18 July 2009

A Saturday Poem on the Personal and the Political

Lawrence Ferlinghetti*

I didn't get much sleep last night
thinking about underwear
Have you ever stopped to consider
underwear in the abstract
When you really dig into it
some shocking problems are raised
Underwear is something
we all have to deal with
Everyone wears some kind of underwear
The Pope wears underwear I hope
The Governor of Louisiana
wears underwear
I saw him on TV
He must have had tight underwear
He squirmed a lot
Underwear can really get you in a bind
You have seen the underwear ads
for men and women
so alike but so different
Women's underwear holds things up
Men's underwear holds things down
Underwear is one thing
men and women have in common
Underwear is all we have between us
You have seen the three-color pictures
with crotches encircled
to show the areas of extra strength
and three-way stretch
promising full freedom of action
Don't be deceived
It's all based on the two-party system
which doesn't allow much freedom of choice
the way things are set up
America in its Underwear
struggles thru the night
Underwear controls everything in the end
Take foundation garments for instance
They are really fascist forms
of underground government
making people believe
something but the truth
telling you what you can or can't do
Did you ever try to get around a girdle
Perhaps Non-Violent Action
is the only answer
Did Gandhi wear a girdle?
Did Lady Macbeth wear a girdle?
Was that why Macbeth murdered sleep?
And that spot she was always rubbing -
Was it really in her underwear?
Modern anglosaxon ladies
must have huge guilt complexes
always washing and washing and washing
Out damned spot
Underwear with spots very suspicious
Underwear with bulges very shocking
Underwear on clothesline a great flag of freedom
Someone has escaped his Underwear
May be naked somewhere
But don't worry
Everybody's still hung up in it
There won't be no real revolution
And poetry still the underwear of the soul
And underwear still covering a multitude of faults
in the geological sense -
strange sedimentary stones, inscrutable cracks!
If I were you I'd keep aside
an oversize pair of winter underwear
Do not go naked into that good night
And in the meantime
keep calm and warm and dry
No use stirring ourselves up prematurely
‘over Nothing’
Move forward with dignity
hand in vest
Don't get emotional
And death shall have no dominion
There's plenty of time my darling
Are we not still young and easy
Don't shout

* Lawrence Ferlinghetti. These Are My Rivers: New & Selected Poems, 1955-1993. New Directions, 1993, pages 130-132 [The poem originally was published in 1961].



Blogger jakobtrane said...

"Do not go naked into that good night
And in the meantime
keep calm and warm and dry"

Wonderful, funny. Thanks.


18 July, 2009 03:14  
Blogger Keith Dannemiller said...

There was a story in the newspapers here in Mexico City last week about how 6 out of 10 items of clothing are either 1) contraband (entered the country without the necessary import duties; 2) in violation of patents (knock-off designs of well-known brands) or simply stolen (usually big shipments hijacked). This Ferlinghetti poem makes me think that there is a better than 50% chance that the underwear I have on is illegal.

18 July, 2009 19:25  

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