In Praise of Losers
“However high the praise, there’s nothing worse
Than sharing honors with the universe.
Esteem is founded on comparison:
To honor all men is to honor none.”
— Molière, The Misanthrope; trans. Richard Wilbur.
Let us praise the insecure,
the mediocre & the dull;
let us laud the guileless sod,
the hapless dolt & witless clod.
Here is an era epicene,
where puissance promotes gangrene;
where weakness is a virtue earned
& victimhood makes honor roll.
Who suffers most compels the best,
who is oppressed has highest rank;
it’s echelon turned inside out
& schadenfreude made valiant.
Where once the tyrannized rebelled,
they now have meetings to shed tears;
they hug & moan & wait their turn
to one-up the last sad story told.
There is no end to specialness
conferred upon laments & plaints;
endows effete monocracy.
Identity is negative
& persecution the new boast;
status, once derived from skill,
now goes to those who snivel most.
Let’s elevate the booboisie
& celebrate their wretchedness;
how ’bout we outlaw excellence
to consecrate incompetence.
Now that everyone’s a laureate
distinction doesn’t mean a whit;
when high praise goes to all maumets
valor offends, or else its wit submits.
Three cheers for the dumb,
let’s hear it for the chumps;
the addlepated get first prize,
all winners should be penalized!
Synopsis of a Courtship
It’s the gentlest storm,
this barometric pressure
presaging a unison.
Curiosity infers a missing.
Trees may sway in the wind,
a future imploring their skin.
Denial unravels when it’s confronting
the problem of rain.
It’s the quietest of storms,
these exchanges of words
exploring respective similitudes.
Assessing foretokens a longing.
The soil absorbs information
to succor refurbished nutrition.
Circumspection submits to acuteness,
confessing the problem of thirst.
It’s the most complaisant of storms,
this ushering of puissance
amidst convergent elements.
Motion concedes desideratum.
Clouds unfetter unsettled satiety
upon earthly circuits of covetousness.
Parsimony capitulates to quenching,
attesting the dilemma of appetence.
It’s the tranquilest of phenomena,
this interosculated motion
redounding dialectics of pith.
Reciprocation is indispensible.
Roots will swell and luxuriate with weal,
transmitting data to enraptured land.
Ambivalence expires, for all matter is made facile
when rudiments of cupidity impetrate the soil.
The Altruistic Art of Unpopular Complaint
Arguments & squabbles,
contretemps & quibbling;
all social progress does begin
with bellyaching & complaints.
Way back in history when people lived in caves,
spiders were for lunch & nightcrawlers, midnight snacks.
When leaves from trees were clothes
& globs of mud warmed up one’s toes
there was a person who declared, “This rather sucks,
I’m sick of it, we need a source of heat.”
This individual proceeded to rub sticks,
thinking that the friction
might create a calid flash. But hark!
Everyone in that town — deep in caves underground —
admonished him (or was it her),
“Desist & cease your ceaseless gripes.
We have lived a long, full life shivering & liking ice
& we’ll have no complaining here or, worse,
remediation thus; it’s radical — nay, dangerous —
to rub at sticks or coax a flame,
it’s always best to stay the same,
tralatitious & inane, & so you must submit to us —
progress is a villainy.” Of course, this person
rubbing sticks did not desist & — lo! behold! —
made a fire which quite contrived to make
a warmer world. The genesis of this great deed
wasn’t necessarily raw food or caves or cold
or ice but dissatisfaction & remonstrances
which authored forward motion in the
Expostulations & polemics,
objurgations & philippics;
social motion is the story
of invectives & chagrin.
Next, there came an era when
all the people stayed in place —
the towns were small, the lives were dull
& everybody felt crowded.
There was a chap (or perhaps a lass)
who had the thought of travelling
across the sea with boats that float
to find some other place
where things were new.
It started with “Ah, screw this town!
I just can’t stand to be confined
with the same faces everyday. Nothing’s
new, it’s always trite, this & that all day & night —
it’s tedious!” But, lo! behold! this chap (or lass)
commenced to build a ship (or two)
but all at once the whole town said,
“You must desist, the world is small,
you’ll never get a better place, it won’t work,
you’ll not succeed — just be a rustic bumpkin
like the rest of us.” Well, we can all appreciate
our lucky stars that tack went flat
& ships did sail & lands were found
& railroads built & here we are, computering
& sipping Cokes & all that jazz — & all because
disrelishments & abhorrence
is part & parcel of progress.
Deprecations & dischord,
brickbats & disparagements;
evolvement of society
begins with sour obloquy.
Pissing & moaning, kvetching & bitching,
where would we be if we had
If everyone was happy
& contentment was the rule,
who would make a lightbulb
or invent a ball-point pen?
There wouldn’t be improvements
like the wheel or shaving cream,
penicillin, instant coffee or the
DSL connection. We’d still be
eating bugs, scratching fleas &
feudal serfs; we wouldn’t have
the woman’s vote, postmodernism or ice cubes.
Feeding Christians to the lions
& the Spanish Inquisition,
burning witches at the stake
or shrinking heads of other tribes —
these were rules that had to go
& challenging the status quo
started with a grunt that articulated gripes,
then evolved into complaints & blossomed forth
new governments. “Be the change within yourself”
is what all despots will suggest, but
complacency is fit for fools
whereas sedition is the gift of saints.
Expletives & calumnies,
epithets & billingsgate;
amelioration of the world
began when the first curse was hurled.1
1. “The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.” — Sigmund Freud.