Does it Need a Title?
There is nothing sadder than an old elephant at the zoo.
All alone, the color of tarmac; a gigantic mouse behind bars.
She stands at the ready, to turn around and around. By the end
of the day, she’ll be fit for a shower and a long cry.
What’s an elephant to do, chained to the ground, with a six-year-old child
the only one who understands her pain?
I say, throw a peanut at her head. Pick up a chunk of rock. Hop
on its back and stick its ear. That’ll teach it to dance. Shout,
“Go!” Hit it over and over again, the way you do your wife and kids.
When you’re through with the elephant, you can move on more important
things, like burning churches and killing doctors. Take it out on them, too.
Why stop with the dumb elephant and your shitty family? You too can be
effective; get yourself all worked up if you are of the mind, pour gasoline
all over and set yourself on fire.
When we kill elephants, we kill ourselves. These killing sprees
are assassinations. Don’t kid yourself. It’s murder. Whoever said so,
and it’s probably your daughter, is right. The decimation of the elephants,
and that goes for gorillas and anteaters, too, is self-destructive. It’s annihilation
of the soul. It’s a catastrophe of thought. Pure Neanderthal, a spasm
of base instinct. But then so is the murder of man. Keep in mind,
it is happening every day of the week and it is not because they are poor.
He murdered his sister because he has no money is a sinister joke
told by the devil. Our heads need to be examined. Here, it’s becoming
a killing field like Rwanda or Cambodia before it. Incredibly,
decent people are confused; they are not sure it’s wrong.
One thing for sure, it’s a lot of fun. Put a cap in his ass. HAHAHAHA.
Now that we’ve stripped our youth of their humanity, what’s next?
I’ll tell you what’s coming: mass killings.
Human life is worth nothing in a place like this.
You might as well drive the herd over a cliff.
The news tonight is that there are rioters rioting in the streets of Charlotte.
I go out to see for myself.
I see folks on the pavement and they look like they are having a riot but
they say to me they are dancers dancing not rioters rioting and I believe
them. One of them points out that the proof they are dancing is that
they are having a good time. If they were rioting they wouldn’t be happy.
I have to confess to not having thought of that, that dancers are happy
while rioters are otherwise. That makes a lot of sense to me. Dancers do
tend to be happy, I can say with some certainty; I know this because
I too have done some dancing, but I really know little about rioting.
I go next to one of the ushers, a large man in a blue uniform. He’s wearing
a helmet. I figure he must work for the theatre. First thing, I ask if I need
a ticket. He, too, seems happy, because he bursts out laughing. He says
I must be joking. Don’t I know matinees are free?
This cheers me immensely. Had I known beforehand, I tell the usher,
I could have invited my girlfriend or even my parents. I notice that the usher
is carrying a pistol. I’ve been in theatres around the world, in Tokyo, London,
and even Moscow, but I have never seen an usher carrying a loaded weapon.
When I see that, I decide not to ask for a program. I think I’d better move on.
I wonder if the ushers are having trouble controlling the audience. They are unruly.
I start walking toward the sunken stage and public auditorium. It is crowded
so I figure that like the other folks I might have to settle for standing room only.
I want a seat in the orchestra but I notice that there are really no bad seats.
I already have a great view.
The dancers are clearly in the middle of a scene. I must have missed the opening.
They are shouting and swirling, kicking their legs and waving
banners and posters. One is burning the flag. I can’t quite make out what
they are saying. I figure they are doing some sort of medieval pageant,
a festival, or perhaps even a wedding.
One thing I keep hearing is “it matters, it matters” (what matters?) and then
almost in unison I catch something like “don’t shoot.” I decide then that
I must be watching a modern version of Romeo and Juliet, which happens
to be a favorite. It looks to have an almost entirely Afro-American cast, which
I think is a neat innovation. I like creative casting. I must have walked in on
the fight scene, because the actors are very excited.
Anyway, I am having a ball and so, it seems, is the rest of the audience.
I can’t wait to read the reviews. The Charlotte paper used to have such
a great theatre critic, but now just a string of people who write about
what’s called entertainment. But this is great, real public theatre
right downtown in the business district. The city is finally getting its act together.
One doesn’t think of poets as money managers.
It must be nice to see one’s work issued by the government.
You have to give her credit for it, she made an industry
out of having had a hard time of it, even if today she lunches
with the likes of Oprah and Jessica Mitford.
Had there been enough good parts, she could have made
a fine actress. She would have made a powerful Josie Hogan,
a haunting wife to Macbeth, or, better yet, Hamlet’s dear mother.
Instead, she became a bestselling poet.
Something about her reminds me of a circus, a tented
carnival with a snake-man called Scaly and a three-breasted
lady. Step right up and hear her tale of unparalleled woe.
Avoid the door on the right, or you might get her confused
with the tattooed midget in yellow tights and his aqua tunic.
Tell the tale of your miserable past: how
you were beaten and mistreated, and how
you experienced unwanted advances. Why not
explain once again what it was like to have to eat
barbecued bologna on Christmas morning?
Now there’s human suffering.
The royalties mount beyond anyone’s count.
Rake it in while it lasts. There’s the five-bedroom townhouse
in a fashionable part of Harlem, the mansion down
in swampy Carolina, a wee property along the Hudson
and, rumor has it, a pied-á-terre in a posh section of Paris.
The newest new book is just coming out in a new
waterproof edition. The text, it is said, glows in the dark,
so it can be read underwater, or you can get one that floats.
It is scheduled to appear later this month in coordination
with her new show, Big Woe, the new Broadway Musical.
Have your say, as they say, but be sure to count
your earnings. Some might say it is too much to dare.
When you wear earrings and things from Tiffany’s,
it gets harder and harder to ask for sympathy.
You might wind up like some of your devoted readers,
much too rich to notice a little girl in need of affection.
Poetry: Buy, Sell, or Hold?
I sent my new poem to an old friend who replied:
“I know nothing of poetry.”
Another said about the same. “I don’t read the stuff.
Sorry.” It got me to thinking.
Had I sent in a stock tip, they would have rewarded me.
I might have received a bottle of Chablis, maybe even a good one,
had I sent in trading data on NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange.
Who would have said, “I’m not into making money?”
But one comes to learn an awful truth about one’s friends.
Not just their indifference; that’s painful enough.
No. It’s that for them poetry is something akin to masturbation.
They don’t want to hear about it. It’s an embarrassment.
My friends are always buying or selling. If I had produced
a tomato, I’d have been advised to set up a stand on the sidewalk.
The price of tomatoes is high, asparagus even higher,
but poetry is nearly worthless; like trying to sell one’s teeth.
Poetry is not a commodity. My friends are merchants.
It’s a shameful action, like going to Confession.
Can you sell your sins? How much do one’s dreams weigh?
Nobody wants to watch a friend display himself.
It’s not that poetry is disgusting. But it may be shameful.
It’s seen as a waste of time: not an adult activity, not a good investment,
something more akin to gathering pine cones or pressing leaves
in an album, i.e. kid stuff, or a hobby for little old ladies.
I feel like a cat taking a bloody mouse to her master.
As I drop my poem at my friend’s feet, she gives it a glance
and sneers: “What’s that for? It’s not very pleasant.
Your job is to please me. Go play in the garden.”
That’s the response of my once best friend. She sees herself as an artist
or at least claims to be artistic. She wouldn’t treat a painting the way
she scorns poetry. But then again you can own an oil. You can hang it.
Even better you can resell it.
Stocks and paintings are good investments, like real estate.
Cars and furniture lose value, more like a poem.
They’re best when new, but with art, the worth is in its place,
they say. It’s not just beauty; it’s location, location, location.
Poetry is a dying art, especially when the artistic disown it.
They’d rather have crème brûlée or pear mousse with walnuts.
It’s not only prettier but something sweet. Poetry is no treat, and poets
are a nuisance. They have the absurd idea that what they do has value.
An Anthology of Utopias
We all want answers,
even if it means carrying a crib.
It’s necessary when our teachers
ask impossible questions. We study hard
but we hardly come close; our responses scarcely
approximate the truth. It is better to cheat.
But I’ve lucked out. I found a bound
volume, an anthology of utopias which
provides all the answers. It promises
nothing if not an end to despair. Just think:
Brook Farm in hardback; Skaneateles explained.
Read with care it is a blueprint for Amana.
In this volume life comes to an end. It demands
that we turn our backs on ourselves. We give up
the everyday; in exchange we approach the eternal.
This is social equality forever and an end to jealousy.
Purity of purpose replaces greed and an end to lust.
The threat of mutiny is replaced by true harmony.
An anthology of utopia has no room for sexual difference.
The trans movement is a step in the right direction.
Soon we’ll be like Barbie and Ken, not creatures
with the same genitals but with none. People no longer
identified by the color of their underwear. Hallelujah.
We’ll all come in camouflage and in wigs.
We’ll be soldiers more comfortable in death than in life.
Women’s breasts will no longer have nipples. Men’s asses
will no longer smell. People will go to prison for calling
him, her. That old woman at the end of the corridor will be
our monitor. Death assists utopian aspirations. The only thing
standing in the way of perfection is human enterprise. End it.
Charles Manson was one of the authors of this anthology
of utopias. Pol Pot, too, designed plans for eternal bliss. He
trained all his people to crawl and how to meow. He instructed
them on how to stack the bodies in neat piles. Others, of course,
prefer to eat them. Devouring traces of human life leaves the planet
a cleaner place. Utopians are nothing if not preservationists.
David Lohrey is from Memphis. His plays have been produced in Switzerland, Croatia, and Lithuania. His poetry can be found in Otoliths (AUS), Tuck Magazine (UK), Terror House Magazine (Hungary), and The Cardiff Review (Wales). David’s fiction can be read online at Dodging the Rain, Storgy Magazine, and Literally Stories. His newest collection of poetry, Machiavelli’s Backyard, was published by Sudden Denouement Publishers (Houston, 2017). He lives in Tokyo.