To a Commencement of Scoundrels

by Samuel Hazo

My boys, we lied to you.
The world by definition stinks
of Cain, no matter what
your teachers told you. Heroes
and the fools of God may rise
like accidental green
or gray saharas, but the sand
stays smotheringly near.

Deny me if you can. Already
you are turning into personnel,
manpower, figures on a list
of earners, voters, prayers,
soldiers, payers, sums
of population tamed with forms:
last name, middle name, first name—
telephone—date of birth—

home address—age—hobbies—
experience. Tell them the truth.
Your name is Legion You
are aged a million. Tell
them that. Say you breathe
between appointments: first day,
last day. The rest is no
one’s business. Boys, the time

is prime for prophecy.
Books break down their bookends.
Painting burst their frames.
The world is more than reason’s
peanut. Homer sang it real.
Goya painted it, and Shakespeare
staged it for the pelting rinds
of every groundling of the Globe.

Wake up! Tonight the lions
hunt in Kenya. They
can eat a man. Rockets
are spearing through the sky.
They can blast a man to nothing.
Rumors prowl like rebellions.
They can knife a man. No one
survives for long, my boys.

Flesh is always in season,
lusted after, gunned, grenaded,
tabulated through machines,
incinerated, beaten to applause,
anesthetized, autopsied, mourned.
The blood of Troy beats on
in Goya’s painting and the truce
of Lear. Reason yourselves

to that, my buckaroos,
before you rage for God,
country and siss-boom-bah!
You won’t, of course. Your schooling
left you trained to serve
like cocksure Paul before
God’s lightning smashed
him from his saddle. So—

I wish you what I wish
myself: hard questions
and the nights to answer them,
the grace of disappointment
and the right to seem the fool
for justice. That’s enough.
Cowards might ask for more.
Heroes have died for less.

Last updated January 09, 2015