lady,
Who not frightened or accepting—motherly, I’d say—
How she quickly made those foxes long for other prey.
§ Moral in these times oppressed by Kochs, Trumps, Putins . . . : We can still enjoy ourselves and with one another, but only as long as we retain means for chasing predators away. Note, too, that this limerick is based on a true story! It was reported to me by Walter Cummins, the father of this limerick series. The heroine in question was his wife, Alison.
For bankers, drug companies, and Kochs
Lawyering has made justice a joke
The venal steal their huge piles
(or the US presidency)
Then pay lesser crocodiles
(some fines and some attorneys)
And jail free, they enjoy power and our dough.
A sense: If in years past we, the Obama Administration included, had been more vigorous and vigilant about putting white-collar criminals in jail—much the way we love to lock up petty thieves—we would not now be in the throes of the Trump nightmare. People like Trump would not have thought they could with impunity grab whatever they wanted to grab and however they wanted to grab it.
A songwriter interviewed proposed
For future lovers his songs were composed
If ever she and he could meet
And they so love and so well treat . . .
C’est la poésie qui rend la vie en rose.
Last line: It’s poetry that allows us to see through rose-colored glasses, as lovers do. The songwriter was James Taylor, and his comment may seem more poignant when one considers lines from the first verse and refrain of one of his best known songs, Something in the way she moves:
Something in the way she moves, or looks my way, or calls my name
That seems to leave this troubled world behind . . .
And I feel fine anytime she’s around me now,
She’s around me now almost all the time
And if I’m well you can tell she’s been with me now
She’s been with me now quite a long, long time and I feel fine.
A Swiss bird in a neighboring yard
Has seemed to be trying rather hard
To whistle the whole, saccharine tune
That US ice-creamers endlessly croon.
(Though neither children nor sales move this card.)
Escaped from hospital to l’Avenue Trembley in Geneva.
There is a face pretending to be new in France,
Il y un visage qui fait semblant d’être nouveau en France
But his legs and others’—the economic war dance.
Pendant que ses pieds reprennent une très vieille danse.
In a democracy it could be
Dans une démocratie elle aurait pu avoir
One step for you, one for me;
Des pas pour vous suivis par autant pour moi ;
But no, the rich must wear bigger and bigger pants.
N’eut été le besoin de toujours écraser—et ses conséquences.
News: Debate begins in France over plans of the recently elected government of Emmanuel Macron (formerly an investment banker and business-friendly Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs) to “liberalize” labor laws. As Danièle Obono, the spokesperson of the more liberal (Left) La France insoumise party, put it on television, there’s nothing new about such plans: for decades the representatives of capital have been trying to dismantle the social contract established in France, as throughout much of Western Europe, in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. The goal remains constant: more for capital, less for everyone else. Mme Obono, who has also been elected to l’Assemblée nationale, was speaking (truth to power) on the 19H Ruth Elkrief program on BFM TV (10 July 2017).
I was reminded, too, as this limerick was coming to me, of Woody Guthrie’s Talking Union song, which touches on the courage, solidarity and hard work that, less than a century ago, first brought working people such treats as weekends and vacations.
A President (!) is greeted optimistically (and deceived?);
A nurse comes daily to people mired in disease.
Smiling s/he faces and absorbs our distress,
While a Pres is briefed and has options to assess.
Some are lost in their offices, while others, with life seized.
Sitting before the cameras with Merkel and Putin,
He was reminded he was a fraud, no disputin’.
An empty suit, a hustler’s artificial hair,
But wouldn’t they be frauds, too, just less self-aware?
Little boys and girls who think they can run the world.
After posting this limerick (my first with stream-of-consciousness italics), I came across the following example of world leadership while editing an upcoming Zeteo article (by Martin Green) on World War I:
A major part of Britain’s propaganda effort was to sway an audience of one—President Wilson himself. Here they had the help of several of Wilson’s key advisors: Colonel Edward House, an independently wealthy, unpaid and unofficial aide to the President who was his chief confidant; the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, Walter Hines Page; and Secretary of State Robert Lansing. These men were committed anglophiles and conveyed the British point of view fed to them by British foreign secretary Lord Grey. House was particularly alert to Wilson’s desire to be seen as a savior. House flattered Wilson into seeking a role as the one who could determine the outcome of the war and could play the major role in shaping the post-war future.
Is the President no longer so entertaining?
Another boor (or puffy boxer) who insists on staying?
The hatred, lies and tweets
In a sense they’re all repeats
What if Powerless starts getting better ratings?
§ Powerless is, or was, an American action comedy series which aired on NBC from February 2, to April 20, 2017, and was officially cancelled a few weeks later. Business Insider has rated it one of the worst TV shows of 2017. The show took place in the DC comics universe and followed the adventures of Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) as Director of Research & Development at Wayne Security, a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises, which was based in Charm City and specialized in products for ordinary humans who are poised to be victims of the battles between superheroes and supervillains.
If in some new place you lose your way
Your compass’s north goes astray
It can be months of confusion
Of annoyance and disillusion
“But there’s no wrong in the night,” lovers say
A few limericks have been posted in advance, with the idea that after surgery it will be hard to write and post. This one was inspired in part by two lines in Rilke’s Duino Elegies, VIII: Uns überfüllts. Wir ordnens. Es zerfällt. / Wir ordnens wieder und zerfallen selbst. It [existence/everywhere] floods us. We organize. It decomposes. / We organize again and decompose ourselves. I first came across the lines in the epigraph to Claude Simon, Histoire. There the translation reads: Cela nous submerge. Nous l’organisons. / Cela tombe en morceaux. Nous l’organisons de nouveau et tombons nous-mêmes en morceaux.
There once or was it twice or hosannas!
Was a girl or a boy from Savannah?
When the pain grew extreme
S/he took more morphine
And that’s why this limerick’s bananas.
le jour après ma chirurgie à cœur ouvert
Our country not free of a Russian stooge
We celebrated independence from Republican Scrouges?
From the ruthless exploitation with which we began?
From what it might mean to be an American?
Countries and peoples depend on delusions.
There once was a 4th of July
The usual rockets up in the sky
But the people being gored
The rockets they ignored
And the bulls stuffed themselves with apple pie
The scientists with absolute faith in their science;
You given other truths by decades of experience.
In their world of experts they find money and pride;
On another, smaller planet your well-being resides.
Lost to doubt, they go on insisting; you struggle to stay balanced.
besieged by cardiologists
When the poet’s body had lost not the will to survive
In some hospital strange, abandoned somewhere
And so many distant, well-wishing or unaware
And the future and the sadness—not I.
pensant à Jonah, de mon lit à l’Hôpital Cardiaque de Lyon
About the limericks (the what, how and why)
This undertaking began on 15 May 2017 when I e-mailed a friend, Walter Cummins, saying that Vice-President Mike Pence’s role in the current Washington catastrophe interested me particularly, and I had half a mind to write a poem, perhaps Yeatsian—“But I, being VP, have only my dreams . . . ” Walter responded with a limerick! The rest is history (and the daily news since then).
When, in late June, I took a summer break from the USA, CNN and MSNBC, the ambit of these short poems—which began in May with just the Vice-President—began to expand. And then, when in early July I ended up spending 10 days in a hôpital cardiologique in a suburb of Lyon—my chest being cut open and four arteries rerouted—the limericking took yet another and more personal turn, coming closer to the goal of “my” journal Zeteo: to combine the personal, the political and the intellectual. By mid-July I was being “re-adapted” in Geneva, Switzerland, returning home to New York in mid-August.
The illustrations are mine, not made to illustrate specific limericks, but, to add a little decoration. Several of the drawings in this Part II are from a new series done in the dark—without being able to see what I was doing—a technique adapted from Cy Twombly. Such drawings may be used to illustrate my next book: Art, Sex, Politics, due out from Serving House later in 2017.
William Eaton is an essayist, aphorist, poet of a sort, and the Editor of the intellectual journal Zeteo. A collection of his essays, Surviving the Twenty-First Century, was published in 2015 by Serving House Books. Readers of the present piece might also be interested in Ameraiku, or in Trump, de Tocqueville, Democracy, Materialism, or This is my poem for Terminal B.
Click for pdf of ALL the limericks to date