Careful With That Analysis, Eugene

And then one of their sons grew dreadlocks and opened a bar selling jerk chicken or fried conch or something.

Dry Foot Bwoy

“By writing this in rhymed iambic pentameter, Louise Bennett has sort of shoe-horned her Colonial Jamaican language into a traditional, white, almost entirely male literary form, and made it hers. It’s very impressive, and a powerful message.”

“Ummm…”

“Oh dear God what now, Andy?”

“So is it because it’s Thursday, or for some other reason that now we’re celebrating cultural appropriation instead of condemning it?”

No, I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that because you can’t. I didn’t say that because it is the “other reason” for which we were celebrating this kind of cultural appropriation. Literary analysis is frequently suffocatingly mono-directional. There are simply some analyses that are not allowed. I did say this:

“The family moved to England. They live in England. One of them got out of the house and learned to be English, and his whole family has shunned and ridiculed him for it. Haven’t we anything to say about them?”

We had nothing to say about them, except “bravo.” And so I didn’t say anything else.

Bt it’s all so obvious and so easy. Imagine, for a moment, if a white family moved from Texas to Jamaica and refused to pick up any of the dialect. Refused to sound in any way Jamaican. Refused any level of assimilation. The Republic of Friggin Texas was gonna stand tall and wave its Lone Star flag in a suburb of Kingston. And then one of their sons grew dreadlocks and opened a bar selling jerk chicken or fried conch or something, came home saying shit was all irie, mon, in his best Jamaican Patois, and then the Texas family wrote a reggae song full of “ya’ll” and “ain’t” to celebrate the fact that they kicked him out for being too black. And then Jamaicans in Jamaican colleges applauded them for it.

Small wonder I am feeling less and less capable of succeeding in there. I’m going to have to limit the depth of my interrogations if I want to finish as strongly as I started.

I have a different kind of problem with Philosophy. If I worry at all about my success in that class, it is because it is hard.  Thank God for the A on my most recent paper. The one about a foundational human principle. My thesis statement went like this:

The first principle of the human person is that we bond to things that are not ourselves, and we have no meaningful existence until we do that bonding.

Not world-shaking stuff, and not necessarily what I would say to the question next week. Turned out to be fairly prescient when we began studying Sartre, who is a big fan of consciousness needing something to be conscious of. I developed it well and impressed my professor, so mission accomplished. Have an excerpt:

This is sticky, but if my theory does not eliminate god (and it does not), then it also does not eliminate permanence or ubiquity. The bonds of art with audience are downstream bonds, subject to the bonds that came before, and move beyond what we’ve already discussed, into the realm of social relevance. They are not foundational bonds. They supplement or reinforce our existence, without being responsible for it. Therefore the bonds of meaning that the arts offer to us are sharable and broadly applicable across humanity. Interpretations can be common and shared, because the found meaning is the permanent thread. The social implications of “The Lady of Shalott” do not infiltrate the world as the isolated reactions of its readers, rather as the communal discovery of moral truths. Namely that, in her case as in ours, we are meaningless as long as we remain separated and unbonded from reality. That breaking out of confinement in order to bond with Truth is a permanent expression of The Good, and worth dying for.

It’s interesting, in light of that sample, that I am struggling with wrapping up a paper analyzing the Lady of Shalott for British Literature. Literary analysis has a restriction that philosophy does not, which is that in literature it can be bad to get too philosophical. In philosophy there is no such penalty for being too literary.

Thanks for being here lately.

Each Part Apart

The grant diagnoses the wish’s diseases.

A part of him welcomed the hard-morning punches,
and he clocked in gut-first to his duties in bunches.

The thought made his bacon.
The thought taught him wishes.
The thought wrought a First Thing
that then piled up the dishes.

A part of him flew from inside his lost clout,
then pronely retreated to a bone-lonely doubt.

The thought stacked his papers.
The thought brought him wishes.
The thought sought a birthing
that then burst from its stitches.

A part of him sat oddly apart from his peaces.
Where the grant diagnoses the wish’s diseases.
 
The thought’s unrelated to
The thought’s rotten missives.
The thought’s naught but Springing
That then dies where it misses.

A part of him sat in each part of the place
Each part apart and no parts face to face.

The Whole Sky, All at Once

You can’t look for the lightning
Dad said
or you’ll never see the flash.
He would pull the Buick out to the street
and we sat like crooked teeth
in the yawning maw of the garage.
A storm coming deliberately at us
and the tornado siren
wailing with a bored urgency
like the ambulance of the great plains.
We pulled over.

You can’t look for the lightning
Dad said
or you’ll always just miss it.
He would talk about seeing the whole sky
and we sat like crooked teeth
in the yawning maw of the garage.
We tried to look at nothing and everything
while the old corn across the street
whispered with a quickened urgency
like the dying secrets of the great plains.
We closed our ears.

You can’t look for the lightning
Dad said
or someone else will see it.

You Can’t Look for the Lightning

A storm coming deliberately at us
and the tornado siren
wailing with a bored urgency
like the ambulance of the great plains.
We pulled over.

Oof. I just had a message come across some app that’s on my phone, telling me that the literary magazine at Seattle U is accepting submissions for the upcoming issue. My first thought was “oh hey, there’s a literary magazine?” But that’s because I am a man of narrow focus. I think it’s a defense mechanism of sorts. I guess it would be pretty common for there to be a literary magazine, and a school newspaper, and all kinds of things of the sort at a college. But i’m so overwhelmed by the most perfunctorily whelming things that I withdraw, and school becomes, for me, a rote act of “park the car, go to class, get back in the car, go home.” Narrow focus shuts out the crowding hazards.

I mentioned my first thought. I don’t think that I had much of a second thought, because the deadline for submission is in two days. And there’s a theme, so I can’t just grab a poem I’ve already written and submit that. Let’s clean this up – here’s what I discovered, in order: 1. There’s a literary magazine. 2. They’re accepting submissions. 3. FOR TWO DAYS. WTF? 4. The theme is humility. 5. What? It’s an annual publication?

Yes, annual publication. I have two days to whip something up and take my shot, or it’ll be another year before I get another chance.

Well here’s my shot. If I had more patience or a less narrow focus, I would revise it for the next day and a half. Nope. I’ve already submitted it:

 
The Whole Sky, All at Once

You can’t look for the lightning
Dad said
or you’ll always just miss it.
He would pull the Buick out to the street
and we sat like crooked teeth
in the yawning maw of the garage.
A storm coming deliberately at us
and the tornado siren
wailing with a bored urgency
like the ambulance of the great plains.
We pulled over.

You can’t look for the lightning
Dad said
or someone else will see it.
He would talk about seeing the whole sky
and we sat like crooked teeth
in the yawning maw of the garage.
We tried to look at nothing and everything
while the old corn across the street
whispered with a quickened urgency
like the dying secrets of the great plains.
We closed our ears.

You can’t look for the lightning
Dad said
or you’ll never see the flash.

The City Sends its Dogs to Say Thanks

The sight of the urban maiden is all light
in the fog and damp of our staid, cemented ways.
In boots and dearly rationed leggings –
as if I have to say!
Her whole aspect a lively equipage
liveried and lent to our idling eyes.
A city’s little thanks for our putting up with it
as we do
as a whole
because we try
against our very produce to not be
a pallid wash of mere moneychanging.

And then, dangling with less decorous restraint
from her bejeweled and worried fingers
– that are only trying to keep their distance –
is a loud, indelicate package announcing its lady’s attendance.
Pendulous and any color you like,
a cackling sack tied shut around the dignity of the maiden.
It hides without guile what we all alike are aware
that her dog delivered,
back there.
Deposited to the city’s coffers
and loaned out again
against the collateral of her oblivious dignity.

Tiny Giant

I had a tiny body once
so often rapt with joy.
It turned the wheels of tiny bikes
and proclaimed “Here comes a boy!”

It left me bleeding once or twice
and bumped a thing or two
as I flew around this giant world
and learned to steer it true.

Everything that held the line
from getting all confused
was new and out in front of me
and replaced what I misused.

Now giant eyes have seen the world
but in glancing glance away
From the giant things I once beheld
but are tiny now today.