Dear Dirty America



May 04
21:52 2012
“Andromeda IV (PGC 2544) dwarf galaxy by Hubble space telescope.
Star to the left is TYC 2801-551-1 with apparent magnitude 10.3”

(originally posted at 100 Peculiarly Useful So-Called Poems)

While you are making the effort
which you must always be refining
as you deal with obstacle after obstacle—
everything natural or noetic
that may happen to anyone
may happen to you—
some of it is bound to happen to you—
& sustaining that effort
building upon what you’ve built
rebuilding after each collapse
or attack by rivals or vandals
parasites & predators
& the depredations of friends & family
who misunderstand your endeavor’s nature
& will misunderstand til you’re dead
& it’s all that’s left of you—
they can reconsider then
if they’re still alive & thinking clearly
& if they aren’t too preoccupied
managing their health problems
or dealing with the government
or corporations or various gangs or armies—
& if they remember & care—
it’s really strangers, mostly not yet born
who are the more likely beneficiaries
of what you’re doing—
as you are the beneficiary
of whoever it was who tamed fire
or domesticated corn or wheat
or built this or that bridge
or invented pasteurization or batteries.
You must maintain your body
temple of the spirit
some other time we’ll consider
what spirit means, maybe
if that’s the most advantageous thing to do next
we’re in a kind of war
& it’s necessary to triage what we do—
I’m inclined to think thru & put everything into symbols—
never getting to the part where you make it count
among the people doing otherwise—
I have to discipline myself—
we all have to discipline ourselves differently
depending on who we are as we begin—
the situation is daunting for anyone
who isn’t oblivious & deluded.

The cells of your body are as galaxies in number
& also in majesty & mystery—& they’re alive!—
& the atoms of the cells are as stars—
you could never count, let alone master them—
you must feed the body
& among your contemporaries
are those earnestly attempting to assist you
in return for what you can, not unreasonably, pay them
& others who would bankrupt you
if you need fruit, vegetables, grain, milk, or meat—
there are pharaoahs hoarding 7 years’ worth
which they’ll distribute in the crisis partly caused by hoarding
in return for greater control over those in need—
& you must keep your quarters hygienic—
you need a modicum of order
lest you trip over everything you feel you need to do
but don’t know how or when, or in which order
you even need some pleasure for the senses—
a kind of aesthetic harmony, however rude—
delight is an essential vitamin, mineral, or fatty acid, too.

You have to get rid of the wastes
without dumping them on your neighbor
even if some villain’s dumped some wastes on you—
you must refrain from assaulting
those who torment you
even if occasionally others assault you
either mistaking you
for someone tormenting them
or just not caring any more
who they take their frustrations out on—
even while everyone around you
not least the so-called leaders & their parrots
keep spreading insane & evil ideas
& so-called facts that are just enough out of whack
that you can’t usefully act on them—
you’re relegated to being a spectator in the destruction
of what you need & of your hope—
so that anyone who says anything sane or good
is treated as a criminal, psychopath, or harmless fool—
captured & confined, punished, murdered
or left to die of want—
which makes it a great deal more difficult
to un-do the conditioning you gradually discover
serves you & everyone else badly—
so you can get on with what you must get on with
that no one will give you credit for while you live.

You have to take in more energy than you expend—
if your jungle is a money jungle
you have to get more money than you spend
or is taken from you—
you have to transform what nearly everyone else
has invested nearly everything in maintaining.

“Maintenant” means “now” in French.
You have to keep current & ready
even as you keep habilitating yourself to do more
& doing more, & following thru
& recovering from set-backs
& coping with skepticism & belittling
the celebration of base pretenders
confiscation & theft
& dealing with people who imagine
that because what they do resembles what you do
you are doing the same thing
& you have to keep from getting entangled
in the so-called cooperation they generously offer
without becoming entangled in their resentment
when you have to refuse
in order to maintain your self & your endeavor.

You have to build a seed, as it were
of complicated, living cells, as it were
of (it turns out they’re complex, too) atoms, as it were
& plant, & cultivate the seed, as it were—
you’re not likely to have the most fertile soil
or the most desirable climate—
you have to do it again & again
&, meanwhile, you must maintain.

Eric Chaet, The Turnaround Artist, born Chicago, USA, 1945, raised on rough South Side, pre-computer factory, office, & warehouse jobs. Some teaching, some independent self-taught technical consulting. 1974, Old Buzzard of No-Man’s Land, poems, Toronto, Canada. 1977, Solid and Sound, vinyl LP of songs, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA.  Mid-80s to mid-90s, silkscreened, hitchhiked, & stapled 1500 cloth posters to utility poles along American highways.  1990, How To Change the World Forever For Better, brief prose philosophy, Greenleaf, Wisconsin, USA; 2nd edition, 1994.  2001, People I Met Hitchhiking On USA Highways, mostly narrative prose, De Pere, Wisconsin, USA.  Lives in Wisconsin, industrialized dairy farms & cows, remnant cheese & paper factories & factory hands & outlaw mammals & birds, post-construction boom, reactionary politics & obsolete machinery, a smattering of professionals & millionaires.  Poems published, over 50 years in many USA states, plus Brazil, Cuba, Ireland, Scotland, England, Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Nepal, India, China, Singapore, Korea, & Taiwan, often in translation. 

You can contact him at the Leave a Reply box on each page of his website, 100 Peculiarly Useful So-Called Poems, <>.

Find Chaet’s book, People I Met Hitchhiking USA Highwaysand read a review written here.

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