Of the People (After Marianne Moore’s “In Distrust of Merits”)
Well, having written a silly poem about the democratic process this morning I am now writing a serious one, in response to one of Marianne Moore’s most magnificent poems, “In Distrust of Merits“. A critique of war-mongering, it is easily one of the finest poems of the 20th century. I’m a little wary of putting my effort forward alongside it! Still, the election made me think, and here is what I thought, in my best attempt at an imitation of Moore’s style of verse. Of the People (After “In Distrust of Merits”) Line on line we wait; waiting for what? privilege congealed in minds worn out by grumbling and fighting in the ranks? compulsory rights dragging the democratic chain? Now where are the dreams we dreamt in Athens? And where is Plato when you need him? Sausage sizzles in school-grounds do not take the place of thrones; but perhaps they appease the stomach, the tired mind, grumbling and fighting in internal ranks. Lines swerve down McCracken Street; paper flies from hand to apa- thetic hand. “To Cyrus, whose right hand I take”: the promised plan no clearer in minds that wait now, where the one who seems the lesser wolf will win our votes today. A painter from Linz too won over hearts disaffected with these corridors and their schemes and machinations; can we know what beast we here invite? But trust the process; what goes up must come down, and he who bites the hand that votes him in may find himself a wayward stray in queuing streets like us. Yet are we so wise? Where were we when Leviathan danced and the oceans parted at one clear command? The truth is we have no clarity. When pillars fall, assumptions melt, and we are left without all axioms. Perhaps it does not hurt to lose what we have held more closely than the truth; still, what have we to replace those dreams? What now? The same error is “bred in my bone” as is in yours. Line on line we wait while, fighting in internal ranks, we dream of better yesterdays and fairer futures. Throw your ballot in the box; no blood is shed to- day and there will be a man who Mathematics says has won in Parliament tomorrow. Yet of David’s line is one who wields a sceptre with the wisdom of years spent in communion with the heavens, flinging stars in space and playing with Leviathan. He knows, being man himself, what man most needs, and will raise up what must be raised. Now He gives and takes away, “and He will make it plain”.
4 thoughts on “Of the People (After Marianne Moore’s “In Distrust of Merits”)”
Exquisite. I especially enjoy your lines “he who bites the hand that votes him in may find himself a wayward stray . . .”. Another good job. Keep up the good work!
Thanks so much. I’m really glad you enjoyed it.
Very realistic, yet hopeful. Well done.
Thanks Tony. I’m not sure the lesser wolf won, but God is still on His throne.