Saturday, October 29, 2005

Daily Briefing

Would you trust a Chief of Staff named Scooter Libby? Sounds like a minor character from the Andy Griffith show. And his last name is the first name of my first wife, ecch!

To more serious matters, if I can seriously engage you in a serious discussion about seriousness, which should be taken seriously and by no means should be subjected to any superficial dismissals of its abiding importance, which I herewith most seriously aver, confirm, and opine.

To speak seriously is to speak from the mind and heart and balls, but as I am incapable of Matthew Arnold's "high seriousness" (which is why Milton and Wordsworth bore me), I shall likely remain a very minor poet with a very good sense of humor, however dark my humor may be--which may mean I should be taken seriously for my dark humor.

How dark is my humor? I find death exceedingly funny. Though a Christian I even mock God. Why? Because the Bible says, "Be not deceived, for God is not mocked." If God cannot be mocked I cannot mock him, therefore am committing no sin. My chief complaint of God is that he has much too much faith in us, as if he's gambling our fate on drawing to an inside straight.

My poor hypochondriacal daughter, Rachel, used to ask me when growing up what this or that bump or pain meant. As a doctor, and with a straight face, I would say: "I think it's cancer, dear." Afterward she'd yell at me. So I afflicted my very own spawn with my dark humor.

Seriously, while some rise by their gravity I seeme to sink by my levity. (I stole that line from a curate standing futilely under the miter-tree).

Now, if you'll just bear with me, I'll come up with some truly serious comments as a challenge to my basic flippancy.

On Iraq:

We cannot leave Iraq now or the future troops who die will be robbed of the honor of not dying in vain, like the heroic Halliburton chess pieces that have gone before. How could we deprive them of this honor? It's simply unpatriotic. We must stay the course in order that more may die to prove others did not die in vain, though I have not come up with a precise number yet--I leave that to the Pentagon. (I stole this basic idea from Doonesbury).

Nevertheless, I did write a serious poem about the Vietnam Memorial, which I'll paste in below to prove I can be serious to all serious doubters of my seriousness.

At the Vietnam War Memorial

Black granite stretches its harsh, tapering wings
up to pedestrian-level grass but sucks me
down, here, at the intersection of names.
I forgive, I must, though I wish something
could heal this gash in the earth.

Behold, all theorists, the price of theory:
extreme unction by napalm and blood,
buried whole or in pieces.
The VA grants prostheses
but not minds free of horror.

In jungles tumescent, through villages
of straw, by the Mekong where catfish
sleep in mud-heaven, we tramped,
disarmed mines and flushed tunnels,
shot women and children for potential collaboration,
smoked Thai-stick until stuporous
and still the sound of Charlie
played on every frond.

Beat against this polished rock, America,
this vast projective surface for your sins,
wear your heart out. It's not how many died
but that they died in vain, achieving
nothing except our grief for them.

It's said you cannot write a good poem
until recollected in tranquility.
Let this be a bad poem, bad as the war,
dividing author from reader and reader from page.
Let it drive a wedge between fathers and sons:
let fathers mistake rebellion for disloyalty,
let sons mistake honor for stupidity,
let senators mistake appropriation for commitment,
let mothers confuse waste with sacrifice,
let sisters turn to prostitution to forget,

Let teachers suicide in public in partial recompense,
let preachers castrate themselves for passive assent,
let everything in America that breathes
hang its head in irrefragable shame.
Here is the legacy of your assumptions,
here the necropolis of your dark-suited wisdom:
A city set in a pit cannot be hid..

(published in the Adirondack Review)

Now go have a drink and consider writing a letter to your congressman to get the hell out of Iraq and let the civil war begin until another strongman restores order.

Doesn't anybody at Foggy Bottom read history? I guess they're more interested in writing it.

Seriously Thine,

C. E. Chaffin


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    Just like so many Americans my friend loves the clubs and club music lyrics so he went ahead and built an awesome website about club music lyrics. When he's in high spirit he goes to the site and start reciting all his favorite club music lyrics. Says it's good for the heart. Guess what? I gave it a shot and it works great!

  2. Hey CE,
    I’m taking you up on your invite, still reading.
    I fully agree with your thoughts on the war in Iraq. After all, America started out with genocide, civil war and miscellaneous crimes against humanity, so maybe Iraq is still on the democracy track after all. As for me, I need the war to end so that my blood pressure can stop spiking every time I’m following some jingoistic bumper sticker to work. I also dislike the wartime opinions that to criticize the government is to be un-American. I would think that there isn’t anything more American, more democratic than protesting the government.
    I suppose if I can’t come up with a more original rant I should sign off now.
    I enjoyed your dark humor and your seriously serious poem.

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    Great poem. Vicki Broach told me to read it, and she was right. It is some of your best work (I know I have not read ALL your work (and get scolded for my negligence), but this would stand out in any collection. Love, Elisa

  6. Also, Jack wrote a controversial article in the school newspaper arguing that it is easy to say bring the troops home, but that this would be disastrous on many scores. I'll send it to you.

  7. Anonymous3:56 AM PDT

    Hello, my name's Katie and I'm doing a school assignment about war poetry. One of poems my teacher recommended to us was At the Vietnam Memorial. I saw on your blog that it was first published in The Adirondack Review. I was just wondering if you would tell me what year that was in. Thank you very much.


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