Friday, August 12, 2011

6 ways of looking at a grouchy old man

Wallace Stevens found 13 ways of looking at a blackbird; Ishmael Reed's poem "Scrub Jays" imagines the birds looking back   at the man glaring at them, finding six stanzas of taunts. This is , in essence, a poem about aging, the gaining of some simple knowledge that was formerly obscured by ego and youthful exuberance. Where a younger man could sustain a good battle in protecting what he perceives to be rightfully and exclusively his, his apple trees and the fruit they bare,  running to and from his house with all manner of pesticide, rakes, air horns , convinced that he can make short order of this ordeal and restore the principle of property rights to his personal piece of earth, the body with time grows slower, muscles go soft, bones ache, the awareness arises that no amount of assertion of will can make settle anything permanently. The bird is the old man's inner voice, speaking in mocking tones under remains of the rhetorical veneer that refuses to acknowledge inevitability. It is not this bird, nor even birds in particular that will win this battle.

What good are apples
To old men, anyway
You have lost your bite
You have run out of
 Ladders to climb
Your ultrasonic solar-powered
Animal repellent
The Honda among dissuaders
Might rid your garden of
The capo cats, but
 The bandit raccoons
Within 48 hours  
What good are apples, indeed what good are things that one attaches one's name to and changes their essential nature from being something useful and with a function , or purpose, in a large and infinitely complex system of things and makes them mere trophies, souveneers of a conquest? With the ache of the limbs and the fading of light from eyes that no longer see things crisply, clearly, without ambiguity, the possession of things is an error, a mistake in perception.  Nature, in any event, turns out to be not a particular thing one does battle against, not a personality, a thing, a personality one defines the terms of their existence against. Nature merely is, that condition of existence within which all things exist and , more or less, abide by. This includes the deflating ego of many a strong willed man and woman who assumed their could change the terms of the condition . The tragedy, voiced by Reed in the voice of birds who mock him for his erring presumptions about his cosmology, isn't that we all become bitter old men yelling at kids and critters to get off their lawn, but that we might never realize that we didn't own the lawn in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Say something clear and smart.Lets have a discussion.