Monday Poem-Jay Parini

Lament Of The Middle Man

In late October in the park
the autumn’s faults begin to show:
the houses suddenly go stark
beyond a thinning poplar row;
the edges of the leaves go brown
on every chestnut tree in town.

The honking birds go south again
where I have gone in better times;
the hardy ones, perhaps, remain
to nestle in the snowy pines.
I think of one bold, raucous bird
whose wintry song I’ve often heard.

I live among so many things
that flash and fade, that come and go.
One never knows what season brings
relief and which will merely show
how difficult it is to span
a life, given the Fall of Man.

The old ones dawdle on a bench,
and young ones drool into their bibs;
an idle boffer, quite a mensch,
moves fast among the crowd with fibs.
A painted lady hangs upon
his word as if his sword was drawn.

Among so many falling fast
I sometimes wonder why I care;
the first, as ever, shall be last;
the last are always hard to bear.
I never know if I should stay
to see what ails the livelong day.

I never quite know how to ask
why some men wear bright, silver wings
while others, equal to the task,
must play the role of underlings.
“It’s what you know, not who,” they swore.
I should have known what to ignore.

I started early, did my bit
for freedom and the right to pray.
I leaned a little on my wit,
and learned the sort of thing to say,
yet here I am, unsatisfied
and certain all my elders lied.

A middle man in middle way
between the darkness and the dark,
the seasons have tremendous sway:
I change like chestnuts in the park.
Come winter, I’ll be branches, bones;
come spring, a wetness over stones.

Jay Parini

A Larkinesque quality?

A Few Links To Afghanistan & Thoughts On American Leadership

Part of the American response to 9/11 was emotionally driven, defensive but deeply focused. Practical, even: That horrible attack left a scar, and at the time, it hurt bad enough to know it would leave a scar. More scars might be coming.

The lawless FATA region in Northwest Pakistan, and Afghanistan under the Taliban, were harboring globally acting Al Qaeda terrorists, who’d planned and carried out the 9/11 attack. They had training camps to prepare and plot their next moves.

Afghanistan also has some strategic importance relative to Pakistan, Pakistan and India, and China (Belt and Road), to name a few. But, largely, it was about hunting down the bastards who did the deed.

Afghanistan is deeply poor, deeply backwards relative to the West, and deeply divided geographically and culturally. Pakistan and their ISI played American interests from the start (given their interests, I wouldn’t expect too much more).

Not long after invading Afghanistan, our American political leadership directed American military resources to Iraq. The mission of keeping the coalition in Afghanistan together lost a lot of focus and resources. Semi-occupation also required all kinds of misapplied military protectionism, and ridiculous rules.

From the child-buggery, to working as poppy protection, to seeing some of the dysfunction and brutality up close, our servicemen saw a lot of shit. This is where my primary loyalty lies.

So, we can’t really hold Afghanistan together and it may become costly, indeed, to again have the Taliban keeping Afghanistan together at some point in the future.

As for here at home: The cultural tides of equality at high prices, putting so many carts before so many horses, checking all the diversity boxes…now affects a lot of American military decision-making.

We might not be done with failure, here.

Just to cheer you up.

A pretty worst case: Using the Platonic model from The Republic, there really aren’t that many models of governance in human affairs, or perhaps, the more things change, the more they stay the same:

(Timarchy (military honor is the highest good)–>decay into Oligarchy (the City’s coffers and wealth are the highest good)–>decay into Democracy (freedom is the highest good as the Demos come to rule)–>decay into Tyranny and a return to the tyrant’s order as the highest good (the tyrant being the worst master of his passions).

Rinse and repeat.

I look around and see people, with good reasons, convinced our leadership deserves little to no authority (once much of the trust and competence is gone, leaving institutional strivers and pole-climbers…it’s tough to make the case).

So many emperors, so little clothing.

I doubt I could do much better.

Alas, Dear Reader, everyone takes the limits of their field of vision for the limits of the world.

Help me see anew.

Benjamin Jowett’s translation of Plato’s Republic can be found here.

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.… Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Friday Poems Around A Theme-Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens & Robert Frost

Luck is not chance (1350)

Luck is not chance—
It’s Toil—
Fortune’s expensive smile
Is earned—
The Father of the Mine
Is that old-fashioned Coin
We spurned—

Emily Dickinson

To A High-Toned Old Christian Woman

Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.
Take the moral law and make a nave of it
And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,
The conscience is converted into palms,
Like windy citherns hankering for hymns.
We agree in principle. That’s clear. But take
The opposing law and make a peristyle,
And from the peristyle project a masque
Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness,
Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
Is equally converted into palms,
Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,
Madame, we are where we began. Allow,
Therefore, that in the planetary scene
Your disaffected flagellants, well-stuffed,
Smacking their muzzy bellies in parade,
Proud of such novelties of the sublime,
Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,
May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves
A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres.
This will make widows wince. But fictive things
Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.

Wallace Stevens

Design

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth–
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth–
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.