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Some Rod Smith for Election Day

By Harriet Staff

Damn the Caesars posts a poem from Rod Smith’s excellent book Deed (University of Iowa Press 2007) for Election Day. Rich Owens writes that Deed “arrived in 2007 as a lucid confirmation that Blackwater Security Consulting was not an ideal employer to work for, even if they were the only game in town, i.e. [Smith’s poem] ‘The Narrative Quiescence':”

yet monochromatic war was no longer satire so much as some
technophobe totem experimenting over the balcony
in the gas he goes to call
& is stirred by —
but managed somehow to boast

anyway, something about a drinking problem
or a missing arm or an alien culture
but I stopped it there feeling the terms alien & culture extremely personal
& felt the danger, the literal urge
in fact to actually say something about
micromanaged alienation &
the experience of audience participation as portrayed in the
soft porn novels of my own two-teared society.

[Ed. Note: see original post for correct line breaks.]

Such a poem is enduringly apropos, resonating well beyond the immediate conditions of its making, though the piece that comes to mind now, on election day, is “Ted’s Head,” a prose meditation on the Mary Tyler Moore Show:

So there’s this episode of Mary Tyler Moore where Ted’s trying to get a raise & after finagling and shenaniganizing he puts one over on Lou & gets his contract changed to non-exclusive sos he can do commercials which is not cool w/ Lou & the gang because Ted’s just a brainless gimp & it hurts the image of the news to have the anchorman selling tomato slicers & dogfood so Lou gets despondent because the contract can’t be rescinded but then he gets mad & calls Ted into his office & says, “You’re going to stop doing commercials, Ted” & Ted says “why would I do that Lou?” & Lou says “Because if you don’t I’ll punch your face out” & Ted says “I’ll have you arrested” & Lou says “It’ll be too late, your face will be broken, you’re not gonna get too many commercials with a broken face now are you, Ted?” & Ted buckles under to force & everybody’s happy, except Ted but he’s so dumb nobody cares & everybody loves it that Lou’s not despondent anymore he’s back to his brustling chubby loud loveable whiskey-drinking football-loving ways. Now imagine if Ted were Lou, if Ted were the boss. You know how incredibly fucking brainless Ted is, but let’s imagine he understands & is willing to use force. That’s the situation we’re now in as Americans.

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Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.