Serial Installment #5 of “On Rainy Days The Monk Ryokan Feels Sorry For Himself”, Pages 79-103

02.14.01valentine_sophie

Buy now to avoid inspired rant of yesteryear.

Is it time now for a climax? Yep! You Betcha! Followed by twenty or thirty more pages of practical nonsense. Anyone who can read that far will either be a close relative or a better pessimist. It’s not difficult to see that I am crazy. I actually want, more than anything, to be content. That should make me crazy, because I see it and have it in raising a small, very close family, in the midst of poverty. Selfish, selfish poverty! Because I am vain enough to want to publish small books, I feel that to be an end, when really it is only a means to get back to a beginning.
Clearly I am not singing man’s praises. You can say that I am writing to save myself from disease. But that is not true. Before I said that one true word is enough. It isn’t enough. I lied. Yes I lie, I cheat. I am a coward too. O God, all the beautiful men who were so careful. Those beauties who left us their perfect writings, those wonders who were so clean and misunderstood, but lay in bed night after night convinced of their immortality. They practiced their immortality. Man, they were more phony than I could ever allow myself to be.
You see, I am a living man. I pity mankind in the same way I might feel sorry for myself. Do you think that I would not want to write an entertaining book? My God, I’d give anything to be able to produce a thrilling novel or a book of poetry that sings so sweetly about life and living. But most importantly, how I pray that I could have the gift of knowing my own strength. To be like Walt Whitman, peddling my knowledge door-to-door. Or a Thoreau in the forest singing my praises “as lustily as chanticleer in the morning…” God no, I cannot write like that. I am no great man. I am such a mixed up confusion of this and that, that I wonder if I am a Throop, a Ron, or a crazy idiot.
These are not confessions. I know myself, and myself is not me. I am what all of mankind is right now, and isn’t it a sorry state of hell man is? I mean we just have to kill morality. We are too dangerous now. I am not talking about the half-men; there are plenty out there so terrified enough already. They know who they are. You can bet they didn’t read this far. They got to the shelf and picked out something from Diderot instead. He wrote well. He spoke French. He wore a wig, which is some big difference to seek on a Sunday stroll through the bookstore. Anything is better than what you are at the bookstore. No, I write for the man I am, which is what some of you may be. I do not know if it’s a level below or beyond, but I am precisely not the ex-con talkin’ jive about why I ain’t allowed to vote. I am not him, nor am I the billionaire CEO, kicking the tile in one of my twenty-six marble bathrooms. I am nobody but I am everyone. I don’t give a constipated hope about man. I hate my neighbor. I don’t fear him. I hate him. The only thing I fear is the loss of freedom to shit in my own crooked pine wood bathroom, if I should strangle my neighbor because he never introduced himself to my family. Yes, I would kill him for buying a snowblower and wasting the morning cleaning the snow off a sidewalk that he will never walk on! Yes, I would kill him, if I was desirous of murder. But then the freedom to hide to pick my nose, and be as vile as every man hiding, is lost. And I am thrown into a prison to live beside things which I consider better dead than alive. Why? BECAUSE THEY WEREN’T SMART ENOUGH TO STAY FREE ENOUGH TO LEAVE EVERY SINGLE MAN THE HELL ALONE!

February 9

Dreaming is fun. I like dreaming. To be at a slumber party in some unknown room, and all your friends are there, some of them digging your music, is just a wonderful way to stretch through the five and six a.m. hours. To pee in a toilet and wipe some clear, caramel-like substance off the seat, and get a wink from the doctor in the room, who says, “It’s all right, no one ever did that before…”
And then suddenly you’re in Los Angeles joy-riding with Marie, looking for proof on a billboard that Roy Orbison wasn’t as ambitious as Dick Clark. Then you’re chastising Dick for being so fame-hungry, and Roy’s life is now very beautiful and sad, but oops! Is this Sunset Boulevard? Hop in! We’ll take a turn here in our ‘74 Plymoth. This might be the road that winds through the hills to the ocean. There’s some kind of fancy private club—there to the left! Let’s go round this bend to s— Oh my God, the ocean! There’s no shore! A massive wave approaching and we’re floating. The old Plymoth Fury is falling into the ocean!
Not if I can help it! I turn the car around with my feet and steer back around the bend. We park at the country club and step out into the bright California sunshine, stark naked and dripping wet. We go inside. There are people dining, and any second we might get chased through the halls and rooms. So we’re clothed now and standing on the curb with Rachelle and baby Jane on some hot, garbage-stink street in the city. Marie wants to eat there across the street, at some greasy spoon. “Are you kidding? We’ll be killed! A band of hooded hoods gather around us, but appear to pay no attention while they talk about how the landlord’s done them wrong. We walk from inside of their circle toward the ocean like a moving illustration from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The road we turned up before is straight ahead at the end of a line of magnolias and weeping willows. Suddenly we are in the country club talking with my arch enemy, Marty, his son, and a doctor. Marty is laying down a blanket so I don’t get my ass wet on the chair. I walk over to the window looking out for the lights of Los Angeles. I know it takes seventy-two hours to get home driving straight through. I bet we can do it in two days.
I hear an announcement on the radio. Then I taste my breath and feel the weight of waking up in the dark as old as I am.

So, leave us your dreams, proud working men of the 21st century. They have got to be more fantastic than the life you’ve formulated to fit the exact same life as everyone else passing by in a car. Sit at the stoplight, idling in your safety seat, and stare out at them. Count them. Surely they are very different than you, no? No?
No.
Maybe in the manner which they leave their beds and end up in a car. There may be some slight difference. But everything else is the same. That is, the clock alarm might be set to a disc jockey saying “ass” rather than “Azerbaijan.” News radio is modern rock radio is 90‘s pop radio as long as the entire population of the planet can differentiate between these three things. You in the Mercedes, and you in the ‘84 Ford with the muffler dragging, can and shall be satisfied with one of these stations, whether you tune in from Knoxville or Nagasaki. The barely literate scum bag holding up a convenient store will sing along to the same hip hop radio sound that the high school boy was singing five minutes ago, before he was shot to death for fifty dollars and a pack of Starburst. (You know what that is too, don’t you?) Our barely literate dust-brained murderer sings the “Hey, mother fucker…” song while merging onto the freeway. He gets lost in the music. He doesn’t hear the siren screaming up from behind. The cops were listening to Brittany Spears on Radio Disney when they got the call to chase a dangerous suspect. They like Brittany because she’s got a hot ass. When that particular song is playing, they imagine their dirty beards pressed into her navel. Sometimes they get inspired enough to abduct a barely literate street girl and rape her in the back seat of their squad car.
Oh well, they got him. Five to ten years sentenced by the judge who drove into the courthouse parking lot, listening to a story on NPR about Israel’s election. He didn’t think about the Congo, until it’s president got machine-gunned off his leather chair. It had to be a machine gun or it wasn’t news for NPR. Actually, no news comes from Africa, India, Iraq, Bolivia, Iran, (name forty or fifty other countries of dark-skinned people), unless significant numbers are dead from famine, disease, disaster or fear. The news is for Caucasians about Caucasians, and Jews are light enough to pass for Caucasians tanning in Florida. So it’s necessary to learn about the terrors in Tel Aviv, even if the Pepsi vending man still follows the same pick-up route through Jerusalem. Jesus Christ, good Pharisees and Allah, it’s all about money. Don’t you dare get in the way of that. Not even if they’re bashing each other’s skulls in. The judge likes to “get the news” before he dons the noble robe for a long day of playing God to goof-balls. Yes, the judge is brain-washed. And so is anyone who turns on a radio for pleasure. If Togo fights a civil war over the debate of forced female circumcision, then the judge will want to listen. He’s wild about the women of Togo and their special-looking labia. (He heard that story too on NPR). Yes of course the judge is a pervert! Did you expect anything beautiful to be born out of his status-seeking existence?
The barely literate scum bag is in prison now, eating Apple Jacks for breakfast. (You know what they are too, you damn robot). He listens to Christian radio because it will look good for the parole board. In the prison yard standing with a friend, our wiggling bag of scum laughs and laughs and laughs. “Yo mane, dare sendin’ in a whitie today mane, to in’view me in ma cell. A pubic radio show, some seriesshit man ‘bout prison life. Ize cansay whatever ize want to— muttafuckas shit dat’s right. Dey call me Joe and Ize cansay stuff like ‘Ize like to kill people,’ and ‘Ize don’t feel no ‘morse.’ Stupid muttafuckas. Say mutterfucka, waz fo suppa? Deyz givn’ us dat cheese shit man I don’t like dat shit. Makes my shit stay up in my ass.”

What is wise? Are wise men extinct? Emerson thought he was wise. He had a national following. And for good reason. His hundred and fifty year old wisdom still holds true. But it will never be enough until taped on the end of a stick, and sent running amok in a world gone wrong. Here, read it:
“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. All is riddle, and the key to a riddle is another riddle. There are as many pillows of illusion as flakes in a snow-storm. We wake from one dream into another dream. The toys, to be sure, are various, and are graduated in refinement to the quality of the dupe. The intellectual man requires a fine bait; the sots are easily amused. But everybody is drugged with his own frenzy, and the pageant marches at all hours, with music and banner and badge.”
Sorry Ralph, but now our world has become night and day. That lazy bean-sowing friend of yours, Thoreau?  He was right. But only part right, because he couldn’t keep himself away from men. And worse yet, he wrote about why he stayed, or couldn’t stay away from them. What business was it of theirs? Still, I wish that in your life you were half the man Thoreau was. Writing a whole lottocrap about self-reliance and letting them applaud you on and off their crude, manure-stink stages. Ah, go to the Devil Ralph Emerson! We need to be like Thoreau in his extreme. A man today must come to that end, or he’s simply no longer a “man” beyond the biology. No difference of heart or mind can separate him from our meanest citizen alive, unless he flee to the woods and remain out of sight of everyone. Retire in obscurity to befriend the raccoon, or revolution in the streets. I tell you it’s got to be one of these two things. Shake imaginary hands with the river rat or war with any population of men who cannot value the life of you or the river rat.
Lies, lies, lies! Emerson was right. I just changed Janie’s diaper, and understood the world of men to be a crying helpless baby wet and shitty with saffron colored digested mother’s milk. I tell Marie that the baby is lucky that this is a world without Doctor Spock. Otherwise, she’d be singin’ freedom songs from her playpen cell. And then I start to dance around the room with Janie singing, “Rocka my soul in the bosom of Abraham..,” I change the words a bit to make the situation more humorous. “O rocka my soul in the bosom of mommy…” And then, “Spit up my soul on the bosom of mommy…” Falling back into an even deeper, more plush pillow, I tell Marie about my fifth grade music class, when I imagined a slave baby being rocked by Abraham Lincoln, not the Abraham of Issac. I didn’t know the Jewish story. I had Alpha Bits for breakfast and waited for the yellow bus to take me to school. Then I played jump up and down with my little friends while the bus driver listened to the latest reek of news to blow in from the Middle East.
The situation is much more precarious than that. What does this ‘banner and badge’ crap even mean? The sots are easily amused… In 1847 the sots went to Fourth of July picnics. They were amused by a parade and the noisy bangs of Chinese exploding paper.
Folks, you must juxtapose. I like that word because using it properly, might drive us insane enough to make a difference.
So let’s juxtapose.
In the year 2002, how are the sots amused? You tell me. It must be understood that two to two billion people do not matter much if just one man or woman over fifteen years of age, has heard, and understood an utterance by a civilized human being.
Living in society means pajamas after thirty, slippers after forty, mother’s milk in infinite varieties of processed foods, local taxes, far away taxes, shoveling the driveway, watering the lawn, “the right way,” “the wrong way,” anybody’s way but your own way. Even the most expressive person cannot create without some major help from society. The painter must purchase the paint and flush the toilet. The writer writes at a desk and turns out the light. The dancer twirls on a stage, and rents a movie for later tonight. The musician bought a folding chair. He goes over the score while smoking a pipe and cleaning between his toes. It’s a piece by Beethoven because people in the twenty-first century have no idea how to play their own music on a log. God forbid that there is a fool somewhere who would take up the violin solely for enjoyment! No, for that he must succumb to a life of Beethoven and sweeping floors in a dentist’s office. Nobody gives a hoot about him or his violin, until he comes to the concert hall, dressed in his pajamas and slippers, reading a symphony that Beethoven wrote in his head while peeing on a wet log.
What good is a Beethoven? Any sot today can buy a CD at the world’s biggest mall. That is not beautiful. How can that be beautiful? Whistling “Erotica” from beginning to end while searching for toothpaste above the tampons, next to your favorite hair shampoo, is a destruction potentially wrecking more devastation than a nuclear bomb. The reason there are nuclear bombs is because of Beethoven. It’s all his fault. Not the man’s necessarily, but his music. How shall I prove this to you? Who do you think Beethoven wrote for? Us? Do you really believe he cleaned his stinky toes and washed behind his ears in anticipation of our appreciation for him? The notes go up and down to the rhythm of his boots avoiding piles on a street walk from piano to pie maker. He wrote for Claus and Heidi, his father and mother, Napoleon, any German lake, fish in the water and birds in the sky. Now the same man buying—(Listen, it’s always buying from now on. Nobody makes beauty. Sometimes we might put it together, but we must buy it first, already assembled or in pieces.) Now across from the man buying a Beethoven box set, stands another man in his pajamas holding an Eminem CD. For those of you reading in the year 2030, Eminem was a shrewd criminal brain who gained fame at the age of twenty for sipping his mother’s milk from a slipper, while rapping, “When the cops weren’t looking, I raped a pickup truck. And when I got through with that bitch, I rammed it up a duck….” Beethoven and Eminem. Finally! We are beginning to juxtapose.
2002. 1803. Emerson had his high thoughts about illusion. He would be the first to say that Beethoven was drugged with his own pleasure of music. And he’d be right of course, in 1845. Ludwig would be the intellectual type who required a fine bait. Besides the fiddler at the dance, the sots knew themselves to be the gifted music-makers. Music was made by the sots themselves. If they felt the urge coming on to sing, they sang. They laughed and cried in song, thought in song, stirred cornbread batter in song. They sang their songs. They alone were the living creators. Which of them was strong and lucky enough to climb over the Alps and get an okay to come inside out of the rain to hear Beethoven and his friends go “da-da-ta-da” with a score of washed musicians playing with their polished and finely tuned instruments? Maybe a thousand people in the world heard Beethoven while Beethoven was alive. And I promise you that the ears listening were the richest most uncreative morons of the early nineteenth century.
Don’t you see? Beethoven, like Emerson, existed in a higher state of sotdom. He wrote for music students and professors of music who had an “in” with the right paying society, the princes and princesses.
Now juxtapose Emerson today calling on Eminem and his mommy at their city house on a street. “What!” he will wonder inside himself while walking through the ugly of a Detroit or Cleveland, “Society has come to allow this thing and its mother Beethoven’s freedom?! Oh my God I am so sorry I did not see this coming. New York was bad. London was worse, but they all got theirs with a dish of the smallpox. I was so wrong to pursue my own illusion down such a straight and narrow path. What kind of philosopher was I?
Henry was right. I was wrong. Did that boy just say, ‘Yo fukamudder, washyoumakin’bigshit’boutRalphie?’ Did he just say that? My God, what is it?”
“Ma’am,” Emerson asks, “Did you make it?”
“What?”
“Did you make this thing?”
“You mean my son, mister?”
“Yes if you are not so ashamed to call it that.”
“Well, I gave birth to it, and it was such a sorry-lookin’ thing when I done it. But it was tough raisin’ him. His Daddy worked overtime most the time at the plant, and little Em here started calling me fudderfupper at a real young age. I dunno, two, three. We partied a lot those years. We thought that was something’ though, so we bought him a ‘Sing along with Beethoven Mini-studio’ at Montgomery Wards, and he just looked so smart singing ‘slap da bitch,’ and ‘bust ya face,’ that we thought genius like that should bypass maturity and concentrate solely on being stupid and ugly. This is a free country, ain’t it Mr. Emerson? You see, I know where you’re getting at, coming back from the dead and all just to interview our boy. You want to know how nuclear proliferation, and sick, twisted anomalies like my son here can happen in such a short time after hard tack and gathering fuel for the fire. What amazes you the most, and it’s no small thing I’m sure mister, is that some simple-minded daddy of two, and husband of one, can know about little Em from so far away in the February of a cold winter, upstairs in an old house that was built during your lifetime and only two hundred years after man had to dress up in a deer suit to get dinner. I agree mister, that is amazing.
“Yes madam. But tell me, where does a quiet, unobtrusive philosopher catch wind of such foul stinks like your son here? No offense.”
“Mister, the only offense I take is what little Em dishes out. He probably heard about him at his job—he has to have a job, mister, if he wants to live in society—And anybody who works today knows about Eminem. My boy has made quite a stir! Or, he might have heard them talkin’ about Em on the radio. National Public Radio most likely. Especially if your quiet man wears an old-fashioned Irish cap and has day and night dreams about money.”
“Dreams about money? We had a lot of that in my day too Madam.”
“No mister, not quite like us. It’s not the same thing.”
“How so?”
“Because I think if you was poor back then, you darned socks and sweaters and starved a bunch. Sometimes you might have thought it’d be nice to have money to stay alive, but you also dreamed about Africa’s wild elephants or sailing on a green sea in search of anything besides socks with holes in ‘em. Now money ain’t like that anymore. Even having a bunch of that can’t help us.”
“Why, is the cholera still a killer.”
“No mister. But my son is. Would you like to buy his CD? He makes ten thousand dollars every time he says ‘fuckdabitch,’ on live television.”
“No thank you madam. I think I’ll go start a fire in heaven. Maybe ravage that little Alcott beauty, stick a vein, or piss on the world. I thank you dear woman for creating that useless piece of horse crap of a son of yours. Good bye.”
“Bye mister. Watch your step on the stairs. Little Em leaves his Matchbox cars there all the time. I tell him not to, but he just laughs at me until I start to cry.”
What is the truth about Beethoven? Was he civilized? As civilized as today’s average monkey? He had to dress up in a heavy wool coat and walk to the concert hall if he was to hear one of his peers conduct a concert. That was his illusion. Snowflakes falling, an intricately carved cane donated by an admirer, and a musical walk down a busy street. The movement of many people. A pig in a box. A horse sneezing snot while trotting by. Firelight. Beethoven was every other man and woman, but different with the gift of concentrated illusion. He had a purpose and was praised for it. He had everything everyone had, plus one big thing: The desire to express thought, dream, history, happiness, madness, peace, beauty, and the galloping animal world of the black forest, through music. Beautiful music! Intoxicating music. Music to sooth the beast in us—not the beast to make the music—which is what happened not long after the death of men.
When did men die?
You tell me mubbafucka.

February 10

We are in the midst of a winter hurricane. The downstairs door flew open in the night. Winds are striking the walls and shaking the windows in their frames. All we are left to fear these days is the weather. There should be tanks riding up and down West Seventh Street. Bombs could be dropping from the sky. Freedom is gone, so let’s make the most of it. Arrest me.

February 11

Went scouting the library for magazines to send my poems to. Each one that I picked up read like not one of these fat doves accepts the existence of a single McDonald’s. What a pile of beautiful fairy shit! I hate the English language most of all because it is so full of ways to beat around the bush!
I remember the clown at Woolworth’s like it was yesterday
and my mother held me in her arms
and pulled my blue hat down over my eyes…
A hundred bucks for that? Who the hell reads this crap on purpose? When Friends is on at seven and it’s quarter to, and that god damn fucker in front of him is only going forty-five! Pintos and cheese, soft tacos and sour cream, I’d like to pull the poet’s intestine straight out his asshole, dangle it in front of his eyes, hold it up against a wall, drive a fat nail through it, carve “liar!” up and down with a blunt butter knife, until it falls onto the floor in a mangled pile… Then he can tell me about his blue hat at Woolworth’s, and his mommy’s gentle hand playing pee-pee with him in the tub.
Oh Jesus Christ, what has become of us? Every Journal or Review that I picked off the shelf would only accept previously published poets on query. Each poem came with a list of credentials. Dr. Cornelius Imasad. Professor of American Literature at the University of Minnesota. Published in The New Yorker and Georgia Review. Dr. Imasad divides his time between the Greater St. Paul area and the warm plasmic lining of his mother’s uterus.
“Who did you kill with your bare hands, and why?”—That would be the first question asked to our submitters. Our quarterly would be page after page thoroughly stained with the blood of the poet’s own heart. No library would dare subscribe. Each issue comes with a neat little World War II explosive, because our editors believe that is when the human race should have cut itself off from existence. We do not recognize humanity after the year of our last happy child, 1…9…4…5, ready or not, I’m gonna blow the tiny heart out of your body!
This quarter our chief editor’s talented daughter submitted some fine material. It’s a play in one act about a court of justice trying the crime of misuse of a singular verb with a plural subject. She will play the part of the judge because her little friends voted for her instead of Mira, who tried so hard to say one clear word during her audition. Mira has a speech impediment, but that did not affect the children’s final decision. They voted her out of that part because she couldn’t make them understand a single word she said. Mira was not offended. She knows what she sounds like when she talks, and took a lessor part because she also is a gentle, soft and truthful creature. BECAUSE THIS TINY WORLD OF GRACIOUS CHILDREN ACCEPTS HER HEART AS TRUE AND BEAUTIFUL, NO MAN SHALL EVER HARM HER. Their poems, plays and stories are the truth that is spoken with every gesture. Our editors want them. We publish their true tales about the death of man. Only those grown-up poets, playwrights and writers who tell their tales through the eyes of living children are accepted into our quarterly.
Myself? I write to kill any man who would make a bomb to murder this beauty. And so should every poet. Anything else is just another firecracker contribution to the supply shed of my daughter’s murderers. If poets were true, which they are not, they would write witness accounts of civilization’s cruel and brutal slaughter of their babies. This would make these poet-warriors very dangerous, because after the word comes the deed. And the deed is a mad fury and rush to tear out the bowels of the lying, careful word picking professional child-haters lurking in moneygot universities.
We must write about our beauty. The real stuff. Not the professional toy box tears that give the fat poets more time and enough money to buy another cheeseburger. Juxtapose our real beauty with the sham that they are making of it. Then write anger beside our beauty. It has to be this way, or we shall all perish.

February 12

Last Night in India

Last night in India the power went out
The blackness just got blacker
if you can imagine that.
You can’t
So I’ll tell you
They froze to death.
Some soldiers marched into their hut
Kicked a body out of its bed
and assumed the whole village dead.
Everyone was wearing hats.
Thirty or forty people frozen
They stopped counting at lunch.
Lunch happened and they stopped counting.
The government got a wire.
The international press was having lunch
So the news never got outside
the frozen Indian village of dead people.

But Sita did.
She crawled out from beneath
her mother’s embrace
crying and screaming, upsetting the tiger
who was prowling the village for lunch.
He leapt toward her door with a roar
and a hungry guttural growling
his coat rippling with hunger
Sita walked out screaming
but when she saw the starved tiger,
stopped her tears in their tracks down her cheek
and began to sing the lullaby
her mother sang while she froze.
Now this tiger was very moved
calmly waiting a long moment
even sitting his haunches back on a ground stone
while her lullaby sang careful and slow.
Then he leapt onto Sita
eating her very quickly
from her tiny head to toe

What?
You thought the tiger would
take Sita by the yellow scruff of her sati
carry her to his cave high up the mountain
nestle her in his warm softness
for many many cold nights to come
and teach her the tiger’s strength and courage and beauty—
What?
Why should the tiger clean up your mess?
He’s a wild animal
But so heavenly beautiful
in truth
that the least I expect from him
is still a whole lot more
than any human would do.

Prove to me otherwise
and I will sing man’s praises.
Until then I sing for the tiger
the dumb hungry moose,
the puppy, the cat,
the Sitas in my life—
who know no lullaby but hunger
and warmth and play…
The earth is a wild ball
Let us walk upon its turning
devouring evil
which can only be a human thing
because they know how to spell.
I tell you
the only evil in the universe is human made

February 13

The Perfect Unsurpassed Beauty of The Ox Creek Calvary 4-H

It will take me a while to get to the point. Beauty is obvious, when it happens to the beholder. However, the world beholds nothing until I declare what will be beautiful. Is this not what poets and prophets are called to do? It must be the lure of democracy, television and union paying jobs which persuade Americans to decide for themselves what is beautiful. Most of the time they are wrong, simply because beauty cannot arrive at the door like the newspaper, everyday, at exactly the same time. Anyway, even if it did, it would just get used to perform some degrading afternoon chore, like wiping maggots out of the garbage can, or picking up a winter of what the dog left in the backyard.
Usually it takes me a while to shove beauty down a throat. I lack the necessary skills of a writer. I am not a writer. I am a beauty-copier. Last night I witnessed a show of human perfection. Since it was physically impossible for me to squeeze the 4-H farmhouse meeting into a ball small enough to fit inside a mouth, I promised myself to take in the perfection quietly, as a shy, unobtrusive bystander, and later use the weaker persuasion of words to shove beauty down the infidel’s throats. When magic happens, nothing and no one can duplicate its meaning. I said that I was a beauty copier. Which means that I am an artist—translated, “the great fool” in the mystical tongue. Only perfection has the sense to leave magic well alone, and I am quite a distance farther from perfection than your greatest illusion of infinity. So as always, I digress. I tell you, it’s a whole lot better than cooking French fries.
That being said, and most likely, misunderstood, please join my daughter and I on a cold winter night’s drive through the country.

Getting the Best Results From Choking a Blind, Spineless Grown-up

Well, legally you can’t break his back, even if in the long run it proved to be the more humane thing to do. So I would like to open our discussion about knitting squares with… Oh wait wait wait! First the Pledge of Allegiance and 4-H pledge. Laurie, could you hold the tiny flags please?
“I Pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States that would kill me…”
All the girls and the one boy pledge their allegiance, without the least bit of thought about the meaning of the words. Why should they question this allegiance? Why think for themselves? The mommies and one daddy have their right hands on their hearts too. They pledge. And so shall the children.
This is the first sad revelation of the meeting. Nothing could be more defeating of hope than this display of tiny hearts giving allegiance to the United States Army. This is the beginning of societies’ dementia. The children! How can the loving parents allow this horror to happen? How can we expect the following 4-H pledge to hold any weight, a pledge which is so much more true to their hearts than the first madness they are taught to recite? The 4-H pledge respects their rights, but more importantly, their dreams. The pledge to country is provided in part, by their parent’s paranoia. It is they who give the state power to lure their child into pledging her heart to the devil’s own symbolic flag. It is they who press their six-year-old to memorize war cries before her mind is ready to consider the actual horrible significance of those words.
Ironically, the 4-H pledge follows the Pledge of Allegiance. Why is it of second importance? It’s a 4-H meeting, and not the Boston Tea Party. Does anyone know the definition of “allegiance?” Whose hell is this anyway? You brainwashed jingo Johns and Judys! They are learning about the horse’s digestive system and helping each other prepare for their presentations on Saturday. Now the soldier parents march their babies’ vulnerable hearts across the entire country, pledging allegiance, as if come a declaration of war, the little girls tore off their retail clothes for cooler camouflage, and tossed aside their nifty four-color pens to be replaced with automatic weapons. What else does the pledge of allegiance do besides will them to gaily run out the door holding hands through a mine field?
For the organizers of this wonderful institution to ever gain my respect, and it alone is worth more than a library of written law, the first pledge to the United States must be eliminated from the program. How cruel to mix up the children’s horse dreams with nightmare enemies of state. Children giving their allegiance to a flag? Dementia. Why not a pledge to the Tennessee Walking Horse, the Palomino, the Lippizaner? Why are they here at 4-H anyway? If there must be a pledge to the U.S.A., make it be to their parent’s mutual, acquired fear of their government. It might be a better truth to have their little minds start believing in.
To truly pledge their heads to clearer thinking, which is the first line of the 4-Her’s motto, Mr. or Mrs. President of 4-H has got to scratch out the flag brainwashing which jump starts each meeting. If children were truly allowed the freedom to think clearly, they might grow up to be morally strong, individually wise women and men. Those kind of humans dissolve all dishonest institutions, a United States included.

February 14

I pledge my head to clearer thinking
my heart to greater loyalty
my hands to larger service, and
my health to better living
for my club
my community
my country
and my world

Where was I?
Oh yes, perfect, unsurpassed beauty.
February in farm country. If you are one to want both trees and stars to preserve their quiet, and moonlight to remain a practical benefit for roof building, please join my daughter and I, as we ride the frozen, dead corn hills of Cayuga County in our smart little German car. Rachelle reads by battery powered lantern light, while I steer, accelerate, and stop my brain’s many distinct illusions. By this hour on Monday night I am usually frazzled silly. My day began before dawn and went non-stop before getting behind the wheel to relax.
It is quite a distance to the clubhouse. Twenty-five miles south of our smarter routine of staying at home, eating a scrumptious feast of a dinner, and slowly pulling our tired bodies up the stairs to bed. In winter the nest is enough—for me. But it’s not just me, is it? In fact, it’s more for them than me, shouldn’t it be? God how scary if the opposite were true! Raising children has got to mean more than that unconditional-love-until-death piddlybunk two housewives discuss over coffee and toast. Their little devils play together on the floor, rudely hoarding toys and growing up in fear of everything.
Raising children is slavery. Call it any name you like, but I know its true name is slavery. And yet it is the highest form of love and bondage potentially attainable by man. That precisely is its virtue—a complete devotion to a god of his own spirit, depending on how awake and persistent the slave be. Tell me, what mythical, untouchable god enjoys a fraction of the sacrifices we bestow upon our children? What Buddha, what Yahweh, what angry volcano deity outwardly possesses more divine right than your own son or daughter? And which force would you prefer to keep the most healthy and alive if you were called on to care for both?
If the children only knew their real power! There are plenty of opportunities for our masters to abuse us. A good slave knows how to watch his tongue and behave, else his master turn against him. Or maybe I keep to myself this amazing good fortune. I know my master would never take advantage of me. Not on her life! I am an alert slave, ready to perform every duty before it can be noticed undone. I am on a constant watch-to-action. That is the difference between a good slave and bad one. The better the slave, the better the daddy, and the more happy and more lucky as well!
The clubhouse is an old, abandoned four room farmhouse set alone at the top of a hill. Fallow fields stretch a mile out to the tree line. It’s been a long time since this old house has seen any cheer. What a joyful place! Without 4-H, it probably would have housed another round of poor, greedy dirt farmers.
We turn into the front yard right on time. We’re always on time. It’s one of my constants. Good slaves keep an eye on the clock. My master is a very poor judge of time. Back when I was a young master, I knew by heart every second’s tick. The networks programmed their shows on the half hour, and I programmed my daily life to fit the network’s schedule. Long ago, before 4-H, children watched television to learn about time. When Rachelle was born, I took control of the TV for fear that time could be such a waste of my master’s energy. She would know when it was time to play, time to eat and time to sleep. I would tell her. I know that now she is better prepared to greet the many dangers of the day— but only since I have bared the burden of time in my brain.
In short, we always get to 4-H exactly on time. We gather our things and go inside. I bring my manuscript along so to keep my head buried in words and my eyes focused on anything besides people. I am afraid of people. Mostly grown-ups. No, I am afraid of every grown-up. It might take me two years to warm up to the most determined man or woman seeking my acquaintance. You can see that I am practically without friends. Like the child, I am so very shy when called upon in public. But unlike the child, it might take me a thousand times longer to approach a potential playmate. Personally, that is a great disappointment in my life.
But just look! All of Rachelle’s friends are here! Laurie and Georgia, little Constance and Emily Smith. Their smiles are enchanting. Envisioned in the wrong light, they may appear drunk and uncaring. Not so. I believe “carefree” to be a more appropriate word. “Wild” might be a better one. In its meaning one shall spy the bleak desert chasm separating the bright sun of their true hearts, from the cold, black, acquired knowledge trap which the crafty grown-ups have set.
The wild ones remembered the rough drafts to their presentations. Next Saturday will be the real thing. And although that kind of time pressure would drive me to the limit of my neurosis, the children aren’t nervous at all. They revel in the present moment. Again, you see, it is my duty to take on my master’s worry. I twist my guts inside-out so that she may live her days peacefully—this is a tacit bond I share with the other slaves in the clubhouse. We are servants attending to our master’s whims; mere porters, coachmen, drivers, cooks, launderers, groundskeepers, room cleaners, and tutors. Oh, but we better watch out what we teach them! A good slave is very careful. If he wishes to keep his master’s trust and attention, he will constantly be on guard of his own dangerous mouth and deeds. So, “the mouth is the gate of woe.” Yes, but any slave worth his indenture knows that the moat of action boils before the gate of woe. Say whatever you wish good slave, but the master knows the falsity of words spoken before deed. Some poor slaves find out too late, and are banished from their children’s kingdom. Expecting deeds before dinner, the master got steadily poisoned with words all day long, and gradually, over time, had stone walls built to keep away the phonies Mom and Dad.
The mothers and fathers of 4-H have come this far, which means their children still love and respect them. That’s reason enough for sincere congratulation. These kids are different. They are kind, compassionate, cheerful, gentle. They have so much not in common with the children outside of 4-H. There are physical and even some mental similarities to be sure. That is, Emily of 4-H can be forgetful as any child. But it is in her forgetting where might be concealed the kindest gesture. Last week Laurie had the flu. Emily made her a heart-shaped card at home, but forgot to bring it to Monday’s meeting. Emily did not forget that the little bald girl who she saw in the store hasn’t any hair because she is dying. Nor did she forget that pulling off the little girl’s hat and laughing at her bare scalp, might make her cry real tears.
The other child forgot. There is a cruelty like that in some children.
Not in the Ox Creek Cavalry 4-H.
Why?
Because in the beginning, long before 4-H, their slaves were truly that dutiful.
But this is not the time for parental back slappings. We know we’re good. We paid our ticket to this show of beauty. We spent a lifetime tending our flock, raising our delicate flowers from seed, cultivating our pleasant gardens of Eden—You get the idea. No, actually, most of you have no idea what the hell I am talking about. But there will be another day to comment on the steady pointer rise on the doom meter. Few will seek my books, except maybe to burn them. Who wants to read a story about his own sick heart? But in the unlikely case that you read with some relish the exposé on the cruelty you pass on to your child, please understand my intentions first and foremost were to scold you. I can get right to the essence of the sour inside that makes you the greatest faker and liar. I know that the cruel child exists because of you. And to be ignorant of the awesome responsibility you and I have to this species, to not possess the instinct of gentle perpetuation, which, god damn it, evolution, or at least God, should, by all purposeful intent, have brought us to thus far—to care not about the developing perfection of your child, (and there is a human perfection to aspire to, I know), at least not until you can enjoy all the pleasant frillies that false living has to offer first—this my dear enemy, is the worst of all evils. It is the unnecessary black, infinity of the universe. Our children and ourselves possess all the universe we need to know. Because you ignore that truth, Mr. and Mrs. Slapdoodle, is precisely why humanity is wrong, and why so many parents can’t find the time to participate in 4-H.

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