Scoundrel Time

Two Cheers for the Middle Class (Mojave Song)

“Reality,” said my friend Fortunato, a neuroscientist,
“is a controlled hallucination.” Just so, the unnamable

swims into focus, all teeth and sharp corners.
                        A guy at my daughter’s fancy school

complains about belt-tightening for his sixtieth,
“The Big Six-O.” Nobody knows what he does, or did.

(The dads, all “retired,” somehow, think I’m one of them.
His evening soiree’s 90 percent of my salary

—and hes feeling pinched). “Austerity!” he sings.
Its how you become more interesting, says Nietzsche

—if not more solvent, I mumble.
“O, ressentiment, O, indebted dreams,

O, grad-school zero-interest credit schemes,
I’m done with interesting,” says Martha.

“We need more money,” she says, in a state
of the union address that needs no paraphrase.

I gasp like a grouper on a dock.
Meanwhile, the murderous heart of our enterprise,

in a low roar, appears from under its disguise.
The wonder is how the arc of the universe, for a moment,

somehow runs along my arm and outward to the sun-
scorched blast furnace of the American southwest,

where it seems an adventurous thing to do
to place a hot penny upon railroad tracks in the Mojave.

(We are “on vacation,” we will feel the pinch of it,
Yea, verily, later)—but for now, a train approaches us:

the full weight of it rolls our penny flat,
and there’s a symmetry that seems to live in that.