Tangents: The Seven Destroyers

1. the recluse

This tangent played itself out
like st. john’s wort played out every year in his garden
before that big thresher Autumn,
thrashing it into pathetic hay with its icy blades.
He could not say less than he was cued,
but as the boundary between biologic and mechanic disappeared into
semantics
he could run for cover
and did,
taking a tangential path past ribboned oaks,
past every initiative for world peace lurking in darkened cellars,
past the very center of western civilization,
and so home.

The tangents are always played out.
The tangents are cruel swathes of stuff you wanted back in your dreams,
scythed down and lying limp,
laced up in loose bundles
and left to go brown in the sun.

2. the financier

That tangent played itself out
like a brokerage agent played out and broken by the s e c or the street
plotting another black thursday
while hiding his pathetic stash of unmarked bills in icicle sticks.
He could not say more than he was cued,
but as the bear and the bull vied for wealth and investors cried for blood,
he could plead the fifth
and did,
taking a tangential path past the treasury and the mint,
past the frozen assets of every sucker he had ever known,
past the very center of western civilization,
and so home.

The tangents are always played out.
The tangents are always laid out under a billboard’s backhands
hawking southern getaways
to soviet style sweatshops,
with beer and tv enough to buy off any gringo.

3. the seductor

This tangent played itself out
like the resurgence of the arts played out every week to catcalls
uptown or downtown or motown,
taking her pathetic curtain calls before an iceblue backdrop.
She could not say less than she was cued,
but as audience morphed into mob and threw eggs and booed,
she could take her bow
and did,
taking a tangential path past an all night grocery,
past the warehouse of burned out light bulbs from the evening’s cartoons,
past the very center of western civilization,
and so home.

The tangents are always played out.
The tangents are always cagily positioned to tempt every passer by
by taste and touch and texture
and offered with whatever promiscuity
promises the most profit.

4. the politico

That tangent played itself out
like an adjutant general played out day by day with endless questions
in a senate subcommittee,
harassing him into pathetic quips by their icy barbs.
He could not say more than he was cued,
but as the distinction between axis and ally disappeared in a media blitz
he could order a proportional response
and did,
taking a tangential path past the latelastnightness of daily events,
past need-to-know knowledge of atrocity and mayhem in all night briefings,
past the very center of western civilization,
and so home.

The tangents are always played out.
The tangents are always followed to their final denouement,
denouncing the dead and the effigy
or else denying every detail,
asymptotic to every devil that’s ever lived.

5. the guardian

This tangent played itself out
like a sergeant at arms played out each hour clearing the courtroom,
derailing the train of justice,
leaving behind a hanging judge and an inmate or two on ice.
He could not say less than he was cued,
but as the boundary between felony and misdemeanor collapsed to a moot point
he could desert his post
and did,
taking a tangential path past chalk outlines,
past yellow tape denying access to improper authorities,
past the very center of western civilization,
and so home.

The tangents are always played out.
The tangents are always duplicates of some previous incarceration
decorated by drugs or degrees,
dragged on without the conventions of miranda or geneva
and draped by shrouds for effective interrogation.

6. the hero

That tangent played itself out
like a misogynist with hiccups played out in the glare of the tabloids
with photos of his scantily clad soul
iced up in his pathetic need for maximum nightly dominance.
He could not say more than he was cued,
but as the boundary between subdued and subduer blurred beyond belief
he could tie one on
and did,
taking a tangential path past the blued screens of evening,
past the manifold notorieties of bad taste slinking down the broadway,
past the very center of western civilization,
and so home.

The tangents are always played out.
The tangents are always slick excuses for violence done by word of mouth,
in the secrets of our careful hearts,
balancing kisses with heavily armed hugs,
bruising all softness out of choice.

7. the mendicant

This tangent played itself out
like a tramp in mud time played out sleeping in a laundromat,
rustling up a furtive lunch of dumpster salad
with slaw and fries on the sidewalk, and the bubbles from an iced beverage.
He would not even say what he was cued,
but as the roles of pursued and pursuer disappeared into abstract theology
he could hop a train
and did,
taking a tangential path past kids and transients breathing tainted air,
past the killing field, the pogrom, the evangelist with the program
past the very center of every civilization
and so home.

The tangents have always been played out.
The tangents take us down the death march to a harbor view,
never delivering a living thing,
skirting the verge of our modest decency
and slipping to the very edge of sanity on the slide.

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4 Comments on “Tangents: The Seven Destroyers”

  1. dantrewear Says:

    Hi Carroll
    this demanded some time reading, and absorbing, and I can’t say I’ve done it justice yet. Initial thoughts: wonderful, thoughtful, apocalyptic and, I believe, prophetic. I’d love to hear some of the story behind the passion here…
    peace, Dan


    • As usual with me, there is not much story in my story. In some sense the passion came somehow out of being born. I suppose there is a lot of depressing American politics that went into the mix: Watergate, President Clinton’s impeachment, the 2000 elections, twin towers, and just watching our slow self-destruction. Being born at the end of a civilization, or so it seems to me, is probably just the typical feeling of those who have gotten too old, a “the-whole-world-is-going-to-hell-in-a-hand-basket” as my father used to say. Maybe it is just old age rather than prophetic, but thank you for giving it the benefit of the doubt.
      My poems, essays, whatever are never actually the result of immediate events, but of things long past. I guess I tend to be a clueless person about what is going on inside me right now. This poem was written all at once in about an hour. Once they get started, they usually just happen.
      Meanwhile, peace to you and thanks for reading.

      • dantrewear Says:

        Hi again Carroll
        “…spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets..”(1) 🙂 – suggesting that the slow-burning embers of a well-considered prophetic voice are as at least as valid as the more spectacular and spontaneous…
        I’m comfortable with the quickly-written poem; I tend to be mulling over something (usually several things; it’s hard to keep track) for some time in my head, until I finally start writing something out. Sometimes I feel guilty about my lack of word-crafting discipline – but mostly not.
        Looking forward to reading some more of yours.

        [(1) 1 Corinthians 14:32]


  2. Thanks again. It is too dangerous to me, personally, to take myself too seriously, but you are very kind and encouraging.
    I also feel guilty, or perhaps more accurately “illegitimate”, as a poet that I don’t have much discipline in the art. I write what feels right without usually having much idea of what I am doing. On the other hand, it is too rewarding to write to quit on the thin suspicion that it isn’t real. I can live with feeling not quite legitimate.


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