Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Chris Port Blog #97. A Man Should Always Be of Use

“The danger time with depression isn’t the bad days. A bad day is just ‘flu spiked with rohypnol. You couldn’t even lift your head, let alone kill yourself. But on a good day, everything seems strangely normal. Even dying. That would be as easy as walking into the next room... God, how I dread those good days...” ~ Marty Gull

A man should always be of use
© Chris Port, 2011

Each day I eat a hearty last meal.
It’s tinned soup,
but I eat it heartily.

Then I drink a hearty cup of coffee
Thames brown from yesterday’s dregs,
piecing together a ciggie from fag ends.

The day slacks ahead
like a limp elastic band.
I stretch out the cramp.

A bankrupt system is a terrible thing.
Your creditors took your principles.
I threw mine bricks.

A man can exist on soup and dregs.
But what kind of man
stuffs his face with lies?

Old friend, you were fair
when the weather was fine.
Why judge me so poor now?

You pass me in a shop doorway.
I look you in the eye.
You look down.

It’s only the stench of piss
and irritation. But still.
You couldn’t look me in the eye.

The pretence of fumbling
as your fingers filter coin sizes
embarrasses me.

When my teeth fall out,
I’ll throw them to you instead.
I don’t need them to chew soup.

I’m no elephant, but if they can make
ashtrays out of human ears,
lampshades out of skin,

brothels out of children,
surely you can find a place
for my little ivories?

Perhaps you could string them together
into a kitsch necklace?
A man should always be of use...

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Less upbeat than Fukuyama. Less funny than Brecht. I’ve twisted in a few political lemon drops to sour the sentiment...

[The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht, 1928]

PEACHUM to the audience: Something new is needed. My business is too hard, for my business is arousing human sympathy. There are a few things that stir men’s souls, just a few, but the trouble is that after repeated use they lose their effect. Because man has the abominable gift of being able to deaden his feelings at will, so to speak. Suppose, for instance, a man sees another man standing on the corner with a stump for an arm; the first time he may be shocked enough to give him tenpence, but the second time it will only be fivepence, and if he sees him a third time he’ll hand him over to the police without batting an eyelash. It’s the same with the spiritual approach. A large sign saying ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ is lowered from the grid. What good are the most beautiful, the most poignant sayings, painted on the most enticing little signs, when they get expended so quickly? The Bible has four or five sayings that stir the heart; once a man has expended them, there’s nothing for it but starvation. Take this one, for instance – ‘Give and it shall be given unto you’ – how threadbare it is after hanging here a mere three weeks. Yes, you have to keep on offering something new. So it’s back to the good old Bible again, but how long can it go on providing?

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The Post-Postmodern World
O scared new world that has such people in it!

O scared new world that has such people in it! ...

David Hasselhoff sings atop a rotten wall. It collapses in awe. Geriatric politburos topple out of their wheelchairs in shock. Capitalism declares victory. F**k me if ol’ Fukuyama doesn’t go and declare an end to history (clearly a few songs short of a Bob Dylan album...)

Then lo! Russia goes mafioso. Banks bet our shirts - and lose. Commies buy up every budget deficit in sight. Who needs tanks when you already own the shares? The West wins every battle it fights - and loses every war.

Never mind. We may be down now, but the wheel’s still in spin...

There are no rotten walls in this country! (Our masons say so).

We’ve built our houses on moral high ground! (Our human rights say so).

Firm foundations - competence and compassion! (Our government says so).

We are literate and lightning-witted! (Our schools say so).

Who am I to see or hear
Merely with my eye and ear?

Oh what can stop our Great Come Back? I look around this great nation of ours and see... Oh... Starvation or revolution it is then... I’ll try the starvation route first. I’ll let you know where that gets me...

New Year Revolution

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Original music by Kurt Weill
New lyric translation by Jeremy Sams

The world is such a dreary and a dire place
It’s such a nest of pestilence and war
So, put this up in cross-stitch by your fireplace
Live life in luxury! That’s what it’s for!

Who wants to be an artist in a garret
who’s stuck for 20p to feed the meter?
And getting by on yesterday’s Ryveta
instead of having caviar and claret?
We have to live so why not live in style?
That is the crux of my philosophy.
I’ve never seen the point of self-denial.
And starving in an attic’s not for me.

What good’s bohemia when you’re merely poor?
Live life in luxury! That’s what it’s for!

Some people think that life should be monastic.
I wonder what a monk does with his urges?
I know they’re rather fond of whips and scourges
But otherwise it doesn’t sound fantastic.

Who’d be a hermit? Who would wear hair shirts?
Who wouldn’t rather live a life of ease?
The snag of flagellation is it hurts
And all that praying’s murder on the knees

If I wore sack cloth it would be Dior!
Live life in luxury! That’s what it’s for!

If you consider poverty romantic
Then pack your bags and live in Ethiopia
You dream of a bohemian utopia
The truth is though that hunger drives you frantic

A bulging wallet makes the world alright
It is the sugar round the bitter pill
It may not make you happy overnight
But it’ll buy you little things that will

Who needs a bailiff knocking at the door?
Live life in luxury! That’s what it’s for!

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Soylent Green (1973)

It’s 2022. Over-population, poverty, pollution, starvation. Then the Soylent Corporation markets a miracle new food stuff made out of nutritious “high-energy plankton”. Or is it? A police detective, Thorn (Charlton Heston) investigates the murder of the company president, and becomes marked for death by government agents. What is the truth behind ‘Soylent Green’? Grim. Grim as hell. Charlton Heston grim. Charlton Heston in full Planet of the Apes grim anti-hero gritted teeth grimace mode. But not nearly as grim as schools in 2011...

Great film moments. One of the all-time great death scenes...

Sol, Thorn's friend and colleague, (Edward G. Robinson) finds out ‘the truth’ about Soylent Green. He no longer wishes to live in such a world and decides to ‘go home’. He goes to one of the government’s euthanasia clinics to be humanely put out of his misery - a polite, supermarket musak extermination centre for the hopeless. His friend Thorn (Charlton Heston) runs to find him, arriving too late, but sees the world that Sol is ‘going home’ to - Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony - nature and creatures that Thorn has never seen. “How could I have imagined...?” He gets the chance to say goodbye to his friend. Heston’s tears were real. He was one of the few people who knew that Robinson was in the terminal stages of cancer. Chilling, but beautiful. It’s a world we haven’t lost yet. Although we’re close. Dangerously close...

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© Chris Port, 2010

Madness is someone asking the time
and thinking, “It’s now, you fool”;
and filling in forms and wondering why
a person doesn’t just ask you;
remembering when, at age nine or ten,
the woods smelled of mushrooms and magic;
and getting home late, with your clothes in a state,
to the tidy, sensibly tragic.
When I was just one, and pushed in a chair,
you burbled in alien tongues, and stared;
now I’m curled up there, uncurious,
having seen your world - it’s ludicrous.

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