Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Poetry by Jake Bodin: Animal Man

I love old poetry like those from Tennyson or Pope, and I despise modern poetry.  Kudos to Jake Bodin, a modern poet who communicates important ideas through beauty, the ultimate purpose of poetry!

Here is Jake Bodin's Animal Man.  It is long, but worth the time.

Circle and spin,

moon round the earth, earth round the sun,
the sun to another, another to one.
From the premier gyration, when the first circle began,
has anything at all revolved around man?

Or was his deified lot made trivial by Copernicus?

The bodies circle and spin while time runs straight.
Is time just the length of the circle unwound?
Is anywhere save for the end of time
the beginning of the circle found?

Is the circumference of this life
and the area it contains,
lonely abstract circles in space,
or equally vital links of a chain?

The meaning of his lot is all man desires to know.
Yet a question of meaning is a question ill posed.

For an answer exists, an answer sufficing.
Yet so does another, and another and another…

Our discontents arise not from the failure of logic to elucidate,
but rather the difficulty of deciding which answer to eliminate.

We are ships with sails aplenty,
yet no rudder to steer.
  The winds they blow in circles
   like the thoughts of the sailor.

So rather than leaving waters far as unknown,
we conjure tales in waters near.

This you read though, this is no tale.
This is a map of waters sailed.
The rhyme is of no need, nor the tale need told.
The rhyme is but to beautify a sailor’s tale of old.

The story of what we are,
is a story of how we began.
Behold these words of rhyme:
The tale of Animal Man.


To what divine purpose or will
Sets the sheep to graze, the wolf to kill?
Destines the proud eagle to majestic solitude?
Fuels the perpetual lion/hyena feud?
Through the same reed plays the opus of man.
All life is sown from the same powerful strand.

One force to survive, one force to breed,
they are the maker of our story, the writer of our history.
Two forces--one artist--of anatomy and disposition;
fighting the world outside with armies of the universe within.
I urge you the reader, just consider this:
Nature is not what should be, but rather about what is.

Sentence the deranged and perverted to shame.
Burden their thoughts, their soul with blame.
For murders of anger and passions uncontrolled;
for sins of the flesh may their souls be sold.
Compare them to you and your virtue refined,
then all nature must be judged by the same fine line.

What is the difference between a whore
and the other multiple-partner carnivores?
Was it not inherit in nature’s design,
for the purpose of preserving the family line;
for the woman to desire numerous men,
so one man sterile cannot set her genes to an end?

Defend the whore? The reader proclaims!
Use sources of lust and passion to justify her ways?
By this we can forgive every murder and rape,
every wrong deed executed following urges innate!
But I know of no grounds to crown or crucify.
I do not defend or judge. I only explain why.

With no system to judge in judging I refrain,
but judging and punishing are not the same.
To judge is to lift the throne of vanity up high.
To punish is to care for others, to prevent future crime.
Left to themselves, some are violent inclined.
The punishment is to keep Animal Man from hurting his kind.


Proudly we sit, on the throne of experiments and equations.
Mocking forms stuck at lower elevations.
To the moon goes man, and beyond soon.
Any place of entry nature has refused;
we march, we conquer, nature has no defense;
for the energy of ingenuity and the congruency of common sense.

So easy it is, when we have conquered distance,
squeezed the length of miles into a minute,
to arrive at this absurd, universal truth:
That creatures of earth were made for our use.
That the cat who chases its tail in futility,
does so for our amusement, solely for our utility.

How shocked he would be if it were known,
that if man had a tail he would chase his own.
Lacking a tail, an analogy may be made,
to the “tales” man composes to fend off dismay.
To make a day worthwhile and life a blessing,
man assigns a meaning, a story, a purpose to everything.

Does man fall into despondency when tragedy ensues?
No, man finds in calamity a lesson to use.
Does man feel helpless at the approach of his death?
No, he simply assumes after this world there is still one left.
Does man grow weary waiting for God to orate?
No, he says it must be God works in a mysterious way.

Imagination is a brilliant filter of misfortune.
When the wheels of tragedy are set into motion,
never will it outrun man’s magic potion,
the magic of believing any farcical notion.
Nature’s engineering feat that exceeds all else,
is the ability of man to deceive himself.

Give thanks to the heavens for putting imagination in place.
Otherwise man would learn to spite his meaningless days.
As man takes grapes, takes it to make wine,
a thought can turn earth absurd to earth sublime.
Does man even care his beliefs are sophistry alone?

No more than the cat cares the tail is its own.


As the fish, to ignorant to conceive of dry land,
the geniuses buckle in defining Animal Man.
Is a brief moment’s movement, a movement of mine,
if by conscious contemplation in movement I decide?
Or the instinct to blink before a particle hits the eye,
that proceeds deliberation, was it an action of mine?

The instinct or the deliberate? What constitutes that which is me?
Or am I perhaps not a whole, but two separate entities?
Or many more? What is the whole?
What is the whole if parts act solely on their own?
If my cells so loyal turned to cancer unrestrained,
is it cancer that will kill me, or am I to blame?

If the reflex to kick at the tap of the knee,
were outlawed universally by sacrosanct decree,
and I kicked, who would stand trial; who for mercy should beg?
Animal Man whole? Or the nerves in my leg?
If sentence was given, a sentence of death,
the mind is tortured for the actions of the leg?

Consciousness is only the deceiving face of being,
the only part of self-reflection able to be seen.
So much more, alas, the majority rests inside,
part directed by nerves, part by the mind clandestine.
They handle the parts of life most dear and felt:
Animal Man pushes his soul away from himself.

Man claims the irresistible impulse of falling in love,
is rational to playwriting gods above.
Yet he fooled himself! Love cannot be a rational choice.
Love is a prison rationality would avoid.
But love must exist, for the offspring rationality must fall,
and so the hidden irrationality is rational after all!

Lastly, for who do I pray, what really am I,
when I am a voyage of a thousand guides?
On the whole I am my story, in part what I feel,
yet I only know the latter, and never grasp the real.
And the story saddest among all the rest,
is that Animal Man has never met himself.


Classes the classes! the inequalities persist!
Is status cloaked by manner or displayed by dress?
By effort? By chance? Is the difference justified?
What trait ensures one will serve he who dines?
And how does the politics elected to correct inequality,
only results in profits for the elected party?

What are we to do? What can be done?
Is every man different, or is every man one?
It is not our society has missed the value true:
We do not value the man, but rather what he can do.
And so if man is paid according to talent displayed,
the value of a intrinsic man is not captured in his wage.

So where is the value of man, by what is his measure?
Perhaps by religious principles one can deem man the better?
Then the measures would be infinite, no ranking is feasible,
when beliefs scatter in the head like the earth scatters with people.
Besides, the sum of man’s morals always add to zero.
One-half man the villain, one-half man the hero.

If a man is talented, his talent will be bought,
but though inequality is widened, it is solely man’s fault.
The poor reproach the gods for poverty dateless,
regardless the gods have never doled wages.
It is man’s preference that poverty, inequality persist,
as man walks the earth, naming all that is his.

When the final roll is called and all men are dead,
will the meat of the fat be given to the underfed?
When destiny greets man at his most feared stage,
at the stage of death, will the greeter compensate?
Does fate ensure at last that all men are equal,
equally rotten corpse of no life, sight, or feel?

Is the imbalance of fortune really a terrible realization?
Is the panhandler made worse by a king’s coronation?
Whitman might say the value of living is the power of your story.
That a novel can bestow the poorest of men with earth’s greatest glory.
Life would feel ever so futile, were story after story to repeat.
Injustice, with all its harms, ensures Animal Man’s story is unique.


Children pull their hair in search of gray roots,
then when gray shows they long for youth.
Remembrance is the deep moaning cello string.
The precious pasts rides patiently on future’s wings.
Yesterday held so dear, tomorrow so faithful.
Yesterday, tomorrow enter. Today is never welcome.

Memories are life’s chronicle in order of emotion,
some ready to be relived at the slightest of notion.
Other insignificant moments are quickly set aside,
forgotten, sacrificed, for the critical to reside.
If the inconsequential are cast into the mind’s abyss,
can we really then say this half of life was lived?

If not, then half of what we are is not our half to claim.
If not, the book called life must then be renamed.
Changed from a meticulous recording of history,
to a summary highlighted by the limits of memory.
Every day changed by new moments lived.
Every day Animal Man changes what he is.

The present is a trudge towards the top of a mount.
One side clearly seen, one blocked by the ground.
At the present, yesterday is a chaotic order of events,
in the grand scheme, happenings with no consequence.
Today does not justify the disagreeable days of past.
But his unshakable faith assures him tomorrow will at last.

The future is a chest of treasures to be bestowed,
compensations of blessings to coat memory’s sores.
Promises, promises of fortunes profuse,
a dollar for each inconvenience, a million for each abuse.
Future promises in extravagance, doles the highest wage.
And why not? The future, lying ahead, never has to pay.


The arts are man’s; no other species’ to perform.
In arts the world is imitated, transformed to adorn.
In taking the earth so vile and unjust--
a sphere that bundles a birth with a curse--
and casting this play in a more suitable setting,
the absurd becomes necessary, a curse becomes a blessing.

Before language, music must have been sung,
for nature seems to bundle a song with a lung.
From a baby cub’s cry to her mother’s roar,
pitch alone is a language for this expressive carnivore.
In screams of danger and calls for breeding,
nature found in music an expression of feelings.

Few Americans can discern a Frenchmen’s conversation.
Borders divide countries, but language divides nations.
Yet a Frenchwoman knows an American baby’s bawl,
and French symphonies tell stories throughout America’s halls.
Before language was made so intricate and diverse,
this primordial tongue of emotion was the language used first.

Though birds may sing they do not create;
when man composes a new world is made.
The world is but a story that cannot be revised,
except in the variform siblings the arts comprise.
The arts are a cult with the greatest of persuasion,
inciting with frail promises and the most clever of puns.

Animal Man stands like sheep waiting for his shepherd;
he says, “ The grass here is good, but there must be grass better;
whoever leads must knows where it lies;
this leader’s trail, his wisdom, must be canonized.”
Walking in faith sets Animal Man into a lull,
and dying to learn the trail was a circle.

When Animal Man cannot discern the purpose of his place,
he will cast away logic and with faith replace.
Animal Man will worship gods benevolent or wicked,
anything making this world seem different than it is.
The arts are like gods, they are different points of view,
to bury realities deep, and replace with truths new.


Circle and spin,

man round his thoughts,
his thoughts round desire.
finding little down on earth,
he reaches to spheres higher.

Man round his stories,
dizzy about his art.
For smarts without purpose,
is a shadow of the dark.

Nature casts his lot short,
to be born is but to die.
She lowers his tomb slowly,
to be born is but to die.

But man listens little to nature’s plan,
for man can make his own.

Imagination was given as a means to survive,
intended as nothing more than a tool.

But it proved all too useful in a land of despair.

Imagination is the mother;
of story,
of art,
of music,
of dance.

In the end he became what was not intended.
In the end he became a god of his own world.

In the end man sees the world not as it is,
but as what it can be.
Animal man rearranges the stars from where they are,
to their every possibility.

Jake Bodin, 2007

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