The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Sunday


The Ballad of the Girly Man
By Charles Bernstein


        —For Felix

The truth is hidden in a veil of tears
The scabs of the mourners grow thick with fear
A democracy once proposed
Is slimmed and grimed again
By men with brute design
Who prefer hate to rime

Complexity's a four-letter word
For those who count by nots and haves
Who revile the facts of Darwin
To worship the truth according to Halliburton

The truth is hidden in a veil of tears
The scabs of the mourners grow thick with fear

Thugs from hell have taken freedom's store
The rich get richer, the poor die quicker
& the only god that sanctions that
Is no god at all but rhetorical crap

So be a girly man
& take a gurly stand
Sing a gurly song
& dance with a girly sarong

Poetry will never win the war on terror
But neither will error abetted by error

We girly men are not afraid
Of uncertainty or reason or interdependence
We think before we fight, then think some more
Proclaim our faith in listening, in art, in compromise

So be a girly man
& sing this gurly song
Sissies & proud
That we would never lie our way to war

The girly men killed christ
So the platinum DVD says
The Jews & blacks & gays
Are still standing in the way

We're sorry we killed your god
A long, long time ago
But each dead solider in Iraq
Kills the god inside, the god that's still not dead.

The truth is hidden in a veil of tears
The scabs of the mourners grow thick with fear

So be a girly man
& sing a gurly song
Take a gurly stand
& dance with a girly sarong

Thugs from hell have taken freedom's store
The rich get richer, the poor die quicker
& the only god that sanctions that
Is no god at all but rhetorical crap

So be a girly man
& sing this gurly song
Sissies & proud
That we would never lie our way to war

The scabs of the mourners grow thick with fear
The truth is hidden in a veil of tears

--------

From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World. "Charles Bernstein writes both prose and poetry about poetry, sometimes brilliantly, in ways calculated to upset the middlebrow and thwart the bland," writes Pinsky. "The more you like the poetic equivalent of a nice tune, easy to hum, the more Bernstein means to disrupt your complacency. Nearly all his poems are about poetry. Some are mere donnish jokes, but sometimes his noodling gets at moral meanings on a broad social range." Bernstein takes the title of both the poem above and his latest book from Arnold Schwarzenegger's use of the phrase, "a comic cliché, repeatedly echoed, [that] no longer sounds offensive -- drained of resonance. The ugly, bullying term has been dulled by attention so automatic that it amounts to inattention."

Bernstein, adds Pinsky, "does the opposite of that, peeling away customary dullness...exposes it afresh, and dances a savage, mock-innocent burlesque with it, full of repetitions, corrective ridicule and parody, including the hurdy-gurdy refrain." The term "gurly," explains Pinsky, "is an old Scots word for 'growling,' and 'gurl' is an old spelling of a word that once meant both 'girl' and 'boy.' The poem's outspoken political language is sneakily mock-naive. Bernstein deliberately writes with the crudity of a beginner, and with an ironic distance from that crudity, though he means everything he says. That's a complicated process, and a complicated conception, but the poem's actual lines are immediate and -- phrase by phrase -- uncomplicated: 'A democracy once proposed/ Is slimmed and grimed again/ By men with brute design/ Who prefer hate to rime.'"

Book World this week also has two cover stories on hip-hop and and popular culture, plus a review of Elisabeth Ladenson's Dirt for Art's Sake, a book about literary trials from Madame Bovary to Lolita which of course includes Margaret Anderson's trial for publishing Ulysses in The Little Review (Ladenson's book's title is taken from the later trial in the 1930s, when Random House won the right to publish the novel in the US since the judge found no "dirt for dirt's sake" in it). And there's a new translation of The Aeneid reviewed, too.

It was much warmer than expected -- not sure precisely how warm, but at least high '50s -- so after older son got home from working at Hebrew school and younger son finished a top secret project he was working on involving a shoebox, some Legos and a photo of the cats, we went to Brookside Gardens at Wheaton Regional Park. (Do other people's children create creatures out of Legos, give them names like "Bitey," then leave them lying on the floor so that when they are accidentally stepped on by cats or brothers, they must cry out, "You killed Bitey!" and sulk?) Brookside was lovely. We went first to the nature center, where all the bees were out for the season and the snakes were hiding under paper but there were turtles and toads and fish. Then we went through the greenhouses, which are having a contemporary sculpture show and weren't particularly warmer than the air outside, with a lot of tulips and amaryllis and the permanent big tropical greens. We also walked around the gardens outside, where there was still ice on the ponds but there were also ducks and geese waddling around, and many of the lights from the winter light show had not yet been taken down.


"I Love New York" by Irma Spencer in the greenhouse at Brookside Gardens' annual art show in Wheaton Regional Park. (2005 photos here.)


"Male Torso" and "Female Torso" by Betty Figlure.


"Wildernest" by Gitte Kolind.


"Free Bird" by Eric Borg & Mark White. (Son was not pleased that it had apparently caught a snake to eat!)


And sparowe, this one is for you: "White Knight Charger" by William Ackerman.
</center>

Since we were up in Wheaton, we stopped at Rodman's and got P&G Tips, shortbread and some fruit, then came home and had tacos for dinner. Spent the evening watching Young Frankenstein on cable and howling; I don't think that one's quite as magnificent as Blazing Saddles and High Anxiety, maybe because I'm more familiar with Westerns and Hitchcock than classic horror movies, but between "Abby Normal" and "Destiny! Destiny! No escaping that for me!" and Frau Blücher and the horse, "Could be raining" and the enormous schwanzstucker and "Puttin' on the Ritz," there are still a great many hysterical moments!

Sunday we may be going to see Epic Movie as the kids are demanding it...so much for my chances of seeing Dreamgirls before the Academy Awards (because my next grownup movie is definitely Notes on a Scandal). But this is all dependent on it not snowing overmuch!
Subscribe

  • Poem for Wednesday and Great Falls Cardinals

    The Bird Her Punctual Music Brings By Emily Dickinson The Bird her punctual music brings And lays it in its place— Its place is in the Human…

  • Poem for Tuesday and Carderock

    A wounded Deer – leaps highest – By Emily Dickinson A wounded Deer – leaps highest – I've heard the Hunter tell – 'Tis but the ecstasy of death…

  • Poem for Monday and Great Falls Sunday

    The Daisy Follows Soft The Sun By Emily Dickinson The Daisy follows soft the Sun— And when his golden walk is done— Sits shyly at his feet—…

  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 0 comments