When he is thirty, Caesar comes upon
a bust of Alexander Magnus and
laments his rather lacking personal brand;
Alexander’d conquered Babylon,
while Caesar suffers Clodius’ carrying on
in a bad frock, soon revealed as a man.
He calls his aides. Please help me understand
how some horse-loving twink in chaps had gone
by now from Greece to India and back,
built self-named cities, fought with elephants,
stymied at last by the sheer immeasurable size
of the globed earth and encircling sea, you hacks.
Torment was the thought of irrelevance:
unmade by age, conquestless, Caesar dies.
I call my own shots, largely based
on the pigeons that my priests release, observed
through a single narrow window as they turn and swerve.
The world we think is ours is interlaced
with the realer world of the bored, immortal race
of gods, who’ve little else to do but serve
each other fruit, and get on each other’s nerves.
Yet their gestures do create all time and space.
Why the bird thing works, we cannot know,
though I am assured it can inerrantly
predict a harvest’s weight or revenues
from tax, a war’s conclusion, how much snow
will clog a pass. All popularity
depends upon the augurs that you use.
The past as precedent is overrated.
Even its angel gazing back across
the racked, wrecked pile of death and loss
can never turn to see what it’s created
now. The present is the wreck, abated
briefly; the past, a stone, but we are moss
fuzzing the surface, a broken pebble tossed
into a sea. A story often related
about the same sea is that a king
stood at its edge and ordered the tide to cease.
We’re told the moral has to do with pride.
In fact, Canute was warning: worshipping
a man’s short power and swiftly expiring lease
blasphemed. The waves went on. He ruled and died.
Blame millennials for the missing bar of soap.
But blame their parents for the rest of it:
the postwar settlement they turned to shit;
the rising seas; the flattening and declining slope
of income growth; the OD rate for dope;
George Bush invading Baghdad in a snit;
“prestige” TV; Armstrong’s hematocrit;
Fox News, CNN, the man from Hope.
Even the awful form of this complaint
is accidentally due to Billy Joel,
another boomer bastard: they’ve destroyed
the world in increments, but now they faint
at the minor foibles of the kids today, a whole
generation dad left unemployed.
His moral arguments are all consumer
choices he’s deliberately confused
with ethical dilemmas; he has used
the self-superior lifestyle choices of the boomer
generation, lame attempted humor,
and made-up anecdotes to disabuse
you of a non-position he’s infused
with the acute import of mortality, a tumor
grown suddenly huge, malignant, pressing on
the brain: it must be excised lest we find
the psychosoma is the journalist
projecting. Hey, dude. Get off my lawn.
The world’s an abattoir. Each day’s a grind.
Your job is not the reason we exist.
for Amber A’Lee Frost and Brandy Jensen
Don’t have sex. All it can offer you
is joy at best, at worst the awkward scratching
of an itch. Love yourself, girl! Instead of catching
the downtown train to meet your boozy crew
and find some cis, white, toxic male to screw
you could be at home wildly dispatching
problematizing tweets, thereby smashing
the patriarchy. Oh, by the way, your boo
told you he was in love on the second date.
He lied. It wasn’t until the third or fourth.
You were unwittingly trafficked all that time.
You have no agency. Your life is fate.
You’re nothing but a compass pointing north.
Just think! Each time you fuck you’re doing crime.
The children aren’t the future; they are now.
My five-year-old, for instance, is concerned
that five-year-olds in China will have learned
integral calculus while he learns the cow
goes moo. Father, he asked, how can we allow
declines in public spending when it earns
broad wage-multipliers as returns?
Is Xi reformist, or is he a Mao?
And can we win the war on terror with
a formal legal apparatus that
constrains our agencies and binds their hands?
Do coastal elites represent a fifth
column? Is the Bible a samizdat?
Will I have to share the boys room with a trans?
WASHINGTON — An unusual question is capturing the attention of cyberspecialists, Russia experts and Democratic Party leaders in Philadelphia: Is Vladimir V. Putin trying to meddle in the American presidential election?
–The New York Times
Out on the summer-melted steppe a cloud
of hungry, black and biting flies now hovers
over the brief wetlands like a lovers’
humming lips at your burning ear, loud
because he’s near to you, because you’ve allowed
yourself to press against him under the warm covers.
But the flies are actually all the whispering others
to whom you—meaning it—also avowed
to be faithful, love and cherish: you promised to keep
his secrets while between you there were no
secrets at all. And then, too soon, the fall
creeps back and the lengthening night brings a deep
and freezing chill, and the flies mate and go
to lay eggs and die. None of them ever call.
“But the crucial issue is not when, but how.”
I will be with you, whatever.
But this is the moment to assess
Bluntly and boldly, whether
The danger is, as ever,
That action acts to make a mess
Which lingers with you, whatever
Plans, resources, clever
PR pitches you address
To your blunted people, whether
Or not they’re listening. Never
Forget our gaudy, tawdry press
Has stuffed them full of whatever
Trash they think is pleasure.
I hate them all. George, I confess
I can’t decide whether
Perhaps the better endeavor
Would be to self-invade. God bless
Us, be with us whatever
Chance, fate, or weather.
We bundled the children into the car and went
into Manhattan; the attendant at
the Icon garage wore a knitted hat
and smelled like grass; he had some kind of accent.
O, City of Finance, thin-crust slice, cement!
We expected young men dressed like cats,
beautiful, manly, in their junkyard habitats,
instead our babies saw some gender-bent
weirdos, two young women, clearly not
identified as male, one in a near
I-Dream-of-Jeannie outfit, enter the gents!
My boy began to cry. “Daddy, I’ve got
to pee!” Think fast, John! “Peeing’s queer!”
I cried, the modern father’s last lament.