Drowning – David Lohrey

The Great Depression

An economic depression is emotional.
We are despairing.
Our cities are afire.
Our minds are aloof.
We count our chickens before they hatch.
We gulp our food.
We wet our pants.
The once mighty people who slew the Sioux
are hiding under their beds.

My friends who claim to be masters of the human
race wash their hands of it. “Cheer up!”
They’ve washed the blood down the drain.
The black maid is no longer black, she’s blue.
The white masters, masters of the universe and of
little else, can no longer get it up.
From patriots to traitors, they have run out of ideas.
The master race is bankrupt and they’re fine with it;
they are happy to let others clean up their mess.

Tools of the Mississippi, slaves of trade, the master-race
now prefers foul to beef. They take their gristle with asparagus.
Artichoke hearts and red wine drizzle down their chins. Their
limp genitals respond to the Chinese lip lock. Just don’t let them
hear you say you don’t like Jerry Garcia. Our ruling class consists
of potheads, flower children, who guard their gardens with vicious
pit bulls in chiffon tutus. Dear Karen knows what to do when she
runs into strangers using public space for private amusement: she
calls 911 and tells them she’s white.

In suburban Denver one can’t appear to be from Alabama. Don’t
let people think you fell off a turnip truck. This is what our
schools teach. Everything depends on where you’re from.
“Dicks and cunts: which do you prefer?” You can only be
a redneck if you’re gay. It is all about the right combination. Sexual
perversity goes with progressive politics if you want to conform.
Taking it up the ass is expected, with dreams of tomorrow; this will carry
you to the finish line, like an IBM family picnic in 1955. Cry as you
apply for a grant. Tell them how much you love the starving children.

As long as your degree leads to a salary bump, who gives a shit?
Just keep your thoughts to yourself. Don’t tell anyone you hate your
mother. Keep the fact that you prefer prosperity a secret. Grad schools
teach that the ideal life can be found in the jungle. MFA programs
insist that dancers who barf are preferable to George Bernard Shaw.
It is wrong to despise the cockroaches in Mexico City, but it is OK
to hate the bugs in Beverly Hills. It is hard to believe that this can be
mastered, but it can, and when you are finished, you will know
how to whistle while giving a blowjob.

Tea and sympathy served on avocado toast drizzled with truffle oil.
Modernism has it all figured out. We regress. Back, back, back
to refined terror. The disgrace of fighting; there will be no more sharing.
The surveyors take over. It will be a monumental divorce. Someone
is going to get nothing. We will revert to fighting to our last breath, no
more funny business. No sharing. In this war, those who have everything
will fight back, as they did in the Renaissance. Nobody can live in
half a palace. Winners take all; not like the Quakers in Pennsylvania
or among Hollywood celebrities. Old McDonald has a farm, EIEIO.


Gospel Truth
(Written by Miss Lola Wallace of the Evergreen Baptist Church, 1953, Memphis, TN.)


Oh, precious Lord…
Mmmmn. Oh, dear Lord…
I know You have been here; I know.
I don’t see You. I don’t know You. I know
You have been here, but I done missed You.
I done missed You. You passed me by,
Oh, Lord, and I don’t know why.

I was here. I am here now. But I’m alone.
I’m alone. I’m alone. I’m so lonely, oh, Lord,
I’m tired of being all alone. 
Won’t you come see me? 
Can’t you come?
I’m all alone now and so lonely, ‘cuz You’re not

They say a colored girl should sing. Since I’m colored, I should sing.
I would sing out every day so You’d hear me.
I’d make promises. I’d confess. I’d tell You why 
I’m such a mess. 
Oh, precious Lord. Oh, precious Lord,
hear me out this one time before You go. Hear me.
I want to explain myself before it’s too late.

I have a lot to say. 
My mama tells me You heard it all before.
My mama tells me to shut my mouth.
My daddy told me to stop acting the fool.
He told me to pull myself together, but I can’t.
I’m so lost I can’t get home. I’m not able to get 
myself together.

I been to the museum. I been to the library. I even been
back to school but I can’t decide what to do.
I’m just always alone.
I drink. I smoke. I overeat. The only thing that makes me
feel better is You. I need You. I need You. 
Oh, Lord, now, I tell You, I am lost without the Lord. 
I am lost. I am lost. I am lost without You, Lord. I am lost.


I pray. I pray for those I hate. I do. I done pray for myself.
I know I am good for nothing. I am a mess. 
All I want now is for You to come. Come into my life.
I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I can’t find joy in my life.
It’s just You. It’s You. I know what I need is You.
I want to explain myself before it’s too late.
Oh, Lord. Oh, precious Lord. Don’t leave me alone.


Mixed Blessing


And now for your entertainment, all the way from eternity:
THE LITTLE SHITS. Back with us from touring the globe, with
headline performances in Fiji, Bahrain, Albania, and Tbilisi.

Expect nothing and you are bound to find it.
Turn to your neighbors, offer your hand, and ask, male
or female, why their public hairs don’t match their eyebrows.

The Blind Quarter Horses from Dhahran will be performing 
today at 2 p.m. Their trainer, his Honorable Qasim Al-Otaibe,
the oldest living pederast, will appear today in the nude.

Step forward for your money-back guarantee. Free roses will be
offered to virgins at Buffa’s Garden Center on Pike’s Peak Boulevard.
Walk up windows only. Come for inspection and leave with a bouquet.

Donations will be rejected. This is no charity. Three Blind Mice 
will be performed as scheduled by our chorus at the back of the barn
at intervals of ninety minutes from 4 to 5 p.m. Sign up in the library.

Our sponsor this year is Citroën Motor Cars, maker of the Picasso 
family van, an alternative to the American SUV. The Picasso runs
on alternative energy, supplied by the barks of Golden Retrievers.

Tickets for today’s events are not available. As previously announced,
The Memphis Fairgrounds has been closed indefinitely, subject to 
city council advisory. Mob action has discouraged the janitorial staff. 


Blank Verse

I’m asked to ignore too much…look the other way.
In fact, I should call my poems empty poems.
“Never-mind poetry,” that’d be a good name.
I’ll write poems about nothing. Poems that say
absolutely nothing but say it well. I’ll write poems
like Rothko’s paintings of voids, great hollow,
pulsating works of art, undulating existential blobs
from the bottom of the sea, written down but just
as well forgotten.

Poems celebrating everything that’s good and wholesome,
that’ll be my racket. Easter eggs before they’re broken,
poems about Elvis as a matador printed on black velvet, with
HOME SWEET HOME embroidered in sequins and little
plastic pearls, with hymns to the Almighty. They’ll be called
blank verse and can be served with dessert toppings like apple
sauce, chocolate or maple syrup. Those would be apt subjects
for a howdy-doody poet like me. We’ll call them frozen yoghurt
poems, served them on a stick.

Today’s editors dictate the content of poetry. They remind poets
that anything found to be inappropriate will not be tolerated.
They are little Ivy League Gorkys. I’d be happy to write that sort
of thing but only in exchange for a dacha on the outskirts of Moscow.
These sensitive souls demand poetry that won’t hurt anyone’s
feelings. These self-satisfied prudes are backed by their attorneys.
“Mustn’t give offense.” Poetry is to be edited like church letters
in the 1940s. They’d change the title of Ginsberg’s “Howl” to
something like, “Help Me! Help Me!”

By the time I’m finished editing everything out, I’m left with
four or five words: the, yet, then, too, and but. All the rest leaves me
subject to house arrest. Everyone is offended by my rubbish as every
decent human being in 1957 would have reviled the writings of Charles
Bukowski or Henry Miller. So much for the poetry of T. S. Eliot, D.H.
Lawrence, or Jack Kerouac. The New Yorker refused to publish them.
The internet editors now take it upon themselves to enforce common
decency. So off we go, back to the genteel tradition, back to placing covers
on piano legs, back to saying nothing that gives offence, back to when dreams
meant nothing, back before Freud, when a pickle was just a cucumber in brine.

And for what? The defense of Christendom? Not at all. No! So, we can
be nice. The purpose of poetry is to make sure the fat feel good about
being fat, blacks have power, and the disabled feel enabled. I say,
forget internet courtesy. At this rate, we’ll be back to where we were
when Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein fled the country. Back when little
old ladies with a Bible in one hand and a pistol in the other ran the show.
Today’s magistrates of decency, those with pierced noses, have MFAs,
with certificates in censorship signed by the NEA. The bohemians got
in bed with Joe McCarthy for the rough sex. They can have it.

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