The poem I submitted for May’s issue was written so long ago that it wasn’t on my computer. I had to ferret out the journal that printed it where I discovered another old poem. I’d entirely forgotten “Clothespins,” perhaps for good reason. Reading it, I felt a little ashamed of the impish, resentful, anti-affluence, post-adolescent mood that prompted it, more or less what Scott Fitzgerald called “the smoldering resentment of a peasant.” “At Today’s Demonstration” is new. I can’t say why I wrote it or why it feels like a fitting companion for “Clothespins”—yet it does.
Where my sister lives it is illegal
to hang your shorts out in the sun. It would,
she explained to me, look tacky. Where I
live it is tacky, but at least I get
to dry my shorts without government
intervention, which compensates some for
nights diced by the red roars of motorcycles.
Where my sister lives people do not mow
their lawns, change their tires, scrub their own
toilets—nor anybody else’s either.
Silent migrants dispatch such tasks while land
owners practice their complicated hobbies,
smiling all the while like porpoises.
I live among landscapers with green trucks.
Where my sister lives there are divorces,
legal separations, prenup agreements,
fears and tremblings about the kids’ grades and
virginities. As for discount shoppers,
we exist like nameless peasants in a
vast Russian novel assigned my sister
long ago in some required course.
Where my sister lives, land costs so much
no one has to worry that my neighbors—
even sturdier than Russian novels,
just as real as Count Tolstoy—might one night
crash the town on scarlet motorcycles,
in bashed green trucks with rusty leaf springs, to
hang out row on row of illicit socks.
At Today’s Demonstration
A jamboree to some, to others a
species of sedate riot; the program
assiduously diverse, races and genders
with punctilio checked. Shameless clichés
and amplified eloquence pierced the
temperate ante-luncheon, post-brunch air.
Sages reasoned and fools sounded off
but the solidarity was so solid
no one much cared which was which. A few had
donned crude costumes and others shook rude signs.
A festival of dudgeon tickled to
indignation, irony honed to satire,
protest sharpened to a sarcastic point.
Call and response resounded over
the Common--What do we want? When do we want it?
The crescendo came, an anti-climax
of peer-reviewed virtue and forced beaming.
After the final self-congratulatory
cheer, the mob went back to being a crowd,
then a throng of citizens dispersing,
crumbling into quartets, trios, couples.
All agreed the weather had been ideal.
A dozen policemen, at ease in the shade
of the beeches, chuckled scornfully, took off
their helmets and downed their lukewarm coffees.
“Clothespins” first appeared in Hawai’i Review
© 2019 Robert Wexelblatt
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