Minor Manifesto of a Lesser Human Being

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William Haskins

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No origin myth
of which to speak.

To hear the old man tell it,
a buzzard shit on a rock and
I hatched in the sinister sun—
so becoming the sinister one

(unfortunately
this cannot be
independently
verified).

This much I know:

From beginning to end
is frenzy,
a clench of
jaw and fist

to smash this
skull invasion
by the dull
and dissolute.

This you must know:

My surrender
is subterfuge;
my friendship,
farce.

To defend this
last bastion
of the revolution,
I lock the door.
 
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skelly

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eta: forgot I wasn't in the critique section. sorry. enjoyed the poem.
 
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Magdalen

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Now I have to say, the tone and relentless urgency of the message fits perfectly with the "manifesto" in the title, as in the "statement" made, but it wasn't til the 2nd read that I thought the tone had more a childish pitch, and thought of a teenager as feeling/behaving as the "lesser human" - just my weird take on it! Thanks and I enjoyed it!
 

Stew21

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I do love this.

I have to read again and think more for other words.
But i do love it.
 

William Haskins

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i can't weigh in on cliches (i'm pretty sure there's a department of such things somewhere), but i do admire the phrase as a rather upfront and concise mash-up of the sacred and the profane, and such things appeal to me.

so i will take it in that spirit and say thanks.
 

CassandraW

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This gave me a slap on first read, as your poems generally do -- indeed, in this case it was more like a punch. But unlike most of your poems, this one didn't readily take me by the hand and help me understand why I had the reaction I had (and continue to have) on each read. I'm now several reads in and still struggling with my reaction. Which normally would be a good reason for me to hold off on commenting, but fuck it, i have a four hour train ride, a beer, and free internet.

I'm with Mag on the title and its perfection for the, as she put it, "relentless urgency" of the poem's tone. I think it's that tone -- particularly in the stanzas that follow "this much I know" -- that hits me at such a visceral level.

I don't see teenager or childish, though. My own weird take: I see a narrator who doesn't much like himself, and yet I find myself sympathizing with. (fuck yeah, fight the skull invasion of the dull and dissolute.)

My interaction with certain poems, for better or worse, is often highly personal, and may have not a damn thing to do with the poet's intent. That may well be -- probably is -- the case here. But for what it is worth, here it is.

It makes me think of all the times, socially and at work, where i am surrounded with rank hypocrisy, stupidity, or just inane small talk, and have a longing to leap up on a table and scream my lungs out just to see how people would react, or to say something perfectly horrible (and horribly true). But I don't; I pull myself in and put on a face I reserve for just such occasions. Inwardly i'm thinking all manner of nasty thoughts and have checked out mentally from the conversation, but i'm betting very few would pick up on it.
 
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William Haskins

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eta: forgot I wasn't in the critique section. sorry. enjoyed the poem.

scott,

your comments were fine. again, i want to re-emphasize that my posting of poems in the main poetry section comes with absolutely no expectation that they are immune to critique or any other opinions that are genuinely held by any reader.

i've made it clear in the past that i am not seeking publication for my work elsewhere, and i have no use for password protection here.

i want people interested in reading my work to have as few impediments as possible and the AW poetry forum is a mere few clicks away from anyone in the world with an internet connection.

i can't speak for others who post in the public-facing forum, but you can make any comment you want when it comes to my stuff.
 

KTC

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Lovely. Sharp edges and a scintillating softness somewhere inside. Adore.
 

Stew21

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As William said, the main forum is open to any feedback a reader wants to offer. Critique forum is not for a different kind of interaction, just a password protected interaction.
 

CassandraW

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Lovely. Sharp edges and a scintillating softness somewhere inside. Adore.

perhaps I hear the soft, scintillating hiss of a rattlesnake ready to strike...

but mostly I get loathing and grim fury held in check.

It smacks me in the face. I've read it twenty times at least, and will read it again; it will stay with me and pop into my head at moments like the one I mentioned in my previous post. I cannot adore it and I do not find it lovely -- but I do find it well-written and effective as hell, and it hits me in the gut, which is, coming from me, a higher compliment.
 

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but mostly I get loathing and grim fury held in check.

Oh my word, but that is always a beautiful thing. There is nothing softer than a cobra ready to strike. That moment before, it's a cushion of wonder. It's like the slap before it ends you...mid-swing...all softness and light.
 

CassandraW

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I don't think he'll strike, though he sorely wants to do so. he's clenched his jaw and locked the last bastion.
 

CassandraW

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Joking aside, though, I see hardness in the repressed fury of this poem rather than softness.

the narrator's father sees him thus: "a buzzard shit on a rock and I hatched in the sinister sun—so becoming the sinister one"
(i.e., shit with the stench of death in it, on a rock, baked in the merciless sun until he is evil as the devil)

And while the narrator doesn't state that he accepts this version of himself, he does note that his life, "from beginning to end/is frenzy/a clench of jaw and fist / to smash this skull invasion by the dull and dissolute." (to me a very hard and brutal image of what is going on within him internally).

Also, there is the title -- this is a "manifesto" of a "lesser human being." A grim declaration of purpose indeed.


And he warns not to trust his appearance of friendliness, his lack of outward protest to the dullness and dissoluteness around him -- it is subterfuge and farce. Rather than "smash" it as he longs to do, he has locked himself and his fury in his last bastion (i.e., a defensive fortification -- another quite hard image).

ETA:

I saw the narrator in the midst of inane chatter, everyone around him talking about the goddamn Kardashians or babbling something brainless about the election, or perhaps in an endless, nonproductive meeting at work. He yearns ferociously to shatter the stupidity (much as I long to jump on a coffee table and scream in such situations, or to make vicious and appalling truthful comments of the variety one is not supposed to make). But he doesn't. He puts on a social face, and locks himself and his fury away and suffers through it.
 
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Stew21

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I have read this several times, and have plucked at all the strings of it, but after all that reading, I'm no closer to clear words for how it makes me feel. (which is rare for me, for sure).
I simply just have to admit, that the more I read it, the more I see Jacob and his dog skull and so haven't gotten beyond that. It feels like Jacob, from his cell.


Eta: and I've edited this three times because I'm still not being clear.
 
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Stew21

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I hope I was clear; that it reminds me of Thorn Forest is a good thing. It was like finding new piece of an old memory.
And I ached for Jacob all over again. (and I went back to Thorn Forest again for another read too). I'm fairly sure a revisit to the finished Thorn Forest (it doesn't require any addendum of any sort) wasn't your intent, William, I've just sort of grafted Jacob onto this narrator somehow and now I can't see around it.
 
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CassandraW

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hmmm.

I suppose both the narrator of this piece and Jacob could be said to have a beast element to them, both perhaps have less than satisfactory relations with their fathers, both, in a way, engage in some self-blame, and both, in some way, could be said to be in a bricked-in place at the conclusion of their respective pieces.

But. I nonetheless see the pieces extremely differently, and I never once thought of Thorn Forest until you mentioned it.

I see Jacob as a dog who's been beaten too many times. Jacob might have nipped, angry ears, but he seems on the defensive to me. To the extent he's angry, it's at those who mistreat him -- and even so, he cowers and suffers in atonement because at some level he sees the abuse as his due. Whereas this narrator is furious at the idiocy of those around him. (Note that it is not the cruel and inhumane he rails against -- it is the dull and dissolute.) He is not cowering. He is in no way atoning. Whatever he might think he deserves (he does, after all, see himself as a "lesser human being"), it is not the company of the vapid wastrels with whom he finds himself afflicted.

Jacob doesn't want to smash anything -- he just wants to be left alone. Even when attacked by the preacher, he does not fight back. This narrator doesn't smash anything, nor (if I'm right) will he -- but the impulse is there. And though he sees himself as a "lesser human being" because of his less than kindly response to dullness and dissoluteness, I don't think he sees himself as deserving punishment (as Jacob seems to do). He is not sorry.

This narrator would see Anna absolutely as she is. Actually, he might possibly find her kind of hot in her own way. (Indeed, I'm sure she is hot in her own way.) But he wouldn't see an angel, as Jacob does. He would not idealize her. He'd see her just as she is, and would take her, if he took her at all, on those terms.

Jacob put himself in a bricked-in cell out of a spirit of atonement, love, and self-sacrifice. This narrator is deliberately barricading himself off in a defensive fortress (not a prison) to get away from the shallow prattling mob.

This narrator doesn't, to me, have the sweet, tragic qualities Jacob has. But he sees things, including himself, with an intelligence and pitiless clarity that Jacob doesn't (unless Jacob gains some insight while in prison, which I think is quite possible, and is likely why he leaves Anna's letters unopened).

Jacob, I want to rescue. This narrator, I want to be at the same cocktail party so we can exchange barbed remarks in a corner. I wonder if he's single.


ETA:

Sorry, William. This would be at least the second time I've gone off on a tangent claiming insight into one of your poems. I am a presumptuous trollop. Chastise me as I deserve.
 
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Stew21

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Oh. Dear. I well know this isn't Jacob.

As I said, i saw Jacob in the narration and never saw past after the image was there.
That's my hang up.not a presumption of the poem.
You compared and contrasted them nicely, Cassandra.
 

CassandraW

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Don't mind me. I'm just seeking comeuppance.
 

Perks

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I like this one. It's different than much of your recent stuff. It's gravely - all manmade bleak, not nature.

Some days are just like that.
 
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Magdalen

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Would a "holy fuck" be cliche'?

i can't weigh in on cliches (i'm pretty sure there's a department of such things somewhere), but i do admire the phrase as a rather upfront and concise mash-up of the sacred and the profane, and such things appeal to me.

HOLY Fuck!!I swear it was a golden girl what prompted the whole affair.
?
 
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CassandraW

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HOLY Fuck!!I swear it was a golden girl what prompted the whole affair.
?

I don't know; at first read, she seemed neither dull nor dissolute. Perhaps she's in the bastion, having fled her sundry imagined monsters.