Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wallace Stevens on Obamacare

Most contemporary USAPO are presumably in favor of the USA having a national health service similar to that of Canada and Europe et al,

with insured coverage for all—

if the Poetry Foundation took a poll of USAPO, wouldn't you expect most of them to vote yes to this proposition—

Life, we know, consists of propositions about life,

as one of our greatest poets has informed us—

might we also learn something from him regarding this question of universal health care?

He did issue a position paper about it, actually,

in the form of this sonnet on p. 200 of his 1954 Collected:


I heard two workers say, "This chaos
Will soon be ended."

This chaos will not be ended,
The red and the blue house blended,

Not ended, never and never ended,
The weak man mended,

The man that is poor at night

Like the man that is rich and right.
The great men will not be blended . . .

I am the poorest of all.
I know that I cannot be mended,

Out of the clouds, pomp of the air,
By which at least I am befriended.


Why FoxNews hasn't cued this crap up for its blowhards to spoutificate on, is a puzzle—

It's all there: the rich, the right, (the rich are right and the workers are wrong),

the great men

(you know: the billionaires whose untaxed offshore-loot is funding all the rightwing propaganda reichdoms)—

the great men must never slack their fated duty of upholding capitalism

to ever waste a dime on

"the weak man," "the man that is poor," the "workers"——

And me! Me!? I'm the poorest of them all! (can't you just hear Bill O'Reilly whinnying this out with glee?)—

I know that society cannot be mended, that collective salvation is evil . . .

—But then of course at this end-point of Stevens' poem

the spinners at Fox would have to misreport and mystify his atheistic conclusion

that no cure for our ills will mercifully fall from God pomped up there in the clouds,

although the air (the terrestial air!) is friendly to us—

Say there, you twain two, you fine husk-fellows shearing the hedges round my mansion, care for a cup of Darjeeling?  I can't "befriend" you of course,

and I can't use my high position in the insurance industry to advocate public-subsidized health coverage for all,

the idioms (you don't understand what 'idioms' means, I know) surrounding the class distinctions inherent in our society

can never be breached by any heroic linebreaks wielded from Brecht or Neruda or Eluard or any of those unmendable unmentionable Marxists, I'm afraid.


"Any evaluation of Stevens . . . must somehow be able to accommodate . . . astonishing linguistic richness on one hand and an impoverishment or hollowness of content on the other. [... ] [T]he inner hollowness of this verse will tend to return . . . in those moments in which it becomes (momentarily) clear that Stevens' 
only content, from the earliest masterpieces of Harmonium, all the way to the posthumous [poems], is landscape. . . ." —Fredric Jameson

I'm like the poorest of all, ephebe effendi, I ain't got no god buhu to panacea my soul (got no soul, either)—

unlike you religion-opiated masses I got no Lourdes, no faith healer to mend my pain,

you should be pitying me, not me you—

you think you got it bad, look at me:

I have to find my nepenthe, my ether in mere air, in nature—

I'm the poorest of all, never mind my mansion on the snazz side of town, my penthouse office suite,

ho, what are you poor weak workers with no health insurance complaining about, anyway!  What's your problem, parvenu?


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