Thomas Couture, Decadence of the Romans, 1847


by Michael Hartnett

They who were once proud of their persuasion
now in their declining jaws grow small bones,
their teeth grow huge, their skins turn yellow and
crack. They are slowly becoming Asian,
Apache arrows in their chromosomes.
They killed her lovers, expecting to replace
pure blood with the dubious bastard stocks,
using the weapons of civilized man:
bad alcohol and God, guns and smallpox.
Dogs with the right to bear arms would found
a juster republic.
Why are they afraid?
They live upon a burial ground:
Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Teuton, Celt and Jew
avert their eyes, afraid to look around
and see ghosts of Navaho, Cheyenne and Sioux,.
They chained the land and pulled her down
and nailed her to the sea with towns.
She lies on her back, her belly cut in fields
of red and yellow earth. She does not yield,
she is not theirs. She does not love this race.
She will not open her legs to enclose
the scum of Europe, jockeying for grace.

Interesting that some of the closing lines of Hartnett’s poem reverberate with those of Jim Morrison’s When the Music’s Over..

Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down.

Another poem that’s been on my mind while reading about the reign of Nero is C.P. Cavafy’s Waiting for the Barbarians. In the case of the US, there’s no need to wait for the Barbarians, as we are the Barbarians. And we’re ruled by the Barbarians as well, who buy and celebrate our Barbarian Art as Barbarian critics discuss the serious and burning issues of the day, like the firmness of Marina Abramovic’s vs. Kim Kardashian’s  fanny and which of these asses is the true source of Divine revelation.

recent crimesBart Johnson, Recent Crimes, 2014

Waiting for the Barbarians
by C.P. Cavafy

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What laws can the senators make now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city’s main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
replete with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and god?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators come forward as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home so lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
And some who have just returned from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.

And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.

About trueoutsider

I'm an artist.
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One Response to USA

  1. Shep says:


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