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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Apology to Jeffers

by Jared Carter



Better invent than suffer: imagine victims
Lest your own flesh be chosen the agonist . . .



                     Robinson Jeffers,
                       “Apology for Bad Dreams”



Ah, but I have had enough of your beauty,
            your granite headlands’ iterative shuddering,
            your solitary watch above the sea’s dark curve.
Still, in the east, Venus emerges in nacreous weeds,
            trailing soft garments, still you look out on
            indecipherable gyre of hawk and buzzard.
But we are focused elsewhere now, we gather
            by no rock-walled river, no desolate shingle.
            We hover instead before lighted screens.
We no longer experience beauty within, but rather
            confirmation of narcissism.  It is our own gaze,
            looking back, that works its transient charms.
Nor is there beauty in the pole-barns strung together
            out of wire mesh.  They have been engineered,
            made efficient.  There is only cage after cage.
Once you spoke of the grandeur of savage places,
            of Aldebaran, and the surpassing splendor
            of Andromeda, and their unending majesty.
Man is nothing alongside them, you proclaimed.
            He is insect, he is worm, he is bacteria.
            And now I am tempted to believe you.
About depravity you were right, about the horror
            of two wars, and a thousand little wars,
            wars swarming out of earth’s proud flesh.
But you were wrong about beauty.  For it, too,
            can be cuffed and led away, and stubbed out.
            It too can be submitted to profit-and-loss.
And when that happens there is only desiccation,
            only a great darkness amid artificial light,
            and murder, though small, committed by millions.
You were prophetic about the horrors still to come,
            that humans would turn and rend themselves.
            But you did not understand the craving to rend.
Yet all of this is hidden away, far from your shores,
            your headlands, your single promontory
            lost in the swell of stars and the night wind.
We live now so that the privileged might be insulated,
            and never encounter the blasted appendage
            or the surge of innards suddenly skewered.
We conduct our affairs far from the lone dog barking
            amid the ruins, we have outsourced the sound
            of the rifle butt banging against the door.
In this way the privileged may linger by their pools,
            or stay cocooned in air-conditioned rooms,
            unvisited by conscience or by troubling dreams.
Ah, but I have had enough of your beauty,
            your granite headlands’ iterative shuddering,
            your solitary watch above the sea’s dark curve.
Still, in the east, Venus emerges in nacreous weeds,
            trailing soft garments, still you look out on
            indecipherable gyre of hawk and buzzard.
But we are focused elsewhere now, we gather
            by no rock-walled river, no desolate shingle.
            We hover instead before lighted screens.
We no longer experience beauty within, but rather
            confirmation of narcissism.  It is our own gaze,
            looking back, that works its transient charms.
Nor is there beauty in the pole-barns strung together
            out of wire mesh.  They have been engineered,
            made efficient.  There is only cage after cage.
Once you spoke of the grandeur of savage places,
            of Aldebaran, and the surpassing splendor
            of Andromeda, and their unending majesty.
Man is nothing alongside them, you proclaimed.
            He is insect, he is worm, he is bacteria.
            And now I am tempted to believe you.
About depravity you were right, about the horror
            of two wars, and a thousand little wars,
            wars swarming out of earth’s proud flesh.
But you were wrong about beauty.  For it, too,
            can be cuffed and led away, and stubbed out.
            It too can be submitted to profit-and-loss.
And when that happens there is only desiccation,
            only a great darkness amid artificial light
            and murder, though small, committed by millions.
You were prophetic about the horrors still to come,
            that humans would turn and rend themselves.
            But you did not understand the craving to rend.
Yet all of this is hidden away, far from your shores,
            your headlands, your single promontory
            lost in the swell of stars and the night wind.
We live now so that the privileged might be insulated,
            and never encounter the blasted appendage
            or the surge of innards suddenly skewered.
We conduct our affairs far from the lone dog barking
            amid the ruins, we have outsourced the sound
            of the rifle butt banging against the door.
In this way the privileged may linger by their pools,
            or stay cocooned in air-conditioned rooms,
            unvisited by conscience or by troubling dreams.

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