Bob Schwartz

Republicans Need the Eggs

A great classic joke, told by Woody Allen in Annie Hall:

“It reminds me of that old joke—you know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office and says, hey doc, my brother’s crazy! He thinks he’s a chicken. Then the doc says, why don’t you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs.”

“‘People are scared’: Paranoia seizes Trump’s White House”

This from today’s Washington Post:

 ‘People are scared’: Paranoia seizes Trump’s White House

Staffers are leaving their phones at home, using secret apps and monitoring each other’s social media.

A culture of paranoia is consuming the Trump administration, with staffers increasingly preoccupied with perceived enemies — inside their own government. In interviews, nearly a dozen White House aides and federal agency staffers described a litany of suspicions.

The report is essential and surreal reading.

There have been two parallel concerns about the trump presidency:

It would be ruthlessly effective at remaking America in an unrecognizable and un-American form.

and/or

It would be totally ineffective at getting anything done, even that which is necessary. In other words, the government would be in leaderless chaos and falling apart.

Many of the stories up to now have been evidence of the first. This story, though, is on-target about the second.

The American ideal is a government led by three branches, each one reasonably aware and capable, each one taking its role as a check and balance seriously. Right now:

The Supreme Court, thanks to the Republicans refusal to fill a vacancy last year, sits one Justice short.

A Republican-controlled Congress is caught between loyalty to the supposed leader of their party in the White House and the realization (something they knew from the campaign) that the president has…problems.

The executive branch? You can watch and read the news, including the above-mentioned report, as well as anybody.

As political theory, some say they want less government. But what if, in effect, we end up with none?

“there is some shit I will not eat”

It may not be my favorite E. E. Cummings poem, but i sing of Olaf glad and big is a special one. It is about someone who suffers for his moral beliefs (in this case, about war and mindless patriotism), and who is punished by a range of Americans, from fellow soldiers to the president. Someone, writes Cummings, who is “more brave than me:more blond than you.” It contains the one line of poetry I probably recite the most in non-poetry contexts, to epitomize those who take a stand.

i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelovéd colonel(trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but–though an host of overjoyed
noncoms(first knocking on the head
him)do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments–
Olaf(being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds,without getting annoyed
“I will not kiss your fucking flag”

straightway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but–though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation’s blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skilfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat–
Olaf(upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
“there is some shit I will not eat”

our president,being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died

Christ(of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you.

Ben Zoma Inside Out

The person in the hut lives here calmly,
not stuck to inside, outside, or in-between.
Song of the Grass Hut

Gone
Gone Beyond
Gone Completely Beyond
Heart Sutra

Ben Zoma Inside Out

Ben Zoma in the grass hut
Waters above
Waters below.
What does Rabbi Joshua know?
Sekito knows
Ben Zoma is outside
Inside and in-between.
Gone completely beyond.

Note: Creating, whatever your material, can be like the proverbial dog with a bone. There is sometimes spontaneity, done and gone, and then there is the idea that won’t go away. In that case, the idea is actually the dog and you are the bone. A previous version of this poem can be found here. Who knows what the next version, if any, will look like? Not me.