Introduction to Misfit 22

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“Facts, facts, facts!”

So begins Charles Dickens’ novel Hard Times. If Dickens lived now and he was a newlynaturalized citizen of these Formerly Untied Stated, that opening line would read, “Lies, Lies and more Lies!” The Dickens character, Gradgrind, is a pedant. He rules his school and his household with the proverbial iron fist, eschews, as the Dickens Dictionary informs us, Faith, Hope and Charity for material, Facts.  That is that which can be proven through hard reason and deduction. There is no room for a life of the imagination, not Art, Poetry, Music unless it be an object for teaching discipline.  He is not totally without compassion, as his taking a child of the circus when her father dies proves. But this refuge he offers has a steep cost; the child must forswear all contact with the life and people she knows and loves as family.  There is a moral to the story, this is Dickens after all, Gradgrind’s oldest son turns to crime, his daughter is forced into an unhappy, arranged marriage and his boon companion, another stuffed short full of piety and unjustified self-worth, is revealed to have dark origins which undo his life.   Hard Times indeed.

We live in hard times, as well.  The age old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” is upon us.  Life in Trumplandia is an unending circus that is horribly fascinating. A made for television, ongoing, Event, sort of like a slow-motion car wreck or a long running sequel to a mob epic like The Sopranos.  The main difference is the lead characters has no redeeming qualities that make him either human or sympathetic as Tony Soprano had. Not only does he lack the aforementioned Christian values of Faith, Hope and Charity, he lacks Gradgrind’s education. And worse of all, he has absolutely no empathy. He is as inflexible as the Dickens characters but his reasoning, in as much as there is anything resembling reason, comes from a morass of moral indecency and self-destructive impulses. He is whimsical (but not in a good way), totally immature and spoiled child impulsive- one day that metaphoric finger on the button could launch a nuclear war none of us will recover from simply because of a perceived insult. If Trump can refer to loose cannon nuclear power leader, as Little Rocket Man, what hope is there for sane leadership and rational dialogue?  If Trump can accuse the mayor San Juan shown in water up to her waist aiding refugees and trying to save lives as “lacking in leadership qualities,” what qualities does he have? sending messages on his phone railing against this woman, begging for more aid, from his command post at his luxury golf course? This how we live now and it is sickening.

While I stated empathetically in my writer’s guidelines, I did not want overtly political poems for Misfit, I understand now, everything is political.  We have fine poems from David James on what it is like to be black dating a white woman. We have Sean Lynch offering a variety of points of view that are implicitly political. We have a Hawaiian poet writing in dialect, understanding that life on the islands has gone the way Native America has gone. This is political and it is personal.

Everyone is a target now.  Hate speech is protected, as out president shows, and anyone with accredit card can buy guns, assault weapons whose only purpose is to inflict massive casualties, and they will use them for that purpose as the shooter in Vegas shows.  Common sense is dead. Facts are all alternative now.  Where were you during the Bowling Green Massacre.

I know longer know what to say so I am going to let John Grey say something that sums up how I feel about how we live now in his poem. (This poem was originally published in Arnold Skemer’s poetry and review mag, ZYX and is reprinted with the poet’s permission)

Poetry – Not Even a Misdemeanor

The fact is,
no matter who's in charge,
no one's about to lock me up
for the poetry I write.
Criticizing the powers that be
is a national birthright
that becomes a ritual in time
and finally a doctrine.
Poetry is merely more fodder
for deaf ears.

Oh there's a passion here all right,
a determination to get down on paper
where it hurts the most.
But nobody is after the literary vote.
And poets don't head any lists
of possible donors.

This is not South America.
Or Nazi Germany.
Or the Soviet Union.
No one comes for poets in the night.
And none of us spend years in prison
writing diatribes in our own blood.
No we save that blood for our best metaphors.

I just can't imagine a world
where readings are broken up by soldiers,
chapbooks are passed around surreptitiously
like drugs.
In America,
no poets appear on wanted posters.
Now unwanted posters...
that's a different story.

John Grey