On the Nature of American Addictions-- Pt I

America 

 

Then one of the students with blue hair and a tongue stud   

Says that America is for him a maximum-security prison

 

Whose walls are made of Radio Shacks and Burger Kings, and MTV episodes   

Where you can’t tell the show from the commercials,

 

And as I consider how to express how full of shit I think he is,   

He says that even when he’s driving to the mall in his Isuzu

 

Trooper with a gang of his friends, letting rap music pour over them   

Like a boiling Jacuzzi full of ballpeen hammers, even then he feels

 

Buried alive, captured and suffocated in the folds   

Of the thick satin quilt of America

 

And I wonder if this is a legitimate category of pain,   

or whether he is just spin doctoring a better grade,

 

And then I remember that when I stabbed my father in the dream last night,   

It was not blood but money

 

That gushed out of him, bright green hundred-dollar bills   

Spilling from his wounds, and—this is the weird part—,

 

He gasped, “Thank god—those Ben Franklins were   

Clogging up my heart—

 

And so I perish happily,

Freed from that which kept me from my liberty”—

 

Which was when I knew it was a dream, since my dad   

Would never speak in rhymed couplets,

 

And I look at the student with his acne and cell phone and phony ghetto clothes

And I think, “I am asleep in America too,

 

And I don’t know how to wake myself either,”

And I remember what Marx said near the end of his life:

 

“I was listening to the cries of the past,

When I should have been listening to the cries of the future.”

 

But how could he have imagined 100 channels of 24-hour cable

Or what kind of nightmare it might be

 

When each day you watch rivers of bright merchandise run past you

And you are floating in your pleasure boat upon this river

 

Even while others are drowning underneath you

And you see their faces twisting in the surface of the waters

 

And yet it seems to be your own hand

Which turns the volume higher?

 

--Tony Hoagland--

 

True art occurs when we communicate our experience through word, image, sound to the precognitive level of awareness, to someplace inside that resonates, that knows, that turns in a common direction with all the other fish of our school, psychically sensing the social currents in simultaneous observation and needing no single leader to decide which is the direction of safety, the direction of the greater good for the whole. Here we are, inspired by the acts of small groups of risk-takers, courageous speakers taking a stand, reminding us we are all leaders.

I like this poem by Tony Hoagland. There is so much here, his finger in the wind, the recognition that our comforts depend on so many others drowning beneath us. And yet, it almost as if we are not even in control of the habitual ways we pursue our personal gratification, disembodied as we have become. It's time to re-inhabit the deep self, the one who senses the true nature of our relations, the true direction of safety for the whole. That will be our living art.

 

Views: 72

Comment by Gary Horvitz on October 31, 2011 at 9:11pm

I don't know. Is it?

Comment by David Eggleton on November 1, 2011 at 8:38am

"It's time to re-inhabit the deep self, the one who senses the true nature of our relations, the true direction of safety for the whole. That will be our living art."

Hear, hear!  Bravo!

Let's all be artists of being.

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