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Brave World -- Tony Hoagland

Guest poem sent in by Sachin
(Poem #1250) Brave World
 But what about the courage
 of the cancer cell
 that breaks out from the crowd
 it has belonged to all its life

 like a housewife erupting
 from her line at the grocery store
 because she just can't stand
 the sameness anymore?

 What about the virus that arrives
 in town like a traveler
 from somewhere faraway
 with suitcases in hand,

 who only wants a place
 to stay, a chance to get ahead
 in the land of opportunity,
 but who smells bad,

 talks funny, and reproduces fast?
 What about the microbe that
 hurls its tiny boat straight
 into the rushing metabolic tide,

 no less cunning and intrepid
 than Odysseus; that gambles all
 to found a city
 on an unknown shore?

 What about their bill of rights,
 their access to a full-scale,
 first-class destiny?
 their chance to realize

 maximum potential?-which, sure,
 will come at the expense
 of someone else, someone
 who, from a certain point of view,

 is a secondary character,
 whose weeping is almost
 too far off to hear,

 a noise among the noises
 coming from the shadows
 of any brave new world.
-- Tony Hoagland
The previous poem [Poem #1236] prompted me to look up Tony Hoagland on the
net and I came across this gem of a poem. This poem works for me on various
levels. At the most superficial level, its an interesting look at
circumstances from the other person's point of view.  It brings up the stark
fact that life is a zero sum game and for someone to win, somebody else
necessarily has to lose.

The last two paragraphs seemed especially relevant in the context of the
current ['recent' now - ed] Gulf war. The innocent civilians who lost life
and limb are but

".. a secondary character,
whose weeping is almost
too far off to hear,

a noise among the noises
coming from the shadows
of any brave new world."

Sachin

[Martin adds]

Tangentially, I was reminded of the following quote:

  Popular mythology to the contrary, that niche [large terrestrial life
  forms] has always been on the outer edge of existence. It's amazing,
  really, how the large size of humans prejudices our view of life. To this
  day, biologists talk of mammals dominating the earth. That's news to
  bacteria! Not to mention insects and worms. We, and all our bulky mammal
  relatives, are just rare clouds drifting over the teeming landscape of
  life. So were the dinosaurs.

  It reminds me of J. B. S. Haldane's quip, when he was asked what his
  life's study of biology indicated about God. "He has an inordinate
  fondness for beetles."

      -- Eric Flint, "Mother of Demons"
          (available at [broken link] http://www.baen.com/library/)

39 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Highland David said...

Enjoyed the poem, and the perspective it provides. However, I couldn't help
but be distracted by the odd reference to adventures of Odysseus and the
founding of a city. Odysseus' adventures brought him home to Ithaca. It
was Virgil's Aeneis who's adventures led him to found Lavinium with the
Trojan refugees who progeny eventually founded Rome. It seems the line
should have read "no less cunning and intrepid than >Aeneis<; that gambles
all to found a city on an unknown shore?" Was Hoagland being sloppy with his
literary reference, or am I missing some other connection?

Thanks,
david

Martin DeMello said...

--- "Highland, David" wrote:
> Enjoyed the poem, and the perspective it provides. However, I couldn't help
> but be distracted by the odd reference to adventures of Odysseus and the
> founding of a city. Odysseus' adventures brought him home to Ithaca. It
> was Virgil's Aeneis who's adventures led him to found Lavinium with the
> Trojan refugees who progeny eventually founded Rome. It seems the line
> should have read "no less cunning and intrepid than >Aeneis<; that gambles
> all to found a city on an unknown shore?" Was Hoagland being sloppy with his
> literary reference, or am I missing some other connection?

If he was, he's in good company - Keats's famous "stout Cortez" never gazed
upon the Pacific either :)

martin

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Anonymous said...

How about connecting this poem to the novel by Huxley? It's another lens to take for the outsider for sure.

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