Poking along the ol’ desert trail

Striving For Efficiency

Undocumented love songs do appeal
To unrelenting robots at the job,
The automatic working people’s deal
About their heavy hearts’ (in stillness) throb.
You people! See your wasted VCRs!
Take comfort with the loved ones from the rain,
Wave pennants at the ballgame, and our cars
Shall eat the track. Replace oldtimer’s train
With progress’ routes, invented by the Old
Guard, so the New will build starcruiser ships —
The labored, never-ending future, cold
Beyond imagination — mindless trips.
The words we say, the plans we’ve made in haste,
Perspective bears their worthiness or waste.

[Published in Gallery 1985, a Walters State Community College publication, spring 1985]

=====================

The Farmer’s Almanac Guide to Shakespeare: A 1/2-Act Play

To be performed in a casual setting; the performer should wear an old hat, dirty overalls, and a wornout pair of boots and be holding a large book, preferably the works of Shakespeare.

Hi folks, I was gonna tell y’all about the weather and how my farm was doin’ and all that but this morning I picked up this stack of tall tales that’s been holdin’ up one end of my kitchen table ever since my daughter got kicked outta eighth grade for chewin’ tobacco.

The fellow in this here book says that old psychiatrists have gray beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes all yellowed-over, their gums are red from gnawin’ and that they lack their sanity, together with having weak legs, so they have to hang onto the toilet when they pee (kinda like some of them politicians after they’ve had a few sips of my moonshine…er, I mean cough medicine). I don’t mean to insult the bunch of you but that purty well describes the rest of us here today. But as I was sayin’, you can tell this fellow has a lot on his mind, and he uses some purty fancy words to say all what he’s got to say. I especially like this story, called…

The Good Ol’ Boy Hamlet

[The performer makes a sound, clearing the throat, thrusts the book out in an overdramatic fashion and then pulls the book in close as if the words are hard to see, bending down to study the page for a few seconds before saying the following paragraph slowly, as if getting used to reading out loud.]

I heard this speech once, but it was never acted; or if it was, not more’n once; it didn’t please a lot of folks; it was like fancy fish eggs to the people: but it was — as I reckon, and others, whose judgments in such matters are much smarter’n mine — an excellent speech, every sentence put together purty well and set down with as much modesty as a cunning politician.

[The performer stands up straight and holds the book back out, then loudly enunciates the following, overacting as much as possible.]

To seed or not to seed the fields: that is the question:
Whether this brain of mine can suffer
The Cadillacs and Pierce Arrows of winnin’ the lottery fortune,
Or take pesticides against a sea of boll weevils,
And by sprayin’ end them? To die: to sleep:
No more; and by sleep to say I end
The heartache and the thousand bumps to my butt
That a tractor’ll do to ya, it’s a sitiation
Definitely to be wished fer. To die, to sleep:
To sleep: perchance to dream : ah, there’s the rub of Ben Gay;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When I have taken off these dirty overalls,
Must give me pause: that’s the respect
That makes a calamity of this long life;
For who would bear the naggin’ and complainin’ of your spouse,
The government taxes, the businessman’s contempt for farmin’,
The pains of your ol’ sweetheart’s love, the delay of your farm loan approval,
The overbearin’ county commissioners and the free handouts
That lazy farmers whose crops fail take,
When I myself could quietly make
Out like a barefoot bandit? who would bear the burdens,
To grunt and sweat under this weary life,
But that the wonder of somethin’ after death,
The undiscovered country from whose boundaries
No traveller has returned, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we don’t know of?
Thus conscience does make Christians of us all;
And thus the natural-born worldly will
Is replaced with Jesus and his cast of angels,
And enterprises of great importance and in regards
to this moment our thoughts run to God
And lose the love for the world. — Listen now!
My fair wife! She calls me back to the dinner table for some vittles.
Well, folks, I’d best be going afore she up and feeds my supper to the hogs.

– 19 May 1995

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