Saturday, May 15, 2010

Unremitting Verse: The eBook

Most of the pieces previously published here, along with seven new ones, have been published as a Kindle book.

I have left up five of the pieces as a sample.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Merci for Not Expiring

"The mayor of a French Mediterranean town, faced with a cemetery ‘full to bursting,’ has banned local residents from dying until he can find somewhere else to bury them.

Gil Bernardi, mayor of Le Lavandou on the coast 15 miles west of Saint Tropez, introduced the ban after a court rejected his plans to build a cemetery in a tranquil setting by the sea.

Bernardi said most locals had obeyed the edict so far, but he was desperately trying to find a resting place for a homeless man who had recently passed away in the town.

‘Initially, the decree has been remarkably well followed,’ the mayor said."
  — "French Mayor Bans Residents from Dying," Reuters, 8/22/02

If you want to skip a jailing
when your body takes to ailing
     And the doctor starts to shake his head and sigh,
Just don’t find yourself a-dwellin’
in the town that makes a felon
     Out of any citoyen who tries to die.

If your chest hurts something awful,
go and do it where it’s lawful:
     The boneyard’s full in fair Le Lavandou.
All the signs they’re now requiring
say "Merci for not expiring!"—
     Find somewhere else to bid your last adieu.

When your breathing turns to wheezing,
Mayor Gil you’ll be displeasing,
     And he’ll cut you with his fearsome Gallic scowl:
"Not in this town—it’s illicit.
Could we make it more explicit?
     Get up, get out, allez," he’ll fairly growl.

When you’re nearly nonexistent,
Mayor Gil is most insistent:
     "Just hit the road—you might try St. Tropez."
If you’re soon to be deceasing,
say bonjour to French policing
     When you pick Le Lavandou to pass away.

Monday, July 22, 2002

Goodbye to All That Low Fat

"If the members of the American medical establishment were to have a collective find-yourself-standing-naked-in-Times-Square-type nightmare, this might be it. They spend 30 years ridiculing Robert Atkins, author of the phenomenally-best-selling ‘Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution’ and ‘Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution,’ accusing the Manhattan doctor of quackery and fraud, only to discover that the unrepentant Atkins was right all along. Or maybe it's this: they find that their very own dietary recommendations -- eat less fat and more carbohydrates -- are the cause of the rampaging epidemic of obesity in America. Or, just possibly this: they find out both of the above are true."
  — Gary Taubes, "What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?" New York Times Magazine, 7/7/02

I shall eat no more of rice cakes,
Vermicelli, pretzels, corn flakes,
And those snacks with clever fat fakes
     That I crave:
Now the studies seem to show that
Diets high in extra low fat
Only serve to throw a "Yo!" at
     Early grave.

All that low-fat talk was prattle:
Seems a diet high in fat’ll
Be an ally in the battle
     Of the bulge.
High-carb diet now displeases,
Appetite it ne’er appeases,
We should all choose meats and cheeses
     To indulge.

Now I’ll order rafts of bacon
That I’d long ago forsaken
For to save my heart from achin’
     Who knows when.
In the meat aisle I’ll be rangin’,
Carbs for fats I’ll be exchangin’,
‘Til the doctors’ minds are changin’
     Once again.

Thursday, July 04, 2002


     Freedom of Speech

Born to thinking, feeling, speaking,
     Each contains a universe;
Larger still the realm they’re seeking,
     Forged from sparks of minds diverse.

     Freedom of Conscience

All are born to own their sinning,
     Born to raise their highest prayers,
Errors large or progress winning,
     Most importantly, it’s theirs.

     The Rule of Law

Search in vain for unchecked power
     Bringing forth a lasting peace,
Freedom grows in law’s sweet bower,
     Fencing out a king’s caprice.

     Equal Justice

Not the strength of high position,
     Not the weak man’s tearful tales,
All alike in free submission
     Stand upon the lady’s scales.

     Freedom of Labor

None is born with yoke or saddle,
     None is born for anthill life,
Those who strive to make them chattel
     Summon only endless strife.

     Private Property

Always will the poorest peasant
     Dream of plot to call his own,
Never is an hour more pleasant
     Than the hour it’s his alone.

     Human Dignity

Let the happy and the careworn
     Peacefully their ends pursue;
At the cry of every newborn,
     Universe is born anew.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

The Dean’s Box

“By the time I moved to Calcutta [in the late Seventies], a
communist government had come to power in Bengal. One
of its first acts was to name the street on which the US
Consulate stood after Ho Chi Minh. Otherwise too the
intellectual climate was suffused with hostility to America.
Our heroes were Marx and Mao, and, moving on, writers
who had taken our side in the Cold War, such as Jean Paul
Sartre and Gabriel García Márquez.

I became a member of the local British Council, but would
not enter the library of the United States Information Service.
Then my wife got a scholarship to Yale, and I reluctantly
followed. I reached New Haven on a Friday, and was
introduced to the Dean of the School where I was to teach.
On Sunday I was taking a walk through the campus when I
saw the Dean park his car, take a large carton out of the
boot, and carry it across the road to the School and up
three flights to his office.

That sight of the boss as his own coolie was a body blow to
my anti-Americanism. My father and grandfather had both
been heads of Indian research laboratories; any material
they took to work or back—even a slim file with a single
piece of paper in it—would be placed in the car by one
flunkey and carried inside by another. (Doubtless the
Warden of an Oxford College can likewise call upon a willing
porter.) Over the years, I have often been struck by the
dignity of labour in America, by the ease with which high-
ranking Americans carry their own loads, fix their own
fences, and mow their own lawns. This, it seems to me, is
part of a wider absence of caste or class distinctions.
Indian intellectuals have tended to downplay these
American achievements: the respect for the individual, the
remarkable social mobility, the searching scrutiny to which
public officials and state agencies are subjected. They see
only the imperial power, the exploiter and the bully, the
invader of faraway lands and the manipulator of international
organizations to serve the interests of the American
economy. The Gulf War, as one friend of mine put it, was
undertaken ‘in defence of the American way of driving’.”
   — Ramachandra Guha, “What We Think of America,” Granta 77, 3/28/02

A dean totes his box up the stairs,
Confounding an onlooker’s code:
In what land does an eminent chair
Serve as coolie, disgraced by his load?

A people who seek subjugation—
Inveterate bullies, the lot—
Who plunder to fatten their nation
And would rather be cruel than not,

With a lust for power demonic
And a fondness for robbing the poor,
Hellbent on a world hegemonic,
Just itching to start up a war?

Or a country concerned with essentials,
Tired of customs with no useful part,
Where hard work is perceived quintessential
And the practical raised to an art,

Where careers are thrown open to talents,
Where caste has been left behind,
Where mobility generates balance
And competence stands enshrined?

Is it bullies in search of new servants
Or a people too busy for airs?
Let seekers of truth be observant
Of that dean with his box on the stairs.

Monday, January 07, 2002

The Global Warming Song

The troops environmental were all feeling quite depressed:
It looked as if their favorite doomsdays all had failed the test.
Forget about the New Ice Age, deforestation too.
What was a good environmentalist supposed to do?

      Global warming! Global warming!
      It’s gonna be so fright’ning
      As the Fahrenheit keeps height’ning!
      Global warming! Global warming!
      This time there’s not a chance they could be wrong.

So many of the scary things had simply failed to come;
The world perversely failed to drown in its effluvium.
The streams got cleaner year by year, the lakes came back from dead.
What could the greenies think of that would fill us all with dread?

      Global warming! Global warming!
      The planet’s getting roasted
      And we’re gonna all get toasted!
      Global warming! Global warming!
      This time there’s not a chance they could be wrong.

The spray cans won’t destroy the Earth, the ozone belt's unmussed.
Midwesterners don’t choke in soot, their rivers don't combust.
The New Dust Bowl was never seen, the topsoil stayed somehow.
What could a good environmentalist believe in now?

      Global warming! Global warming!
      Our nasty carbon crud’ll
      Turn the Arctic to a puddle!
      Global warming! Global warming!
      This time there’s not a chance they could be wrong.

The scientists keep saying that it’s true beyond a doubt;
Their models are so perfect, if you question them they pout.
Their posture seems to harden as their data seem to melt.
Is this the kind of science that’s not thought as much as felt?

      Global warming! Global warming!
      The scientists are certain,
      Don’t go look behind that curtain!
      Global warming! Global warming!
      This time there’s not a chance they could be wrong.

But put away your doubts and let’s just all get on the team:
The greenies are extremely short with those who dare blaspheme.
So throw away that mower and shut down all those drive-thrus:
We’ve got a world to save, just an economy to lose!

      Global warming! Global warming!
      Don’t do no barbecuin’
      Or for sure we’ll all be stewin’!
      Global warming! Global warming!
      This time there’s not a chance they could be wrong.