Dear Dirty America


Louis’s Numbers

March 05
21:39 2013

photo by Procsilas Moscas

Louis has written all the numbers  out
1, 2, 3…, all the way to 1600 & past
in tall columns, on a giant sheet of paper—
he had to ask his mother & sisters
what came next, then what came next
but it was his idea—
& it was his concentration & joy in doing—
he’s written the numbers clearly, boldly
each number stands straight, & each column
there’s no tangle, no crookedness anywhere—
he proudly shows me—
& impressed by the achievement, I say, Wow!

How can you imagine that Louis won’t be a great success
with that kind of ambition & concentration
& joy in his work & actual achievement—
if only he isn’t misdirected
if only he isn’t given some kind of phoney goal to work on
something that will benefit nobody
or only benefit some few at the expense of everyone else
even at his own expense?

America, too—
how can you imagine
that it won’t pull itself out of its death spiral
if only it stops allowing
sheep in wolves clothing & mediocrities
to direct it?—
if only it stops handicapping & sidelining
its prophets & conscientious objectors
to insanity & evil—
if only it stops paying those impersonating leaders—
if only it stops believing
that whoever controls a great fortune
must have have earned it
must be an innovative & industrious entrepreneur?—
if only it stops believing that those who are famous
are necessarily more talented than those who aren’t famous—
if only it learns to disciminate
between those who are just scraping by
because they’re lazy or foolish or both
& those just scraping by because some tyrant
(you don’t have to be ruler of a nation to be a tyrant)
has punished them for mentioning the tyranny—
or because some traitors, some tyrant’s vassals
have punished them for mentioning the treachery?—
if only America learns to discriminate
between good & briefly pleasant?—
if only America learns to discriminate
between what’s great & what’s just an exciting show?

But even if America never pulls itself out of its death spiral—
how can you imagine that some Americans
you among them, & me, too, I hope
right in the midst of the catastrophe
won’t work solo
the way Louis put himself to work on his numbers
or find one another to work together—
each compensating for the others’ lack of capacity—
& create something glorious & useful
as cloth or the steam engine or Arabic numbers
& manage to get it to those who really need it
not just whoever has plenty of money to spare
(however they came by it)—
those who will put it to use with pent-up ambition & joy—
released from their inability to help themselves, finally!—
& be paid, in return, the equivalent
from those to whom they deliver what they produce—
something, again, they really need & will put to use
one achievement enabling another, 1, 2, 3…, or 2, 4, 8…—
real needs, real use, real achievement—
how can you imagine that progress is just a fantasy?

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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