There can be bebop and billowing skirts,
hot pastrami and cold beer, but only if
That’s the catch. We’re weighed down by doubt.
Can all this wonder be had for free? It’s
time to take stock.
All the pretty horses can’t put humpty dumpty
together again. It’s partly a matter of will
It’s mostly a matter of power, pure and simple.
And the will is half-hearted. There’s no
zeal. There’s no roll.
Ketchup, but no mustard. There are eggs, but
Benedict died last June of a stroke. Whoever
said we could have it all, lied.
The billowing skirts were not the first to go, but
the girls get tired of playing. They’ve
been recruited by the army.
Now women carry guns. Our next loss is jazz.
Without the blues, there’s no rhythm. The
country’s lost its beat.
Everyone is out of step. The problem
is not the booze. It’s the money. We’re all
too rich for our own good. We’re unhappy.
Louis Armstrong was elated. Count Basie, giddy.
Think back. You remember. Jazz was rollicking: horns
toot-tooting, the pianist on his feet, the drums exploding.
We’re all miserable. Fattened up for slaughter. Now
we wait for the other shoe to drop, as the centipede
crawls toward the exit.
We know it’s just a matter of time. It can’t go on like this forever.
We’ve become too refined, far too delicate, too fat for
Anyway…no one has the oomph. It’s all petered out.
We’re out of gas. There’s an energy shortage,
For the most part, pictures will be enough, for a while,
like those of farmers. Nobody wants to get his hands dirty,
digging in flower beds, plowing, changing diapers.
No one wants to turn potatoes, feed the pigs or geld the stallions.
What is there to celebrate if there are no children?
That’s the question.
If there’s no harvest, what’s the point of drinking? And
now they say there’s no purpose in planting flowers.
The suburbs are obsolete, no pleasure in squirrels.
No need for dogs to bark. No need for evening walks. No
need for games of catch. Eliminate the lawns, they decree,
which are nothing more than symbols of Farmer Brown.
There’ll be nothing to remember, not even the sound of crying babies.
Family life is finished. Dirty floors, mother’s milk, chicken pox
are all a thing of the past.
Now the smell of grass must go. It’s no longer the Age of Aquarius;
it’s the age of exhaustion. We’re entering America’s very own
Cultural Revolution. At the end of the day, they’ll be hell to pay.
It’s the age of recrimination. People stand around pointing fingers,
as the time French women were made to pay for bedding
enemy soldiers. They were driven through the streets, naked.
It’s an age of exculpation. We all want to wash our hands of it.
The only music left is what we demand to see others face.
Otherwise we want silence.
[David Lohrey is the Shadow Lord of brain-seizing, heart-piercing poetry, and a medium for the ether words. He was born on the Hudson River, but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. Also, he’s freakin’ awesome.]