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Evil Archy

An experiment in terze rima verse by Wayan; April 2008
My love works, as millions do
in a silver downtown tower:
a pressure-pot of rue.

No, not rue the poison flower.
The rue of regret is all her day,
trapped in the unthinking power

Of spineless middlemen who pay
no heed to Cheryl's knowing.
And that's my song today:

Capitalism's red-ink autumn. Going,
going, gone! Oh, it deliquesces,
like midnight-black oil flowing

Off a dying fungus, oozing messes
we despair to clean, or burn.
But we know who to blame: rich jackasses.

Easy to do. So it hurts to learn
that my friends who work outside all these
sleek steel vertical temples of Earn

working in schools, municipalities,
non-for-profits dedicated
to service, to a cleaner breeze

Suffer the same. Greed's overrated!
About this, even Marx was a fool.
For example: my friend Alder faded

From happy years in a co-op school
where parents and staff pooled their expertise:
an Ethiope chef cooked teff to make ya drool,

while other parents bandaged knees,
raised hens, tomatoes, rabbits--took initiative
with uproar and with ease.

But Alder's day is strained now through a sieve,
for the State took over! Mummified
their school in rules without an inch of give.

Once enthused, now she can barely bide,
but can't retire: they trashed her pension, too.
And when she asked how much was left, they lied.

Profit didn't turn her work to poo.
The wreckers of her lifework showed no shame
And worked for We the People. Sad but true.

So don't tell me that capital's to blame,
that greed fades our face, slows our pace
from life to leather, from fleet to lame.

Not bastards at the top, not gender, class, or race.
Oh, howl at the truth, not the innocent moon!
Hierarchy's our villain. Blame the right face.

Dance to your own, not authority's tune!
I know, I know: impractical and snarky.
But we lived bossless once! And will again, and soon.

We anarchists call this boss-world "archy".
(Not like starchy--archy was that poet-cockroach!
This archy rhymes with malarkey.)

Archy's still beyond reproach.
Autarchy or demarchy, an Asian sweat shop
Or the sweatless air-conditioned coach

Of a Lear jet: room at the top.
Always, always a boss on your boss
and he says hop. And you hop.

I howl my terze song to mourn the loss
of (mythical) free folk in de light.
A state? A firm? Ah, neither gives a toss

for us in their belly's foul dank night.
Only alone or in co-ops are we free
to work as we feel right.

No, down the archaic ladder we flee!
The prehuman rungs of a thuggish pack:
alpha, beta, grunts. The primal three

Born of a need to respond in a crack
second, to the pounce and slash
of a sabertooth attack.

Still of use in war and crash,
in fast-breaking crisis, archy is our
social default, the hardwired cache

We switch on in that horror-hour
when suddenly New York's a blot
and smoke coils up from the second tower.

But the heart of our terror's certainly not
Al-Qaeda. It's archy itself, if I'm right.
We beg to be led, in our panicky spot.

And til we recognize what to fight
and stab the hub of our web of woes,
level that ladder with all our might,

Shred our mummy-shroud... I suppose
we'll stagger on, bosses clutching tight,
drudging through this archist night.
And so it goes. And goes.


This was an experiment in terze rima, a verse form with triplets rhyming aba, bcb, cdc, ded and so on. Done well, it creates a powerful futureward momentum, yet intermeshed with the past.

'Twas fiendish-hard, for three reasons:

  1. Did I pick a nice simple lyrical subject to try my terze on? Of course! I expound a lovely sociopolitical theory. How poetic can ya get! I get to rhyme cockroach, sweatshop, municipality. Sheer masochistic bliss!
  2. Terze lines link so tight (both fore and aft) that it's hell to insert or delete. I felt trapped and thrashing, and it shows! Like live music, terze is what it is. If you like to revise, pick another form--ghazals, haiku, pantoum... pentapauls.
  3. How tempting, to let the form's sheer force knock me into doggerel! It pulls and rolls along. All metaphor turns florid (be nice and don't say horrid).
So I figured an ironic political polemic, where no one expects more than a loose running rant anyway, was my only hope. And so this grew. And grew.

Though I believe its argument. Do you?

--Chris Wayan


But now I'm not so sure. I just finished Rebecca Solnit's A Paradise Built in Hell. She details how people really act during disasters, and it's not at all what I think--or authorities think. They "revert" to direct action, self-organizing quickly and more efficiently than trained rescuers, who often just get in the way. Anarchy in action.

LISTS AND LINKS: poems - anarchy vs. hierarchy - politics - class - capitalism - inheritances - work - artistic experiments - essays and rants - tales of the undream world - Solnit, Rebecca

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