May 14, 2002

Lurid Confession

by Steve Kowit

TUESDAY, 14 MAY 2002
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Poem: "Lurid Confessions," by Steve Kowit from The Dumbell Nebula (The Roundhouse Press).

Lurid Confessions

One fine morning they move in for the pinch
& snap on the cuffs-just like that.
Turns out they've known all about you for years,
have a file the length of a paddy-wagon
with everything-tapes, prints, film…
the whole shmear. Don't ask me how but
they've managed to plug a mike into one of your molars
and know every felonious move & transgression
back to the very beginning, with ektachromes
of your least indiscretion & pecadillo.
Needless to say, you are thrilled,
tho sitting there in the docket
you bogart it, tough as an old tooth-
your jaw set, your sleeves rolled
& three days of stubble…Only,
when they play it back it looks different:
a life common & loathsome as gum stuck to a chair.
Tedious hours of you picking your nose,
scratching, eating, clipping your toenails…
Alone, you look stupid; in public, your rapier
wit is slimy & limp as an old bandaid.
They have thousands of pictures of people around you
stifling yawns. As for sex-a bit
of pathetic groping among the unlovely & luckless:
a dance with everyone making steamy love in the dark
& you alone in a corner eating a pretzel.
You leap to your feet protesting
that's not how it was, they have it all wrong.
But nobody hears you. The bailiff
is snoring, the judge is cleaning his teeth,
the jurors are all wearing glasses with eyes painted open.
The flies have folded their wings and stopped buzzing.
In the end, after huge doses of coffee,
the jury is polled. One after another
they manage to rise to their feet
like narcoleptics in August, sealing your fate:
Innocent…innocent…innocent…Right down the line.
You are carried out screaming.

On this day in 1948, the state of Israel officially came into being.

It's the birthday of novelist and travel writer Mary Morris, born in Chicago, Illinois (1947).

It's the birthday of avant-garde poet, composer, and artist Richard Kostelanetz, born in New York City (1940). He's the author of a staggering number books, including volumes of poetry, experimental novels, and studies of kindred spirits Gertrude Stein and John Cage.

It's the birthday of accordionist and band-leader Lawrence Welk, born in Strasburg, North Dakota (1903).

On this date in 1804, the first overland expedition across the North American continent set out from St. Louis, under the leadership of Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark. The expedition had been ordered by President Thomas Jefferson in order to get a sense of the land recently acquired from France through the Louisiana Purchase. The expedition would take Louis and Clark, and about forty others, up the Missouri River, through the Dakotas and Montana, across the Continental Divide, and eventually down to the mouth of the Columbia River. At the request of President Jefferson, Lewis and Clark kept detailed journals, in which they kept a record of their adventures, and of the plants and animals they encountered on their way. They listed a hundred and seventy-eight plants and a hundred and twenty-two animals-many, like the lynx and the prairie-dog, now at risk of extinction.

It's the birthday of the British manufacturer and social reformer Robert Owen, born in Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Wales (1771). He worked his way up from clothier's apprentice, at the age of ten, to become a manager and partner in a large Manchester cotton mill. After he convinced his partners to purchase the New Lanark mills in Scotland, he began an ambitious social welfare program to improve the lives of the poor inhabitants of the town. He fixed up the houses, opened a store, and established the first infant school in Great Britain. His ideas about promoting the "unity and cooperation" of workers made him a forerunner of socialism, and an early leader of the British trade union movement. In the United States, he became known for his founding, in 1825, of the utopian cooperative community of New Harmony, Indiana.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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