|An Imperfect Imposition||Gloss|
|He goat a haircute,||“Beware enterprises|
|molted a shive,||that require|
|and emptoed the moot.||new clothes.”|
|He out cast the let||Ruined good tune,|
|down at sup-a-dup||raised to put|
|and unvaled a crune,||bread on table.|
|frumpted and follying,||Commuters fly|
|and clutched the rolled,||in wingtips aspire|
|acrested the abridged am-this||cross closed bridges.|
|Daddy-Oh! Pater-pitter-patter||Ah, familiar|
|potairy, roong froom the Gin-is-is||in joy of brewcrew|
|hisses Ink Pour Age.||song of a pint.|
|He rit the hoad alt coomed,||[Readers|
|sweeat urned his id,||may reply|
|and snoozled wths sapoozed.||below.]|
|Hairfigged fitted, compred wronged,||All quiet|
|he wroted, a temptwitted,||on the worsted|
|but ownlie slylents twas loosening,||font.|
|ands the suns downsed and moons||Only a real fool|
|arowsis a crewised shell fellowing||ignores the full|
|pips sillied byburds.||loon.|
|Sorry to impose like this is the poet||Where should it go:|
|speaking, but have you a place for thes||Recycling, Compost,|
|amythidst your these is?||or Garbage?|
|Supposing posing, oh, posing:||Climbing|
|“I am positioned,” the imposing||the corpus|
|poet posited, “I am composed.”||ladder.|
|Nonesuchofwhich off course||Maybe end|
|was teachno techno blareney,||with the “byburds”?|
|steel eye as I am I am postplus.||Too late now?|
|Owl duedew uandeye goal||Reading kicker|
|quickwick of it?||position player|
|Illklicked ear, wellclick thr.||diversion.|
Henry’s loon waltzed into the room laughing
laughing laughing at the phony moon
rising over the pond-like screen
laughing at Henry, at me, and at you too
who scorned the whippoorwilled
who loon-waltzed our way across the fall season
who tweeted twitted twisted and tallyhoed on
but what stilled the waters the antithesis of laughter
came the calm call of the whippoorwill
calling up to the ballooning moon
to Henry, Huck, Hank, and all of us who
waltzing across a lightbox screen
click click click the path of the reen
and fail to see the turn of the season
while flashes YouTube and you too
laughing laughing laughing
at the simple simple single moon
who waltzes with the whippoorwill
to the epizeuxises of the whippoorwill
the yoke on me preening for the screening
in a full no half no quarter no moon
in the turning turning turning of the seasons
as the lone loon laughs
at Henry, Huck, Hank, me, and you too
yes at you too you too you too
whistles the only whippoorwill
as the moon falls fades the laugh
and across the pond fills the screen
white going going gone the season
of the wry loon waltzing with the moon
with the dry improbably wry moon
then on the far shore you too
out of rhyme out of sync out of season
running running running for the whippoorwill
and across the pond comes a single scream
that echoes epizootically laughing
out of season the waltzing singing loon
laughing woo hoo! woo hoo! woo hoo!
the poor loon waltz in a pale fall screen
“Thoreau’s Bicycle” at Berfrois. Check it out!
The casual bicyclist dismounts for the season, buries the bike in the basement, perhaps intending to walk through the winter.
We have come to rely on the automobile to our detriment: for cars require a massive infrastructure, costly to build and maintain, that blights the landscape and harms the environment; cars are fuel-hogging inefficient, noisy and polluting, difficult to recycle; car use subtracts from walking opportunities. Even in parking lots we search for the space nearest the entrance, though that distance might be our only walk of the day.
While Thoreau probably knew of the bicycle, he didn’t ride one. If Thoreau wanted or needed to get somewhere, he walked.
In his essay simply titled “Walking,” Thoreau says he wants “to make an extreme statement.” What does an “extreme statement” sound like? “If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends,” Thoreau says, “and never see them again; if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man; then you are ready for a walk.” At that pace, few of us would ever be ready or able to go for a walk.
Maybe it’s an argument of definition: what’s a walk? “But the walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called…but is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day,” Thoreau says. He tells us, in Walden, he often walked four miles a day, and would walk eight miles to say hello to a tree (“Former Inhabitants” chapter, para. 17).
“I am a good horse to travel but not from choice a roadster,” Thoreau says in “Walking.” I stopped walking when I got my first roadster, a 1956 Chevy. Cars are cool. Who isn’t intoxicated by the odor of a new car’s interior? Today’s cars, souped up with on-board, high-tech falderal, make my old ’56 Chevy seem a bicycle by comparison. To answer Thoreau’s extreme statement about going for a walk, to walk with Thoreau, we would add our cars to his list of things we must be ready to leave and never see again. It’s an argument of revolution.
Related: Thoreau Posts
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” Thoreau said, which is to say, most guys – their binders are empty. Bukowski explains, over at Letters of Note: the drone ant has sacrificed his life for a 401Kafkaesque letter from his Man-auger: “Sorry mate, we’ve a cutback comin’ down the line.” Bukowski lights out for the territory, not ahead of all the rest, like Huck did, but behind, yet still grateful for the chance, as Thoreau put it, “…to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
But to live deliberately, or deliberately meanly, as Bukowski did, requires at least some dough, as Bukowski acknowledges in his letter of thanks to John Martin, his publisher and patron. How much dough? $100 a month, for life, as long as he kept writing, according to the documentary Born Into This (brief review here; not recommended for the squeamish). How much did Buk need to sustain his values? What would he have done differently with $1,000 per month, or $10,000? More dough, more beer? Thoreau also found no sense in saving for a doubtful future.
“The man who goes alone can start today,” said Thoreau. In any amount, against this going alone, we find E. O. Wilson continuing to surprise us: “‘Individual selection is responsible for much of what we call sin, while group selection is responsible for the greater part of virtue,’ he writes in one of the book’s bluntest passages. ‘Together they have created the conflict between the poorer and better angels of our nature'” (Susanna Rustin, Guardian interview, 17 Aug 2012). Which angel carries cash? Thoreau thought he “was rich, if not in money, in sunny hours and summer days, and spent them lavishly.”
Meanwhile, over at The Dish, Andrew Sullivan, who’d be the world’s richest blogger if posts were dollars, points us, in a post titled “What’s the Matter with Money?,” to an argument proposing to assuage any Thoreau induced guilt we might be feeling over our purchased stuff. “Buyology,” by Jerry DeNuccio, suggests money is good because when we buy stuff we sustain the consumer colony. The consumer is thus one of the “better angels of our nature.” But do we really want to be ants? And isn’t most of our money spent on things we don’t really want? I’m not sure what audience needs an argument in favor of money. It can’t be the poor, who know only too well the value of money and what it might buy (food and good teeth to eat it, clean clothing and a private place to dress, health care not to be confused with drugs, not to mention Ishmael’s bed and table), but Thoreau is clear about his audience: “Perhaps these pages are more particularly addressed to poor students,” whose meagre earnings don’t necessarily go for cool stuff: “Those things for which the most money is demanded are never the things which the student most wants.” Cynics are fond of finding Thoreau contradicting himself, and he’s often laureled a hero of hypocrisy. It’s become a sixth way added to Walter Harding’s “Five Ways of Looking at Walden.” But in no place do we find Thoreau at odds with the value of furniture, a hearth, or companionship. He even kept three chairs for society. But Thoreau did not consider himself poor, as his conversation with John Field, who “was discontented and wasted his life into the bargain,” in the “Baker Farm” chapter of Walden, makes clear. Thoreau simply wanted to live on less stuff. For Thoreau, less is more to the max.
In any case, Thoreau did not ignore economy, his own or his society’s. The first chapter of Walden, “Economy,” is roughly a quarter of the book, and readers often find tedious pages in Thoreau’s accounting. This is part of our economy, too, according to Thoreau, ants building a railroad: “This spending of the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it…He should have gone up garret at once. ‘What!’ exclaim a million Irishmen starting up from all the shanties in the land, ‘is not this railroad which we have built a good thing?’ Yes, I answer, comparatively good, that is, you might have done worse; but I wish, as you are brothers of mine, that you could have spent your time better than digging in this dirt.'”
No one doubts the importance of money and stuff, but money is a fifth column to Thoreau’s four necessaries of life (“Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel”). The question is, “How much is enough? and How do I know what I want?” as Bill McKibben puts it in his introduction to the Beacon Press Walden (1997). For Thoreau, “Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.” More, the problem with money isn’t that it buys stuff; the problem with money is that its superfluity leads to a superfutility, as its surplus grows into a power that dictates what others should do with their money, or what they should do for their money, or what should become of them for a lack of money. And nowhere is this more evident than in the status of women, all around the world, and if “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” what’s a woman to do who must learn to live with one of these desperadoes?
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth,” Thoreau concluded.
“Men say they know many things;
But lo! they have taken wings, –
The arts and sciences,
And a thousand appliances;
The wind that blows
Is all that any body knows” (Thoreau’s poem in the “Economy” chapter of Walden).
How many appliances do we need? “…the answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
The Way We Don’t Age Now: Unhappiness and Hunger in the Land of Plenty
Women Under the Glass Ceiling: Parity and Power in the Pipeline
The Glass Guitar Ceiling
…some Thoreau posts:
- What Should We Keep? The R. Buckminster Fuller Archive
- Transition: From Walled-in with Thoreau to Take-off with Buckminster Fuller
- Walden: From “The Pond in Winter” to “Spring”
- On the ice with Thoreau
- What some others have said about Thoreau’s Walden
- A Monstrous Metaphor Fished from Walden Pond
- A Sixth Way of Looking at Walden: Deliberately Seeking Simplicity
- It is told in sounds in Thoreau’s Walden
- Epizeuxis, epizeuxis, epizeuxis! in Thoreau’s Walden
- Reading Directions for Thoreau’s Walden
- Mapping a Reading of Thoreau’s Walden
- Unpacking the Aphorism to Pull Out the Pith
- On Thoreau On Clothing
- An Economy of One’s Own
- On Universe: A Conversation Between Thoreau and Bucky
- What Should We Keep? The R. Buckminster Fuller Archive
- Transition: From Walled-in with Thoreau to Take-off with Buckminster Fuller
- What we will miss when newspapers disappear
- Now is the Science of our Discontent
- …ant, ant, ant, ant, and ant
- Thoreau’s Meanly Men and Manly Ants
“We live meanly, like ants,” Thoreau tells us in the “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” chapter of Walden, just after he’s divulged his reason for being in the woods: to distill life, then distill it some more, until he has more than 100 proof. And if life prove mean, then he will “publish its meanness to the world.” What does he mean by meanness? The opposite of simplicity, for one thing, letting the railroad ride over us, for getting off track is devalued; today Thoreau would use the automobile as the vehicle and mean man the asphalt. His discussion of living meanly anticipates the later episode of the war of the ants in the “Brute Neighbors” chapter. But there, the ants are anthropomorphized as warriors from antiquity. In the ants he sees meanness because in the ants he sees men. But what could be meaner than the mother who “had charged him to return with his shield or upon it”? Thoreau even imagines the ant armies with military bands blowing on the sidelines just as fiercely as the combatants. Yet Thoreau anticipates E. O. Wilson, whose newest work explains altruism, communication, and cooperation as fundamental to advanced social behavior successes, both in ants and men, as opposed to competition and meanness. The fittest may turn out to be the one who can best cooperate, sacrifice, and share. Wilson considers self-understanding as vital to survival of the species. Thoreau agreed. Thoreau leaves the pond when he does because he’s called by Mrs. Emerson to come care for her family while her husband will be away on a lecture tour. Thoreau leaves Walden quickly, with an attenuated conclusion.
The E. O. Wilson reference is to a Smithsonian.com interview with Wilson, “What Does E.O. Wilson Mean By a ‘Social Conquest of the Earth’,” by Carl Zimmer, March 22, 2012.