Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Erving Goffman, at My Service

This morning I'm reading Goffman's Stigma on the bus, commuting to Boulder via the RTD from Denver. Specifically, I'm reading about the unstable social interactions between "normals" and the "discredited" (I'm thinking about representations of Dean Moriarty in Kerouac's On the Road and wondering if one might read Dean's manic behavior as an overcompensation for his social status). And so when later I buy lunch at a Subway Subs in the CU UMC at Boulder, the older manager-type who is always behind the counter and who has talked to me every day for the past 3.5 months asks, "so was your arm wrapped in the [umbilical] cord?"

So I wrote this poem. It's rough as a cob and will be reworked like copper wire stripped from the house inside my head.

En Plein Air

Chinook winds can’t speed
The slate-straight cloud
Across the Flatirons’ face; all afternoon
Thin sky crescents blue between
Snow-scourged peaks and heavy
Weather. Walkers stand
Dumb as queued cattle in arrhythmic
Winter, warm and dark at the last
Cusp of the prairie. Southward, agents
Raid meat-packing plants, hundreds
Of handcuffs dangling from belt
Loops, and soon scores of illegals
Will be processed and deported.
Up north, those who look
Skyward wait for the cloud’s
Stark margin to shift, admit
Sunlight, or hope the sun’s evening
Arc will soon drag it into the blue
Lapse. The late editions claim
Another minister; his congregation
Commences healing. Air smells
Of snow while widows plow
Aisles in groceries, cornering
The white-bread market. In parking
Lots, complacent men become
Impatient, feel torn between
Two useless spaces. Pearl Street
Vendors chew toothpicks, addressing
No one; a lone guitarist tunes
In a doorway, his case
Is closed. When the man selling
Beads asks you if your arm
Was wrapped by the umbilical
Cord, you nod although you know
It wasn’t. Fines will be levied,
Prayers given. Shelves will be restored.

1 comment:

  1. I wanted to give criticism before I read this. Know I want forgiveness.