From Lines by Kenneth Patchen

 

#1

Ah, you puritan, you political zealot, you religious zealot,
with your credo, your mindfulness, your anthology, you zealot
of cocktails, of running, of telling people what to think, with your
secret art-redefining event in a disused water processing
plant on the outskirts of a town no one really lives in. Well —
no one you know. And you’re such a lifeless, clever little
phony, you wouldn’t really call that living.

You fake news, you fanatical suburbanite, you literalist,
you plodding proceduralist, you mildly racist structuralist, you
sexist whitist, you sexist even though you’re a woman. You
materialist monolectician, you define yourself by your car
while the seawater rises around us, you think ‘creativity’
is different from everything else, you buy coloured pens
to make mind maps of other people’s ideas.

You think creativity is a different activity from everything else,
you clever, lifeless little coward, my little phony, you professional
partisan with no ideas; you think restlessness is energy.
Look around you:those leaves attached to the trees, so casual,
but pummelled see-through by the witlessly conventional wind.
And those striving engines that force the numberless wheels
to spin. Just noise! Do you think they know what they’re doing?

You tired, sad, bedtime little phony, you namby-pamby,
fake reader, you’re terrified of caring! Worse, you’re terrified
of seeming to care. But that ball you set in motion just rolls faster
the further it goes down that hill, and at the bottom of that hill,
at the very bottom, is the real, the genuine you, the one
who was born with nothing to do but care, it was all you had,
caring and crying and milk, learning to see your own reflection,

and you had nothing to do but cling to your mother, you charlatan,
you coward baby, you name-calling egotist, because your mother
was real and she was milk, and sleep because sleep is real, and learn
to be real because that was the only way forward, the only way
a baby can grow, and learn to tell the difference because only real people
can teach you, you somnambulist; your spine and your head were both
straighter then. That’s what it was like before, before all this deciding.

 

 

 

 

#15

Oh, there’s always another viewpoint.
Take that leaf,
         for example: the way it
dangles
         on that tree. It sits
in judgement on what it sees; there is
this commonality
                                 between us and it.
But the autumn leaf is emblazoned
                                 with spring’s belief.
A man lives down here, a man with a
spade in his head
His name is Doug.
                                 Doug dug a dugout
one day down where the leaf can’t see —
home for himself
                                 and for the wretched
skeleton on the rock
                                 who only sits
and thinks ‘rock’.
                                 Meanwhile the middle
class was sitting on its fat
paid-for sofa thinking — well, we know
what they’re
what we’re
                                 thinking.
The body of the living beats in my hand:
perennial and schemeless.

 

 

 

 

#25

There, at the entrance to the other world,
every prospect looked tired.
He wanted to throw something
so he picked up a baseball.
It looked tired. The world, it said,
is too old. Too old  for a home
run, it said, and added
you can’t run home.

Whatever home is. Do you know, Mister?
No one knows what’s important any more,
not here at the border
with the underworld where
there is no currency that’s valid.
There’s only what
was always important
[This he knew without being told]
and and and AND.
The rest [he told the ball, looking
right in its limp
stitches] is nonsense
and treason. Just ask

the millions who wait without light.
It was the last full measure
of devotion. There
at the entrance to another world
he looked at the sea of bodies
and thought to himself,
they look tired. And with that
he threw the old tired baseball up
into the air, the last air,
the air before the end,
where it ascended
and ascended and never came down
as long as he kept looking.

 

 


[Katy Evans-Bush’s latest poetry publication is Broken Cities, from Smith|Doorstop, and her essay collection, Forgive the Language, is published by Penned in the Margins. A polemical memoir on hidden homelessness is forthcoming from CB Editions. She lives in Kent where she is a freelance poetry tutor and editor.]

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