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Unread 05-20-2020, 06:14 AM
Quincy Lehr's Avatar
Quincy Lehr Quincy Lehr is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Posts: 5,412
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“Get your words straight, Jack! … Let’s do push-ups together here, man. Let’s run. Let’s do whatever you want to do. Let’s take an IQ test.”
—Joe Biden

I. Boomer

In the TV show of life, you’d best hit pause,
rewind it back until it’s as it was,
when all the girls were hot, the stars were white,
the president was black. You slept at night,
assured there was a person with a plan,
a theme song, and a striking “yes we can”
on a bumper sticker on the Porsche.
The “we” you mean does not mean you, of course.
But what the hell, it’s springtime every day
when lawns are watered and you get your way
in politics and love and rock ‘n’ roll,
and what is left is what you can’t control
and try not to think about. An orange sky
burns in the distance as the airplanes fly
on improvised routes, and golfers still tee off,
ignoring the smoke, trying not to cough.

II. Karen

The manager is out; the store is dark.
The make-up’s thin across your beauty mark.
The waiter’s been laid off and can’t be fired.
The kids have all gone feral, and you’re tired.
Your highlights have grown out; the natural grays
Suffuse your scalp. Your husband’s gaze
is just another app. Perhaps it’s sports.
Perhaps it’s someone half your age in shorts.
Perhaps it’s someone ranting about the need
for cul-de-sac propaganda of the deed,
a dialed-in snarl, a day-drunk Twitter thread,
pure adrenalin while crouched in bed.
The mailman’s coming, laden with the junk
you bought online, again. The cash you sunk
into the house and garden won’t recoup
as they sit collecting dust and corgi poop.

III. Jack

You soon enough retreat to where the clash
becomes a vaguely West Side Story flash
of someone’s switchblade last mid-century.
You stare him down again, an enemy
seen far away in memory’s telescope,
a dubious victory, nostalgic hope
that we can win again; that we’ll unite—
lifeguards and patrons—with all the wrongs set right
by folksy charm and a steel-eyed show of nerve,
an anecdote you’re holding in reserve
and hope you won’t fuck up, a reverie
that seems so vivid and malarkey-free.
Perhaps it’s true, perhaps it’s relevant,
another bit of airtime badly spent,
an answered question no one thought to ask,
another move unsuited to the task.
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Unread 05-20-2020, 09:45 PM
Jan Iwaszkiewicz's Avatar
Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
Posts: 2,728

Even though we suffer what I consider to be too much American news Quincy the content here is beyond me, technically proficient as you already know so I cannot offer any more.
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Unread 05-23-2020, 10:39 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 3,635

Hi Quincy,

I found the story of Biden's interaction with Jack, so I'm clued in that far. I know that a boomer is someone born in the post-WWII baby boom. And though I didn't immediately clock it, I did after a while remember that Karen is US-originated slang: a mocking slang term for an entitled, obnoxious, middle-aged white woman".

So, three sections, the first two addressing something like stereotypes, the third "Jack" being less clear. Possibly you're trying to coin one, to go with "Karen". There's a back-drop of pandemic too. And some connection, somehow, to Biden, I think.

I'm not really clear on the overall intent of the poem, but one initial working hypothesis I had is that its satirising various Democrat-voting types, or maybe even more specifically Biden supporters (That said Jack, the real Jack, is a Warren supporter, albeit has said he'd vote for Biden if he has to). A possible problem with this hypothesis is Karen, who's (party) political allegiances go unmentioned.

The choice of "you" adds a degree of ambiguity to the POV, in that I can read it as the N directly addressing each character. Alternatively, it could be functioning more as something closer to first-person monologue -- a form of self-address adopted by each character.

So, the section "Jack" had me wondering if Biden himself was being described: The reference to memory (Biden's isn't great, I hear), answering a question that wasn't asked (which Biden seems to have done in his interaction with Jack), and making an unsuitable move, and airtime badly spent all seem to fit Biden far more than (an imagined) Jack, for whom airtime probably isn't a major concern. Also a seemingly naiive and nostalgic view of politics, where everyone will unite and "we can win again". So then I wondered if possibly this section was called "Jack" because its describing Biden's interaction with Jack? A switch-blade fight. But that POV seems ruled out by the other two stanzas.

Boomer sounds like a Democrat (or Democrat voter) who's nostalgic for Obama, and wants the Democrats to go back to that. "Business as usual" is how Biden strikes me, so I briefly wondered if 'Boomer' was also Biden. Though Biden is maybe a few years too old to be a boomer. In this section:

"The “we” you mean does not mean you, of course".

The "we" refers to the Porsche bumper sticker "yes we can". I can take it to suggest that this Boomer is someone who wasn't rich enough to own a Porsche etc., which suggests that Boomer's nostalgia is more for an imagined past than a real one. However, it could mean pretty much the opposite: that the "we" -- the masses, the activists, the less privileged -- does not include him. In which case, he probably is remembering his own Porsche. But possibly he's not part of the "we" because he's essentially uninvolved. In terms of the pandemic, the Boomer is doing OK with his sprinklered lawns and private outdoor spaces.

Karen, with her greying hair, her corgis, and a husband who's seems no longer interested in her and/or no longer finds her attractive, is clearly struggling with the lock-down. She's reasonably well off but not rich; she's taking refuge in online shopping. She's also having difficulty with her kids (suggesting perhaps, she's not a great mother, though the husband doesn't seem to be helping).

The opening lines of this section: the store being dark and the manager being out and then the waiter. I can read (given the stereotype) as saying that she can't go shopping and to lunch, and these are her usual activities. She likes complaining, asks for the manager a lot, wants the waiter fired. What confuses me a little is why "the store", singular, which suggests one particular store: perhaps she owns the store (though she's not manager)?

The husband's interests seem to be sports, younger women and political tweets. I can't really decode, " cul-de-sac propaganda of the deed". Someone is praising deeds in some way, but which ones and why, I'm not sure. Though it sounds like the husband may be reading (political) rants on Twitter, so perhaps these are by those who eulogise action, but don't actually take any: keyboard warriors. There's little to indicate if these left-wing, liberal or right-wing rants. But given the other two stanzas, I'd wondered if the husband might be a Democrat, from which we should maybe assume that Karen votes the same way?

Against which, given the context, I guess the person tweeting maybe anti-lockdown advocating action against it while hiding from the pandemic. And part of the Karen stereotype (I read) is are anti-vaxxer views, which somehow in my mind are mixed in with anti-lockdown freedom crew. Wikipedia says that recently the Karen stereotype has included: passive-aggressively enforcing lockdown rules, stop-piling supplies, and more recently protesting against the loss of freedom to get a haircut -- and her hair does features in this section, so quite possibly that's why. Though these various traits listed on the Wiki make her somewhat ambiguous (pro-lockdown rules or anti-them).

So, there you go. I'm a bit stuck for some coherent scheme which to unite these three. As I said at the beginning, my first guess was that the poem is satirising three Democrat types. In which case their politics (and moral failings) may be primary target and the pandemic secondary, but I could be wrong. And its Karen, who makes me doubt this. Alternatively, this could be about how certain stereotypical characters are dealing with the pandemic, though then there's Jack. And the epigraph makes we want to tie this in to Biden somehow.

I realise I'm not the intended audience for this poem. I hope my confusion is helpful in some way.



Last edited by Matt Q; 05-23-2020 at 01:34 PM.
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Unread 05-23-2020, 02:25 PM
David Rosenthal David Rosenthal is offline
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Berkeley, CA, USA
Posts: 3,120

This worked for me all the way through. Wanted more, in fact. (Probably not a particularly helpful comment.)

David R.
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Unread 05-31-2020, 12:30 PM
Daniel Kemper's Avatar
Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: California
Posts: 790

Your facility with rhyme and meter makes this light verse for you. Nonetheless it's in 'the deep end' so a few comments on meter in addition to favorite content that will fall in the zone of take/toss.

Here are two places whose meter I found problematic.

I. L11 "in politics and "

II. L10 "for cul-de-sac propaganda "

I thought the wry use of heroic couplets a deadly touch. I smirked the whole way through.

I loved the "An orange sky / burns in the distance " allusion to Trump a terrific turn of phrase.
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