Dear Dirty America


Clear Goal

February 22
15:52 2013

photo by Christian Gidlöf

What a relief always to know what you’re trying to accomplish—
whereas I have only a nebulous goal most of the time
& inclinations to struggle to achieve it
& also inclinations to avoid doing what will be necessary to achieve it—
I’d have to give up everything else
& it would still be unlikely I could achieve it—
just barely possible, tho, I calculate
tho almost everyone else calculates that it’s impossible—
& invests all they can
in enterprises that make what I’m trying to do harder—
as well as the usual discouragements when I try to achieve
what I can barely conceive I’m trying to achieve
& discouragements when I even mention what I hope to achieve
even to those who care most for, at least, my body & my emotions.

How much easier to begin from a higher rung of the ladder
from prosperity
from parents with know-how & useful connections
who cherish you
from decent schools
where understanding & skills useful currently & in the near future
are the main curriculum
rather than learning how to dodge & so survive in the midst of violence
& the well-meaning delusions of teachers & administrators
who have been in school all their lives
& a whole industry of people earning a living by
endlessly talking about reforming education—
generation after generation
they get paid for talking about churning up
what always reverts to its messy & criminal mean.

How much easier to begin without having to watch every penny—
enough to eat, & nutritious food at that, & not laced with poisons.

But aside from the fate of being born into this or that situation
what a relief to be the sort of person
who always knows, or believes he or she knows
what he or she is trying to accomplish—
clear objectives, clear methodology
tactical objectives, schedule, budget, step by step—
rather than having to steer by the North Star
thru cloudy nights
days & nights, weeks, months, years, & decades—
cold, cloudy nights—
you can’t see the North Star or the other stars revolving around it
& you don’t have a decent coat or a warm retreat
no furnace, blanket, bed, mother, sweetheart, cup of something hot—
what a treasure even a real friend, however temporary, would be.

Til you arrive wherever it is you will arrive, if you ever arrive—
& in the midst of a civil war
of nearly everyone against nearly everyone for nearly everything—
unacknowledged, actually unnoticed
by executives, legislators, judges, police
military chiefs & their soldiers & their opponent chiefs & soldiers
spies of the so-called intelligence services of brief empires
financiers, adversarial partisan publicists
& commentators who imagine that they are neutral
& that they have achieved their goal, already
well-paid, vacations, excrutiatingly polite
impeccably acceptable outfits, attractive to one another
cheerfully reporting today’s & recent catastrophes
& trends at the verge of going over cliffs
that will ruin approximately everyone but them—
even by most of the remnant Christian, Jewish, & Muslim clerics—
& Hindus, Buddhists, Chinese & Cuban Communists
celebrities among the scientists & artists
the pet humans of wealthy spouses & parents
& those for whom the ideas of the European Enlightenment is their religion
likewise, the proud & gloating Malthusian Darwinists—
& by your fellow sufferers, too
who assuage their anxieties
by believing the propaganda that is their daily wages
by cheering for this or that team of lords & their vassals
competing to defeat those with whom they are competing
to exploit them like herds of cattle or sheep, once & for all.

A civil war for a reallocation of even the little bit
you are carrying along while you shiver
even, I guess, your bodily organs, your skin, your bones
whatever money or credit their models lead them to believe you have—
even your thoughts—knowledge, imaginings, schemings, hopes—
&, certainly, your allegiance to those attempting to build a coalition
that will rule everyone else—
a simple-minded goal
but a goal that a lot of people, apparently, are always trying to accomplish—
tho few will achieve what they’re trying to accomplish.

Still, it makes things a great deal simpler for them
they don’t have to be anxious & paralyzed by indecision—
tho their decisions & deeds make things worse for a lot of people
whom they notice no more than I do
all the rodents & insects & plankton & viruses in the world—
& all the little teams of people
trying to sell this or that humble product or service—
however truly useful or toxic or just silly.

Whether what they’re trying to do
ends in their briefly ruling many or even all people before they die
imagining at least for a while that they’re extraordinarily powerful
enjoying luxury & having people envy & kow-tow to them
for a year or two, or even a decade or two—
or immediately triggering the kinds of tragedy described, for instance
by Aeschylus, Euripides, Shakespeare, & Melville—
or described more simply—lamentations or caustic phrases—
by people without fame or fortune
in humble dwellings or performing humble tasks—
maintenance, repair—rarely lasting improvement—endurance—
moving along cold roads, under clouds obscuring the North Star
on every continent—paleolithic, neolithic, holocene—
technological singularity or no technological singularity—
by your grandparents, or strangers you share tough moments with
or by people you have never even imagined
who are as real as, more real than
those who are always struggling to achieve perfectly clear goals—
or who have achieved them, however briefly—
getting, controlling, becoming & being dominant—
apparently invulnerable—
seeming to have outwitted or outmuscled implacable fate.

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 hereSee also, There’s still a little breath in the old American RevolutionOn Job Creationand Stalin.

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