that most comfortable place

I cannot write about the sharpest pain
where it sits in Afghanistan
soaked into bed sheets
and spreading over every head
solider, civilian, politician, whatever
they do

I cannot describe what is holy
in Gaza because I do not know God
and because I don’t mind sharing
space, don’t have a problem
with worship when it doesn’t require blood

I can barely look around without
seeing something I can’t change
feel weak about, fail to stand up about

I have words to send from that most comfortable
place, the middle class
and I send them out and wonder what they’re for
what can they do? are they rubber bullets
to be shaken off, do they have to hijack the war lexicon
to make their bruises

what heads to reap and what to plant in their place?

how about participation, how does that grow
from the fat gut of apathy, deep in the mind-fuck
of consumer culture,
where Jhally’s end of the world is closer than we think
because in advertising it’s ok to be happy
about the waste of natural resources
so long as something plastic
and shiny is the end result
and what could be better than technology
as an accessory
one that needs constant updating, can’t you just
feel the saliva from the sales department,
when each new iphone or windows platform comes out

but then, I’m typing this in Word
and I’ll probably throw it to
the internet
or at least e-mail it
and it’s going to come up against
the walls and splatter there
like graffiti that lasts as long
as it takes a council to paint over
or until a new tag goes up
and then I’ll do it again
and so will they
and all I’ll have left is another thing
my words cannot do

10.3.10

.

not sure how long this one’ll stay up – can’t decide if it’s a pointless exercise to post a poem complaining about how pointless an exercise it can be to post a poem!

20 thoughts on “that most comfortable place

  1. “poetry makes nothing happen” should not be a standalone quote, “it survives in the valley of its making where executives would never want to tamper.”

    Great poem Ash, well constructed, clearly conveys the message, and the message has me reeling. You and I, and anyone reading this page, know why we write, it wasn’t that we sat down one day to analyse our career choices, comparing pay rates across industries and decided that poetry paid well. Nobody decides to write poetry, or rather anyone who does make a conscious decision will produce nothing more than conscious thought. With poetry we can’t necessarily soothe the aching of generations of slaves, or war ravaged refugees, or even a homeless man (better to give him $2 than a page of verse). What we can do is try to quell the storm within our souls, try to appease the ghosts that scream ‘do not go gentle into that good night,’ and if, as a consequence, the tone resonates perfectly with one reader then success is measured off the chart.

    • Thanks, Mark – that’s an awesome response. The success should be measured in the way it hits a reader. I have often asked myself, what do we actually do with poetry (&art) and it’s almost impossible to answer. But at the least, at least we share it!

      And that Auden quote is fascinating – poetry for poetry’s sake?

    • Thanks, Gabrielle! I’ll try – I find these sorts of poems SO difficult to write. It’s just hard to say anything meaningful about other people’s problems, sometimes – so my poems always end up about mine – this one, about my problem with writing about other people’s problems! 🙂

      • One way of looking at it is the universality of feelings as humans – you don’t have to have experienced a war to have feelings about it and it impacts us all in different ways (some obviously more immediately) – why do we care, what are the commonalities or links. It is like why do we relate to a character in a book who is living in a world different from us (like an alien) but we do related because they have been developed with universal characteristics – fear, love, hope etc. Just some thoughts Ashley.

      • Yeah, that’s a good way of looking at it. ‘the universality of feelings.’

        So in a way, maybe the poem has some impact by allowing people who also feel powerless to change things, to connect with that same feeling in this poem?

      • What I meant was that you shouldn’t underestimate your ’empathy’ for another situation (even though it is outside your sphere of direct experience) because you probably have experienced some similarities in emotion (eg., grief, fear, pain) but maybe not to the same degree. Probably not making much sense – hard to discuss things via text messages.

  2. i felt it as a powerful statement. though you may be coming from a writer’s perspective regarding the efficacy of words, it still rings through and true on the qualities of all actions, creative or otherwise.
    one thing that came up for me is that perhaps ‘middle class’ is not such a comfortable place. it is not enough, nor is it too little. it feels the brunt of being sandwiched, and eats itself to carry on the process, so to speak. it has to face its own dilemma, and is close enough to both high and low to be vulnerable from every angle

    • Thank you – I was hoping my disclaimer at the bottom didn’t knock off some of the power I’d hoped for.

      Good point re: middle class, I should have specified, perhaps, ‘comfortable compared to’ etc I know what you mean about the idea of middle class ‘eating itself’ to carry on. Great description there.

      I was once told that to become truly middle class I would have to stop creating art!

  3. actually, i think the way you wrote it is perfect, it does not need to be specified. if it had been specified as you mention, then the thought would not have occurred to me, would not have grown out of it on its own. the way you wrote it, allows the idea to sort of float meaning but not dictate it.

  4. great piece! I prefer ghosting to commenting but…here goes.
    I get a sense of helplessness, or misdirected powers, as if I should and could be doing more if I could get over myself to do it. (I can’t wait for the new IPAD lol and windows 7 is sooo much better than vista hee hee.) I think the rap over the knuckles is appropriate. I should remember an attitude of gratitude and my sisters and brothers in the midst of warzones, hunger, poverty, homelessness etc.
    Oft times I think poetry is an act of futile vanity, with the lasting power to affect change as that of a flower in bloom, which is to say poetry is like a flash of lightning that leaves clear skies behind and you wonder if were affected in the first place but then I read a poem like this which suggests “class” goes beyond money, toys etc and embraces the realm of social conscience and I am reminded that fighting the good fight is sometimes just making sure I am aware of what is going on “out there.” Talking it up with friends family etc, donating making changes when I can, protesting with my actions etc.
    this is the least pointless piece I have read in some time 🙂 thanks for the shake up from my comfy place 🙂

    O and P.S thank you for visting my little corner and such kind comment ❤

    • You’re very welcome, gypsy! & love to have your comment over here!

      And I do agree – windows 7 is a VAST improvement, huh?

      Perfect description of poetry there – a flash of lightening, even that might be enough, perhaps, to flash into someone’s mind, even for a moment. I’m glad it resonated with you, and it’s amazing that you felt like it shook you up a bit, for only words to do that is great. I certainly felt that way writing it!

  5. Ash,

    We all feel it… and yeah we are some of the lucky ones, but as long as we keep questioning our place in the world, keep checking in with the greater reality, keep kicking complacency in the arse, then it is all good.

    G

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