The Chancellor and The Songstress Part 5

The Third Song of the Songstress

The Toppling of the Chairman of the Board

The songstress yawns, her lips forming a sleepy smile,

feeling much fresher today. The chancellor comatose

beside her, his body shuddering dubiously

with each troubled breath. She ne’ertheless wishes

him well, not in his vile project, but in life,

recalling the diazepam-fuelled dream she had

the night before.

*

“The cobbled footwear of the chairman clatters across

the sturdy quayside stones; a single silver buckle

adorns each shoe. His cane taps at his merchandise

approvingly and points admiringly at tall sails

ready to journey abroad. The Indies beckon

with their sugar, spices, and snuff. Tea is all the rage.

The chairman is the center of a little global

village, lord of this country manor writ large

in blood and gold and blessed in the Palladian

style by his almighty Lord. The Hierarchy

from uncreated God through Angels, Governments,

and Squires down to the unwashed plebs and beasts and worse

is sure as granite rock, safe as a stable precious

metal currency amidst a paper market storm,

stern as a patriarch’s staff against the bodies

of his cowering servants and sons. Corseted daughters

good only for dancing and marriages, dowries

and duets on the piano forte, their fineries

afforded by the labor whipped from the backs

of slaves. Daddy is a philanthropist…”

The songstress

pauses in reminiscence a while remembering

her own father, the tatters of Ancient Kakania,

the fading graces of its Empire still littering

her parental home. Perhaps in yesteryear their paths

had crossed, her mum and dad, the jolly chairman and

the chancellor’s avuncular ancestors,

together in a flashing waltz of swords, they’d heard

the pop and swish of corks exploding  and champagne

gushing out and sipped from sleek slipper-shaped glasses,

lapped at alike by hypocrite infidel with decadent

western tastes, swanning around the courts of Europe

kissing ladies’ gloved hands. A culture as stagnant

and decayed as dry wild flowers propped in a miry

pool of  brownish green liquid in a vase, for whose

grim decoration the little drummers flocked to serve

in war. Back in the age of innocence before

Wagner and Freud, before movies and rock ‘n’ roll

filled up the dance halls with their chicks and yobs. The car

that Eddie drove into the ditch and wrecked en route

to Chippenham. The parties, drugs, policemen and members

of the tabloid press trashing young lives. The ashtrays

for the fag-end youth of plutocrats and landed

heirs of fortunes gathered long forgotten years ago.

*

“They toss a noose over the Chairman’s iron neck

and drag him down. His steely body first totters

like a toddler or a geriatric trying

to walk without a Zimmer frame; then collapses

into a mess of broken metal on the ground,

one leg snapping clean off, scooting away across

the cobblestones. The chairman’s brittle dismembered body

is then drawn by the cheering crowd on ropes

and dunked with curiously unceremonious ceremony

into the waters of the dock that wait to reclaim their son.”

*

The Chancellor lets out a sudden gruff grunt in sleep,

as if annoyed by some unwelcome interruption of his repose.

A punctured vein provides the brief bliss of relief and he falls back

into the calming arms of nothingness from whence his ever-living

soul once issued forth at the beginning of all time.

The Chancellor and the Songstress Part 4

The Chancellor’s Second Song

The Little Drummer Boy

The Chancellor coughs and clears his throat, his glare piercing

the nebulized haze of air that hovers unstirred

over intensive care. “An anarchist is always

waiting unknown around the corner,” hoarsely

he declares, as a phlebotomist in makeup

vampire-pale withdraws his blood, before viffing away

to deal with other care-related chores. “Hooded

with Balaklava, wielding a brick of Semtex,

suspect device, tossing a cocktail Molotoff,

or cowering far off behind a screen of muffled  

sniper fire, the lurking dissident unleashes

a hail of terror on the convertible

the chauffeur is wrestling to put into reverse

en route to visit victims in the Sarajevo

hospital.

                  The nihilist was ‘one of our own’

this time, clutching a cluster bomb and pistol in

his grimy hands. Prince takes archduke. Promoted pawns

advance upon Tsar and Kaiser till the final

zugzwang brings battle to a halt with clang

of armistice bells and plaintive horn lamenting

the muddy dead and mass of living corpses propped

on invalid sticks, minds addled by the bullets

and ideology in the calm of silenced guns.

*

Stick tucked in crook of arm of well-creased khaki coat   

to look the part, the little drummer boy set out

from homely farm in rolling fields of green to fight

the Bulgar, Turk and Hun in foreign land. Out of

compassion and conviction vis a vis the status quo,

a pragmatism whose eyes were not occluded

by stars. No unicorns or rainbows ever graced

his sturdy vision of a just conservative world.

Enamored not of Russia, France or surly Serb,

no milksop sobbing over violated rights

on Belgian soil, he doggedly did his bit.

*

Smyrna and trench foot now gladly forgot,

his lawn bestrewn with daisies and children’s toys,

gourds gaining fertile girth on his allotted site,

he thrives in a tied cottage, thatched the old-fashioned

way, saluting king, flag, country, and soldiers

on parade. This is his duty and his station,

price of his creature comforts, calmer-down of souls.

And for remembrance, there is a hunk of metal

in every park and city square; and to this end

also in every corner of this world, there is

a little patch of dug up dirt that is forever

England’s.”

                        The chancellor, figuratively speaking,

lays down his waving flag and turns over to sleep.

The songstress, long since a-slumber, snores away. The beeps

of EKGs and gasps of ventilation pumps furnish

the doleful nightshift punctuation of the ward.   

The Chancellor and The Songstress Part 3

The Second Song of the Songstress

The Balloon Men

Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt?

 

The lipsticked smile of the songstress grew and grew

until it filled the whole of ICU.

In helium-pitched voice, the giantess

began a caberet to sing. “Mein Kanzler,

since you now have ample time to spare,

I have a little tale about a balloon to tell.

A moral tale of bulldog spirit and derring-do

no less, Mein Kanzler, specially for you.

‘Twas in the days of yore when gentleman

adventurers took to the skies in huge un-navigable

balloons filled with hot air. Neither the dirigiste state

of Napoleon the Third nor Paris Communards

could ground the exploits of those valiant entrepreneurs.

Up, up into the clouds they flew, like Captain Kirk,

or Socrates in the Nephelai. Away over

the poppy-littered fields of foreign lands they soared,

until that basketful of portly gents began

to sink under the surfeit of their weight

into a no-mans-land. The natives shook their spears

in fearful anger at these floundering Übermenschen

in their devilish machines. Our heroes therefore,

calculists to a man, booted the mechanism

of their brains right up as far as it would go,

and tossed the weakest and least useful of their flock,

measured by sure parameters, out onto

the points of waiting weapons below. The beery,

bald, bigoted, and flat-footed, and the oafish

bully, along with moaning minnies, one by one

were coldly offered to the merciless justice

meted out by laws of gravity and natural

selection of the herd, until there were none left,

Mein Kanzler, only the pretty colored fabric

of the balloon to flit deflating on the air

and sigh out its last breath. And there the story ends.

There is, however, just a little postscript

to this tale. For those upon the ground, their minds

befuddled by the ill-boding omen in the sky

and star-men tumbling earthwards out of heaven

like rain, turned, in their warlike superstition,

upon each other’s throats in mutually-assured

self-slaughter, leaving the land a waste of ash

ready for nature to begin her work afresh.

I walk, a modern Noah, in the mind’s eye

of my childlike imagination around

this post-apocalyptic scene devoid

of human stain and chance upon a single

multicolored bloom that’s not yet gone and offer

that pretty fading flower, Dear Chancellor, to you.

The Chancellor and the Songstress Part 2

The Chancellor’s First Song

Hymn to the Flora of the World and the Rights of Spring

“In the last analysis, man may be defined as a parasite on a vegetable.” – Hans Zinsser, ‘Rats, Lice and History’

The chancellor lulled, truth sprouts uncommonly

from his frosty lips, as vernal snowdrops

urge their way peeping through the winter slush.

“I recognize that hippie chick…” he thinks, “playing

the Centre Pompidou… or maybe Piccadilly

Circus begging for change…” Clearing his throat, he pulls

himself up to his full height in bed and wags

an oximeter-clad finger at the songstress

and croons a ditty of the days of Ancient Greece,

the finest flourish of democracy and all

the heroes of the Peloponnesian War. “For

victory will always be our happy lot. For

even when the Dardanelles were all a-flower

with the ship-wrecked corpses of our mates, home loomed

upon the skyline and beckoned us to it. For

Spring will always win. Lambs will be born and blossom

grace the boughs of trees lining the grassy verges

of suburban streets. And speechless babes will chortle

blithely in their cribs as frisky mums and dads busy

themselves about their reproductive and productive work.

For life shall always triumph over decay. See

how abandoned kitchen gardens cover with weeds

and go to seed. How wildlife and flora swiftly

overrun the tombstones of the sleeping dead. This

whole wide wild world is bursting at the seams

with its vitality, begging us cultivate it.

*

In May, the swaying umbelliferous florets

of the wild garlic flavor the springy breeze.

And fields of buttercups and Queen Anne’s Lace swaddle

the landscape with a crocheted sea of feisty biomass.

For spring will always out and hope will always stir

in male and female hearts alike across this storied realm.

The fairy flowers in their hats of powder blue

are dancing in the woodlands to the sound of little bells,

as toads croak out their oracles atop their stools

of death-cap and destroying angel. Foxglove

and nightshade fill the pharmacy of mother nature

with their remedies. For life will never be vanquished,

and all the energy expended and labor

done by women and by men to coax it gently

from a wilderness of tares and stony ground shall

be redoubled in return, like light reflected

from the mirrored surface of a pool. Spring will be

sprung again and hopes will up, and summer will be

a-coming in again in time. Light will prevail over

the darkening cloud of bonfire smoke and horrid night

and celebrate its victory with rockets and

Catherine wheels and Roman candles. And, in due course,

the offspring of our battered family tree shall

reap a mighty crop of rights and fruits abundant

as the stars that speck the sky. And we shall heap high

harvest festival fruits on altars in our churches

to Our Lord, table legs bowed under the weighty

glut of King Edward potatoes, Royal Gala

apples, Imperator carrots, and Victoria plums;

teasels nodding assent in quickening autumn squalls

under the pendulous berries that bless our forests in fall.

Thus do we forfend evil and hail the bonhomous

equinox for one and all,” the Chancellor concludes.

*

After this bluster of abundance of all bar

caution, the Chancellor steps down from his soap box

and confidently cedes the disinfected floor.

The Chancellor and the Songstress Part 1

The Songstress’s First Song

The Tale of the Lily-White Riotess

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you’re twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind

–The Velvet Underground

The songstress spies the chancellor through lavish

eyelashes across the ward and chuckles

throatily. Pensive she lifts her lyre and gently

plucks one string. And then another. Till

the Chancellor, sedated by the tinkling music,

is biddable and fit to hear her song. I sing

a tale, she strums, of anarchy and charm,

in London town, in times of old, long gone.

*

Threadneedle Street winds under the tall windows

of buildings mirroring the sky, the Thames

drooling its filth into the Serpentine, as fires

of fury cast their messages of demolition

and despair across the inner cities of the land.

Jah vents His rage against the whores of Babylon

like a volcano in flame; the flower

of Empire’s youth, hopes trashed, rise up tsunami-like

to surf the drudgery and downpression of the man,

in search of greener grass and bluer skies to drug

themselves and drag themselves up out of bed

to draw the dole. Punks, heads in bags, and ranting drunks

loll about idly in the streets between chippies

and pubs, bookies and shops purveying cut-price fags

and ale. Yours truly, your heroine, among them,

fallen, into this man-created world.

*

An ash of grief settles on Westminster, Whitehall

and No. 10. Trafalgar totters at the tapping

of her blue suede shoes; her ballet daps flatten the dome

of the millennium; postcoital smokers

aimlessly salute the sultry moon and ghosts

waltz on the rust belt that unites our ruined

kingdom. Usurpers one and all, bereft

of all belonging and worth, all migrants now,

we sing and dance and spit, and play the bass

guitar as London burns. Seek refuge from ourselves.

The gutter beckons its kith and kin. Like rainwater,

it rushes zealously down the drain. The brutal

cut of this urban fabric is way too drab

and desolate without an acid tab to take

the edge off it and smack to bed you down for night

and uppers in the light of dawn to pick you up

out of the public bog, as Venus in a fuzzy

blur rises in smoggy mourning sky and brassy

Mercury flits around the sun and Mars is on

the warpath once again. Pretty and pink and round

the bend, and down the rabbit hole, she goes into

a coma on the Lambeth walk.

*

The songstress curtsies,

tiptoes in kinky boots from London Eye

to topmost floor of Gherkin and of Shard

across the Garden Bridge, landing to free the ghosts

of those unjustly done to death by Tudor queens

and kings. Smoke in her eyes, she showers the passersby

on Tower Bridge with flowers and tears of gas and chucks

up lunch and Bloody Marys in the saline waters

of the murky estuary. By night, she tumbles

down the up-escalator at Waterloo,

as yobs in drainpipe trousers kick the living

daylights out of some passing sod who’s done no wrong

down in the tube station at midnight.

For the Love of Prepositions Part 12 …in the time of coronavirus

In this time of global pestilence and need for isolation, many people have understandably been posting on social media about immunity. The preposition they use after this word or after the corresponding adjective ‘immune’ varies. Sometimes it is ‘to’, sometimes ‘from’.

I am not a prescriptive grammarian and the purpose of these blogposts is never to police the way people employ language but to reflect on the social meaning of shifting language norms… In this case, however, the precise use of terms may determine the way people perceive a lethal disease and behave in response to it. There may therefore be some justification for greater caution in this specific instance.

‘Immune to’ and ‘immune from’ are both correct but they have different meanings.

The first is a medical term. It means that your body has developed antibodies that may protect you from contracting a disease. Usually, you have developed these antibodies as a result of already having been exposed to infection. Of course, like many technical terms, it can also be used figuratively.

[1] I am immune to criticism

means ‘you can criticize me, but it doesn’t upset me’.

‘Immune from’ by contrast is a legal term. It means that a judge has decreed that you are exempt from something, usually some kind of burden or penalty. If a witness is ‘immune from prosecution,’ it means that they cannot be charged with a crime, even if they have in fact committed one. This may be the case in plea deals, for example. Again, the term can be used figuratively.

[2] I am immune from criticism

means ‘people aren’t allowed to criticize me’.

There is clearly a big difference between statement [1] and statement [2]. The latter suggests arrogance or unfair privilege; the former indicates forbearance.

The legal use of the term is much more ancient. It goes back to Latin and Roman Law. Immunology, is, unfortunately, a field of knowledge that is much younger than the legal profession. It is therefore understandable that laypeople tend to use ‘from’ in all contexts and think legalistically about issues that have nothing to do with the law. This is especially likely to occur if these issues involve relatively novel complex concepts, such as immune responses and antigens. However, in a medical context, use of ‘from’ may be misleading… fatally misleading in fact…

No-one is immune from a virus, even if they are immune to it. To suggest the former is possible at best invites complacency, at worst justifies eugenics. To expect the former invites mistrust with regard to vaccination. Both are dangerous attitudes in a time of crisis.

Of course, few who use ‘immune from’ inappropriately in this way have any conscious malign intent. However, over time, persistent repetition of such imprecise use of language nudges people unconsciously as a herd in the direction of complacency, callousness, mistrust, and lack of care.

People who do not care about language probably do not care about people either. This is a malady as insidious as any disease.

There is, however, another preposition that is used with ‘immune’, albeit far less frequently. This alternative is ‘against’.

Use of ‘against’ in this context could be conceived as wrong, if we define ‘wrong’ linguistically-speaking to mean ‘insufficiently frequent to be considered standard usage’. If, however, we define linguistically wrong as meaning ‘lacking due precision,’ there are perhaps good logical arguments in favor of a shift to ‘against’ in medical contexts. It is, therefore, no surprise that use of the phrase ‘immunity against’ is more common among scientists, especially those whose native language is not English, for whom the turn of phrase does not sound ‘strange’.  ‘Against’ is also more common with the abstract noun than with the adjective. This again suggests that it is preferred in more technical contexts.

‘Against’ has the advantage of echoing the Latin prefix used in scientific neologisms such as antibody and antigen. It also suggests the metaphor of an ongoing battle that may be won or lost, which is more appropriate than that of inviolable protection from… It would not be the first time that non-native speakers taught us how best to use the English language.

Appendix

A Brief Statistical Survey

I checked the frequency of occurrence of all three prepositions with the words ‘immune’ and ‘immunity’ in texts accessible through Google. To simplify the search, I restricted it to ‘chickenpox,’ in order to rule out non-medical uses and avoid ongoing controversies surrounding Covid-19.

The results were as follows.

  immune immunity
to 13700 (73%) 15300 (66%)
from 4510 (24%) 3290 (14%)
against 648 (3%) 4720 (20%)

 

Afterthought

Someone asked me about ‘for’. To my mind, this sounds very strange with the adjective but not with the abstract noun. I, therefore, checked the figures for this preposition. ‘Immune for’ registers a frequency of 10 (0.0%); ‘immunity for’ registers 1,900 (7.5%) in the context searched for above. This confirms my instinct and justifies not (yet) considering these as forms in standard use.

I will in future post long overdue discussions of ‘to’, ‘for’ and ‘of’ as part of this ongoing series on prepositions and my love of them.

The Chancellor and The Songstress — Prologue

[My first post of this year is the Prologue to a new poem titled The Chancellor and the Songstress, even though I have not yet published the concluding sections of 200. Some of the characters in this new poem are recycled from 200 Part 25 The Chancellor and the Fox https://oudeis2005.wordpress.com/2019/10/30/200-section-25-the-chancellor-and-the-fox/ ]

 

The Chancellor and the Songstress

“Some there were who conceived that to live moderately and keep oneself from all excess was the best defense against such a danger; wherefore, making up their company, they lived removed from every other and shut themselves up in those houses where none had been sick and where living was best; and there, using very temperately of the most delicate viands and the finest wines and eschewing all incontinence, they abode with music and such other diversions as they might have, never suffering themselves to speak with any nor choosing to hear any news from without of death or sick folk. Others, inclining to the contrary opinion, maintained that to carouse and make merry and go about singing and frolicking and satisfy the appetite in everything possible and laugh and scoff at whatsoever befell was a very certain remedy for such an ill.”

–Giovanni Boccaccio The Decameron

Prologue

On this two thousand and twentieth fruition

of the incarnation of our beloved Lord,

two vans of St. John speed up the London strand

depositing their precious charge of moribund

souls at purgatory’s gates, one trailed by gloating

paparazzi, flanked by a pomp of police, the other

now relatively free of fame accompanied

by a small coterie of faithful followers,

some young enough only to know her from YouTube.

The thronging streets mostly deserted by a people

affrighted by the irksome pestilence sent

by the motions of the stars to try the iniquity

of men, into the hands of sisters of mercy

and of morphine are delivered the pair

into the labyrinthine hospital named for

a skeptical apostle, their fate unfathomable

as the destination of the eddying waters

of the tidal river that staggers between city

and sea, unsure whether to stay or go.

 

How Not to Mis-Elect a Government

Misinformation is rife these days. This is nothing new.

However, far from throwing a spanner in the works of a hitherto transparent and orderly process, the Internet and social media are now exposing the soft underbelly of a system that has always been elitist, fundamentally mendacious and flawed.

I cast my mind back 36 years to the first time I ever voted. It was 1983. I was nineteen years old. Britain had just been through a brutal and, in my view, unnecessary military conflict with the Argentinean junta in the South Atlantic. The Conservative government of the time, despite grueling austerity at home and race riots on the streets, was basking in the glory of this tin-pot military victory, which was broadly and uncritically reported in the press. Meanwhile, most newspapers launched a vicious often deceitful propaganda campaign against the opposition Labour party, tarring it as pacifistic and unpatriotic. Anyone who opposed the war, for whatever reason, had good reason to be fearful. It was not uncommon to be beaten up by gangs of right-wing thugs for espousing such views.

One year later, I was fully politicized by the year-long miners’ strike. It was not the strike per se that motivated me—I did not live in a mining community—but rather the obviously duplicitous propaganda that was put about by the Conservative government of the time through its loyal press. This hurt my innate sense of fairness and truth.

In those days, there were only two TV channels in the UK and these were routinely accused of bias by the government and/or opposition despite bending over backwards to be impartial or at least non-partisan. I was 18-years-old when Channel 4 was launched as the first genuine alternative to the state-run BBC and the private TV stations funded by commercials, known collectively as ITV. I remember what a breath of fresh air it was to have a novel more nuanced perspective coming from Channel 4 at that time.

Nearly four decades later, it is hard to imagine that sense of excitement at the appearance of a new TV channel and a new news outlet. Nowadays, we are spoilt for choice, not only by ‘official’ 24-hour streaming news, but also by unofficial publications put out by all and sundry on YouTube. Few of these propose nuanced or fresh points of view. In fact, many are cynically designed to perpetuate pre-existing prejudices or purvey conspiracies and outrageous opinions to a more mainstream audience.

Such is the starkness of this contrast that it is easy to imagine that there has been some enormous rift in the social fabric. But, in fact, no such thing has occurred. The Internet and social media have merely accelerated an age-old process and made manifest a phenomenon that had long lain hidden, albeit in plain sight, before the advent of this new communications age.

And although this new online discourse may provide somewhat greater scope for proselytizing and the persistence of insular mentalities, it is substantially no different from the kind of discourse that was previously bandied about in living rooms and saloon bars across the country, often spurred by spurious opinion pieces in widely-read highly partisan tabloid newspapers.

In fact, by exposing the true ugliness underlying the process by which ideologies are created, social media present us, for the first time in human history, with an opportunity to truly change ourselves for the better this time and embark on a more enlightened age.

The role of social media in bringing about the worldwide surge in populist politics over the past decade is vastly exaggerated. This is a pity, because the scapegoating of Twitter or Facebook distracts attention from the real causes of the current state of anomie: the moral bankruptcy of the right and the failure of the left to put forward proposals that rectify the shortcomings inherent in globalization.

Instead of concentrating its efforts on this, the left kow-towed to neoliberal economic consensus, ignored those excluded by the global economic system and focused its attention instead on identity politics, envronmental issues and minority rights. As a result, it alienated a large portion of those who used to support it, making these hapless individuals easy pickings for a newly emboldened extremist right. The failure of the left to create a hegemonic movement encompassing all those excluded by late capitalist society is a tragedy whose consequences have yet to fully play themselves out.

It is perhaps, however, still not too late to pull back from the abyss.

This Thursday, British citizens eligible to vote will go to the polls to elect a government for the fourth time this decade. As a disenfranchised expat, I will yet again not be among them, but I will, as has become something of a tradition on this blog, give my own views as to how I believe Britons should cast their vote.

On few occasions has the mendacity of one party been so transparent as it is today. Thanks to the Internet, it is relatively easy to correct Tory lies with a quick online search. I urge people to do this and not to vote for the Conservative or Brexit parties at this election on the grounds that they are morally unqualified to govern.

On the other hand, I understand the wariness of voters with regard to the Labour Party, which disappointed its natural constituency so bitterly when it was in power in the late 1990s and 2000s. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has, however, shown that a truly radical progressive approach to politics is not only still possible but in fact more urgently needed in this cynical age and that such proposals can be presented in a pragmatic fashion that stands up to the intense scrutiny that a world awash with mass data entails.

In this election, therefore, I urge people to vote Labour or to vote tactically for other parties or independent candidates in constituencies where these stand a better chance of ousting representatives of the Conservative Party.

On previous occasions I have urged British citizens to vote rationally, each according to his or her own interests, and I have not publicly favored any one particular party. On this occasion, however, it is in no-one’s interest to perpetuate the rule of the current UK government and I therefore urge everyone to vote for opposition candidates.

 

 

 

200 Section 27 Zhenya does Yellowstone

Zhenya puts her foot down and drives through a

storm of tears across the state boundaries;

over canyons, mountains, deserts, plains

into the great volcanic caldera,

and the national park sprawling over it

like a gecko in the sun. Sulfurous

jets eject faithfully from steaming mud

into the sultry mid-year air. Zhenya

totters drearily round the boiling springs,

wishing a fissure open up the very

earth beneath and swallow her. She wills

the planet’s crust eruct its magma up

over the capped tourists with their offspring

taking smirking selfies with their cams, up

over the troupes of snowflake college kids

led by ageing hippy geology

lecturers, up over the brand new-age

vegan hipsters with their healing crystals and

Sanskrit tattoos, out over the misfit

loner out on a day-trip dressed in black

and tan packing heat, up and out over

the pairs of hands-held lovers peering deep

transfixed into the pitchy craters of

each other’s souls, over the sing-song of

drilling marines and the swing of

fracking machines, over cradles rocked by

saddened lullabying postpartum moms,

over the half-lives of exurbia,

and freeways and diners and shopping malls

and up on out over the out-of-date

nuclear waste storage facilities, on

over the wily old crones and brash young

bloods in Congress, cooing over donors

in lobbies, up out over the copper

lady in the harbor, seawards; over

lost Atlantis, scooping up one full half

a hemisphere of oh so weary, not

so brand-new civilized world off along

in the mournful ashfall of its uplifting

wake of petrifying cloud. Would the world

end thus, Zhenya wonders dreaming and throws

herself in.

200 Section 24 Part 2 Zhenya Arrested

Zhenya Arrested

Zhenya is on the landline

in the drugstore bothering

emergency services.

“I love this fucking country,”

she pleads. “Just give me meds.”

“I’ll fuck. I’ll do whatever

you like. Any quid pro quo,

she begs, her palms clasped tightly

in urgent prayer together.

The druggist calls the cops and

cops promptly roll up. Her cell

has dropped out of her jeans shorts

pocket and been buzzing off

jumpily across the floor

for some time now. The cops stoop

down to pick it up. “Kseniya’s

been calling. Wanna call her

back?” “Whatever,” Zhenya snaps

back in a huff, and she is

briskly cuffed and marched outside,

one glum eye on the workers

towing her hire car away.

 

Zhenya’s Prison Cell Lament

I know the sort who lock me up;

I see the violence in their shaded eyes.

I’ve seen the refugees on plastic boats

ferried across the seas. I’ve seen

my sisters sold and raped

and babies tossed out of the float

into the Mediterranean Sea.

I know the ways of pimps and pigs

and see them in your cold unflinching eyes.

Just get me drugged

and slap a ticket on me

and send me off along my merry way.