There Is No Truth: Selling Cans of Your Own Poop, Etc.
I've been reorganizing my library. You know, according to the philosophy of library organizing that I outlined last year. I've stumbled across a couple of things I had been missing, or completely forgotten about. But perhaps the thing I am happiest to have found again is a poem I wrote over ten years ago. I went looking for it in my poetry blog archives a while back, but came up empty. Happily, and strangely, I found the hard copy I'd made to read from in rhetoric class at New St. Andrews College back in the day, in a French textbook I don't remember ever using.
If there were any subsequent edits, alas, they are lost to posterity forever. But I here submit to you this version, and as long as this blog shall last, I shall be able to go back and find this thing again. You know, every five years I have to go back and look for my more epic poems, give them a little re-read. Sharpen my craft and all.
This poem is all about symbols and meaning. So it's pretty deep and whatnot. It is a retelling of the story of Phinehas, who stayed the plague by running his spear through a child of Israel and a Midianitish woman as they rutted in a tent in the sight of all Israel. But this time the unfaithfulness of Israel is expressed in a manner more like unto our own age's. They agree, along with Satan in the garden and Jackson Pollock in upstate New York, that what God hath said doesn't really mean what he hath said. So then you end up canning your own shit and calling it art; that sort of thing starts plagues, people. Don't think it doesn't.
At long last, ladies and gentlemen, your poem:
The Faithfulness of Images
Ceci n'est pas une pipe
Most artists suffer from worldly malaise,
They feel they've got to get out of this place:
If it's the last thing they ever do,
If it takes selling old cans of their poo.
The meaning of things, if read like they're plain,
Points to a truth, and that'd be insane.
So a pipe's not a pipe, it must be a peter,
And if you write poems there must be no meter.
I'll tell you a story, but change it a titch,
So it will be modern, and relevant, and sic.
The Lay of Young Phinehas, now that's a good story,
Although at the end it gets a bit gory:
At Shittim in Moab was a colony of arts;
It attracted all of the Moabite tarts.
They called out to every Israelite male:
"Come on, don't be so uptight and stale."
"The thing these days is to play the whore
And bow down before the Baal of Peor.
Our philosophy is one that makes life a feast,
We'll party with all, be they man, be they beast.
"We're most surprised at all of you Jews,
For haven't you heard the latest good news?
'Nothing is real', the Walrus hath said.
Life is a beach, then you are dead.
"Our art is subjective, and so is our sex,
And we've found that it has no ill side-effects.
So come on, young dude, into my tent,
And we'll party as if 't'were the day before Lent."
So the sons of the Jews decided to orgy,
And sent many thousands to lie in the morguey.
(De mortuis, I know, it really is shocking.
I mean really, this rhyming's a little too mocking.)
The elders did speak: "It has to stop now!
This evil has killed full twenty-four thou."
They put out an edict, a strong-word command:
"Return to the faithful God of your land."
Well, some of 'em did, but some of 'em did'n'ianite,
And one of the rebels took him a Midianite.
He brought her in front of the Tent of the Meeting:
"I'm going to get pleasure, for this life is fleeting."
That Israelite took her right into his house,
And was doing with her what you do with a spouse.
But Phinehas, he thrust a spear through their bellies,
Right after their bowels with fear turned to jellies.
The rebel's last words had been quite clear.
"Dude," he told Phinehas, "that isn't a spear.
Meaning's subjective, a pipe's not a pipe,
And that phallic symbol is really just tripe."
Phinehas then: "That's an old tune, that song.
But soon you know this symbol's six feet long.
The flint-tip is real, so this is the day
I'll circ'cise your heart in a literal way."
Most artists suffer from what is called ennui.
They hurry to bid their cheerless lives bon nuit.
"Nothing is real", the Walrus has said.
Life is a bitch, then they are dead.
Yes, Christians when writing are prone to use simile
(Now we see in a mirror but dimile).
Metaphors are great, and so is a symbol.
Without them we'd sound like resounding cymbals.
The waffle is a symbol I know to hate,
By now it should know it belongs on my plate.
Much more my style is something like wine,
Which serves me as blood, and seems to work fine.
The Lesson Man Learns, or Else He Is Fried:
God's tale is one that never has lied.