Of Dingbats and Hipsters

Image courtesy Kristin Smith via freeimages.com
Image courtesy Kristin Smith via freeimages.com

Of Dingbats and Hipsters

By Doug Jackson

As a child of the ‘70’s I grew up watching “All in the Family.” Episode 202, “The Saga of Cousin Oscar,” contains the following exchange between Archie and Edith:

Archie, we’ve been through worse than this.
When was that, Edith?
Well, we’ve been through things just as bad.
When, Edith?
Well, then we’ve been pretty lucky, ain’t we?

Thanksgiving tends to remind me that I’ve been pretty lucky.

A while back I submitted some work to a poetry reading. They accepted my offering but I showed up to discover this was more of a poetry slam. I seemed to be the only entrant who was un-pierced, un-tattooed, and un-aggrieved. I read them a villanelle. It didn’t go over big. “Not my room,” I complained to my wife. “Well, write some poetry like theirs,” she suggested. What I ended up with was a sort of reverse version of Johnson Oatman’s old hymn, “Count Your Blessings.” I offer it here as a way of saying, whatever I face at the moment, I’ve been pretty lucky.

Absent Outrage: An Aspiring Beat Poet Draws a Blank

I’m absent outrage,
which is a bad place for an aspiring beat poet to be.
Like a country singer with a healthy marriage
And a healthy dog
And a paid-up pickup truck.
I have no unjust spur to prick the sides of my marginalized intent
Not even a needle used to carve profanities in my own arms
Or a tattoo, the blossomed external bruise of my budding inward pain
Although I did once draw a Batman logo on my chest with a magic marker
When my parents refused to buy me the T-shirt
But that washed off after two or three baths.

I’m absent outrage,
which is a bad berth for a would-be beat poet to be or not to be
Like a teenager who, in fact, has really cool parents
And made the baseball team
And the A/B honor roll
And whose too, too solid flesh was white,
So there’s that of course
Although great-great granddad fought for the Confederacy
But even though he was too poor to own slaves its hard to
Claim he was a victim and anyway the state of Texas issued him a pension.
A grandsire from Germany jumped ship in Mobile Harbor
Which I guess makes me a descendant of illegal aliens
But I don’t think anybody ever minded much.

I’m absent outrage,
which is a bad rap for a would-be beat poet looking for a beef
Like a factory hand with full medical and dental
My home wasn’t broken or even dented
Mom stayed home every day
And Dad came home every night
And did a tale unfold whose lightest word would usually make us laugh.
I read The Outsiders and liked it but
While not a Soc with the privileged angst and cool cars
I know I will never be as golden as Pony Boy
And be a member of a tough but good-hearted gang
And win a rumble for Johnny.

I’m absent outrage,
which is a bad kind of good for an unbeat-up beat poet
I did have to pony up two weeks’ allowance to pay a library fine
When my brother had the book and wouldn’t give it back
Until he had finished reading it
A straight straight-shooting strait-and-narrow straight-arrow
Middle-class middlebrow middle-aged middle manager
White-skinned white bread white flight white boy
Who will do to swell a progress, start a scene or two
And although I’m a little tweaked about the whole GMO thing
The science doesn’t really seem to support that
And anyway, I’m too Republican to raise chickens for eggs
And too suburban to raise roosters for fighting
And too Baptist to raise any Hell worth the name
Or an honorable-mention in a Merle Haggard cryer.

I’m absent outrage, uncaged and upstaged
Like a reasonably well-adjusted prince
Given to Hawaiian flowerdy shirts and ties in bold prints
Whose old school fellows never took a bribe to spy on me
And the only cell I’ve ever experienced comes with anytime minutes
And lots of useful and efficient aps.
Nothing I think or feel deep down inside
Sits near enough to my outside
To justify a bongo backbeat or the sweet smell of self-rolled cigarettes
Or snaps instead of claps.
It might take a tool, something with a solid and sharp-honed shape
Ground to a cutting edge by the whetstone of stressed and unstressed syllables
To dig down deep enough for me to say anything worth listening to.

*****

Doug Jackson is a preacher/professor/poet who after a quarter-century in the pastorate now teaches spiritual formation, pastoral ministry, and Greek for the Logsdon Seminary program at the South Texas School of Christian Studies in Corpus Christi. His collection of poetry, Nothing There is Not More, is available from Finishing Line Press.

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