Mass Hysteria




for JimBo


At twenty I believed anyone who didn’t

agree with me

about Marx (Karl or Groucho)


was a humorless, money-grubbing bastard.

I measured the world

by blisters & shit-eating grins.


My conclusion: workers of the world unite

(raise your eyebrows

& duck walk in circles.) You worka too much


for too little pay. Turn some serious dough

into funny money.

Don’t join the circus to tame the clowns,


never trade the sunrise for a real estate tip.


At thirty I became a father,

grist for the mill,

let go of the Communist Manifesto,


traded my ideals for a washer & dryer,

health insurance —

the deluded assurance of a savings account.


I learned to live every day, every hour,

for tomorrow.

It was no laughing matter. I thought,


what did I know? In Moscow Marxists

were eating their dogs

& a B-movie clown told jokes in the White House.


I drank & worked overtime.


At forty I barely survived my father’s death,

exhumed his radical heart,

the one he inherited from his Wobbly old man,


a hand-me-down black & tan doodle-heart

years in the mines

& whiskey couldn’t kill. The comedy of it


all — economics, revolution, utopian dreams.

Are we molded

more by our stories or our genes? We work,


we laugh, we cry, we eat, we drink, we screw,

we die — talking all the time.

Systems are random & chaos a pattern.


Feed the huddled masses duck soup.


At fifty will I wear my trousers rolled?

Will my children

scold me for singing out loud & squandering


their college tuition on a day at the races?

Give me a farce, two

tickets to paradise. We’ll party until it’s time.


You grow old, you grow cold as proletarian

dreams, you grow bold

at the promise your shadow will lengthen.


Tonight at the opera it’s all horse feathers.

The tenor of the troupe

is fat. The king snores through an aria, our queen


loses her dress. Fuck it, the business of debt.


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