Elegy for the 20th Century Liberal Activist by Paul Corman Roberts


Don’t you remember?
Somewhere on this timeline
between Waco TX
And
The deterioration of our walls and grimy floor
Someone said needed sweeping once before
but these rebels don’t care enough
to keep ‘em clean anymore.

There is a dated sexual revolution
Somewhere among the heaps of rot
Strewn about our Occupy.
There is a forgotten labor movement
At the bottom of a laundry hamper,
A civil rights mandate
beneath a greasy pizza container.
The only movement visible now
Is toward the horrible clarity of sobriety.

We’ve been squatting
beneath the barricades for so long now.
Long enough for history
to go all fuzzy via time exposure.
Long enough to believe recess is over
& the bell rang
& we just missed it.

Don’t you remember..?

Don’t you remember when the enemies’
advance battalions arrived
in their matching Circle K polyester uniforms?
Don’t you remember when they surrounded us
and just
…camped out?
Swilling Crazy Horse malt liquor
and processing legalese?

Our bastions shelled
batteries of forms
our turrets strafed
by business return envelops.

An armada of B-1 bureaucratic bombers
dumped their payloads
of competing deregulated utility bills
and eviction notices.

& we laughed.
We pointed in their faces
& so they opened up high-pressure hoses
Dousing and bruising us with a vitriolic ink
& still we took our eternal youth for granted.

Don’t you remember Visa’s special assault forces
scaling their way through our computers
and into our wallets? When treaties were posted
on the front gates offering truces in exchange
for letting the insurance Gestapo impose an existence tax?

So some stuck their heads out the windows and cried
“all we want is our sex, drugs and rock and roll to be on sale down at the mall!”
And then others stuck their heads out the window to protest that this was not at all what the rest of us wanted.
So media pundits and Wall Street columnists ensconced in sniper nests blew off their heads.
And proclaimed, “we’ve consulted what Jesus would do, and Jesus would say one out of three isn’t bad!”
Then there was a diplomatic concierge of Hollywood agents, recording industry executives and Silicon Valley headhunters and Angels waving mall itineraries.
And some cried out “we’ll take it!”
Then even more stuck their heads out the window
to protest that this was even less than what they wanted.
Only to have investors wielding gavels and invisible profit certainty blow off their heads.

Don’t you remember those few who were left?
Looking for a way out
For one
Or maybe
for all?

Don’t you remember seeing daylight
through cracks in a wall
clinging to its seduction of offered passage
Only to watch it fade
Behind the mounting paperwork mortars
that once seemed so harmless?

I remember
I see these things
again and again,
too many times to count.
That’s just the way things cycle
here in the encampment.
Like I said, history gets fuzzy.

I think the power has been turned off
& the urban-khaki storm troopers
have gapped the plumbing.

& that’s all right,
because the few of us left
didn’t want to go
through a social cleansing anyway.
It would have been unsatisfactory
knowing what awaits the party lizard
that manages to survive till the gray dawn light.

We’d rather wallow in the stink of the bunker.
We’d rather smile, smile, smile and wait
for the barricades we grew
and the tents we set down
and the community we tried to build
to copulate
with the diplomats and troops and
special market forces in one shining moment of clarity
when nothing stands between our pure existence
and their lust to reprogram us in their image.
What a fine moment
that is going to be.

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5 Responses to “Elegy for the 20th Century Liberal Activist by Paul Corman Roberts”

  1. Ray Foreman Says:

    Because I get something from the content and have to read it slowly sitting down with a cup of coffee, I don’t walk away empty…but there’s a half dozen poems here that would do better seperated from the herd. Yeah, it was a good morning worthwhile read. Ray

  2. “to copulate
    with the diplomats and troops and
    special market forces in one shining moment of clarity
    when nothing stands between our pure existence
    and their lust to reprogram us in their image.
    What a fine moment
    that is going to be”

    It might be that the copulation, reproduction, and reprogramming started a long time ago.

    Paul, this is a fine piece of work. Sometimes, a herd can make a helluva lot more noise (and sense) than a single steer–if they’re all headed in the same direction.

    By the way, I just finished my second cup of coffee. DB

  3. Reading this poem was like following a trail of old memories, creating again the want that one day revolution will stick and not be redundant . Good one!

  4. Another great poem, Paul. And nice to see the truck, haven’t stopped by in a while and today was a good day to do so.

  5. I’m always behind but I do read – good, drumming, meaningful Paul

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