Saturday, September 17, 2016

Jack Scott writes

[Part IV]

Marijuana look-a-likes,
cigarettes are tubes of solace
for the poor of lung
who will bequeath, but not inherit.
Treated air is surgery
for the loyally afflicted;
the sutures, twenty to the pack,
come with twenty filters
at no extra charge.
Coal miners are so lost and lonely
in too much shallow open space.
They must go back to work again
to breathe deeply their familiar air.
The pendulum of law,
an application of Poe’s fiction
carried further than intended
into courtrooms and chambers
of legislation
where Kafka’s mirth presides
ironically as handcuffs and leg irons.

More politicians smoke tobacco
than have, in all the past, smoked pot,
but the times are changing,
followed slowly by the law
with justice lagging out of sight as usual.
Now they card you when you’re eighty
and have their connoisseurs’ choice
of confiscated pot.
It all makes equal sense.

Alcohol is legal, help yourself.
Each evening
you can be an actor in another play.
It’s alright to slur your words;
your audience is thespians who lisp
and also can’t pronounce them.
Within limits, legal:
speed for one
and you can’t wobble;
cars are heavy, lethal weapons;
drive with care,
at least as if you care.

Alcohol is solvent,
dissolving many things.
You don’t have to be a chemist
to benefit from them.
But you can be an artist,
design your own credentials,
and draw or paint
your imaginary portfolio
in any medium:
a big game hunter just back from Africa,
a captain who barely made it ‘round the Horn,
a casting couch recruiter from the Coast,
anything, anybody, anything.

1 comment:

  1. “The Pit and the Pendulum” was a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe that appeared, rather oddly given its content, in 1842 “The Gift: A Christmas and New Year's Present for 1843.” It detailed the torments endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition and focused heavily on sensual experience, such as sound, to inspire fear. Poe began with the prisoner’s trial, though he provided no explanation of the charges against him. As the seven tall white candles on a table burned down, his hopes also grew smaller. His cell in Toledo was cleverly constructed to be itself the means of his torture. In the early 20th century, Franz Kafka also fused elements of realism and the fantastic, typically featuring isolated protagonists faced by surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible social-bureaucratic power. As he wrote in his diary, “Enclosed in my own four walls, I found myself as an immigrant imprisoned in a foreign country;... I saw my family as strange aliens whose foreign customs, rites, and very language defied comprehension;... though I did not want it, they forced me to participate in their bizarre rituals;... I could not resist.” Before dying at 40, he had published a few short stories, but none of his novels were finished; he managed to incinerate about 90% of his output and left clear instructions to his friend Max Brod (who had been the first to encourage him to write): "Dearest Max, my last request: Everything I leave behind me ... in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others'), sketches, and so on, [is] to be burned unread." The last collection of short stories that he personally prepared for publication was “Ein Hungerkünstler“ (A Hunger Artist), but it did not appear until after his death. Though his remaining manuscripts were chaotic, since Kafka often began writing in different parts of the book, sometimes in the middle, sometimes working backwards from the end, Brod managed to get most of them published between 1925 and 1935; he took many other papers (believed to number in the thousands) with him when he fled to Palestine in 1939; when he died in 1968, he left them to his secretary, who released or sold a few of them but bequeathed most of them to her daughters. The National Library of Israel sued the sisters in 2008, claiming that the manuscripts were "cultural assets belonging to the Jewish people." The Tel Aviv Family Court ruled in favor of the library in 2012, forcing the sisters to release a few of them, including a preciously unkbnown story, but the legal battle continued. The year after Kafka’s death, Brod arranged for the publication of “Der Process” (The Trial). Kafka had begun it a decade earlier and had managed to write its closing chapter, but other chapters were unnumbered and incomplete, and even many sentences were unfinished and ambiguous, but Brod managed to put it into a publishable state. It detailed the experiences of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, though the nature of his crime was never revealed. In 1926 Brod brought out “Das Schloss“ (The Castle), which Kafka had begun to plan in 1914 but did not start to write until 1922; it was about the efforts of K. to gain access to local governing authorities but was constantly thwarted by the unresponsive bureaucracy. He never finished it but suggested that K., on his deathbed, would receive notification that his "legal claim to live in the village was not valid, yet, taking certain auxiliary circumstances into account, he was permitted to live and work there."


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