poetic satire

The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.


A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis

17.3 (Summer 2017)


Fiction and Poetry

The Praesidium Sales Pitch Falls on Dead Ears
George Shirley

This poetic satire wrings many a smile from a situation that has sealed our quarterly journal’s doom and continues to threaten our civilization.

“Is that the door? Is that the phone?
Is there no peace in my own home?
James, pick it up and tell him flat,
‘Hey, mister! Don’t want none of that!’

“Seems like he’s at the front door. Damn!
That same old Western Culture Man!
He just can’t get it through his dish
The hole he’s fishing got no fish.

“I see you through the peep-hole, dude.
Can’t open up—I’m halfway nude.
But listen—told you on the phone:
Don’t need your stuff. Just leave me ’lone.”

“The Iliad has long portrayed
The tragic risks of what we crave:
Achilles’ immortality
An image of futility.

“His comrade of the shifting shapes,
Odysseus, managed to escape
Bronze deeds to find a happier port:
Wife, child, a hearth, the harvest’s store.

“A man could do much worse than learn
The fraud of that for which we yearn;
A man should know his classics well
To folly from his life dispel.”

“That’s some ass-kicking salesman’s pitch—
But reading’s—you know—such a bitch!
Your Acey Deuce and classy cats…
No, sorry: don’t want none of that.”

“Then what about philosophy?
Boethius a surety
Divined in her against a world
With fear and vain hope all aswirl.

“We fear death that to all must come;
We covet fame no sooner won
Than blackened by our jealousers;
We mansions dream of corridors

“Displaying crests on lordly gear
And rooms for each day of the year.
Yet even Pharaoh’s Sphinx lay tombed
A thousand years beneath the dunes.”

“Your boy Theus to me sounds like
Some spiky-haircut emo type.
Blood, death, and mummies—all such crap—
Me, I don’t see no good in that.”

“Or weigh religion’s benefits
That duty, purpose, higher sense,
And order give; then is defeat
Transformed to victory complete.

“What gospelists have testified,
Apologists have shrewd derived;
A physicist like Karl Popper,
Screwtape’s letters, brave Bonhoeffer—

“Many paths lead up the mount
For him whose mind can sloth surmount.
The thrill of Dante’s winding route,
The gloom of Thérèse Desqueroux…”

“Someone caught screwing on a tape
On Tara’s desk might almost make
Religion tempt my int’rest back—
But no, I ain’t got time for that.”

“Old Terence wrote, ‘Time swallows all’—
But we should keep our swallows small
And heed the verdict of research:
The main course shouldn’t be dessert.

“How long we live appears genetic—
Somewhat: but today’s Dietetics
Sees risk in intoxicants,
Reward in anti-oxidants.

“Not only what to eat we learn
From science, but how carbs to burn:
The gymnos teaches ancient arts
That fashion us with younger hearts.”

“Now there you’ve got me! Well I know
I shouldn’t eat them Sloppy Joes.
But exercise just makes me fat
’Cause I get hungry. Don’t need that!”

“And do you need no knowledge of
The Kaiser, Pétain, Romanoff—
Or any more contemporary
Dux plenipotentiary?

“Are you not curious to know
Where NSA has leave to go—
That they your bank account may purge
Through Civil Assets Forfeiture?

“A conscientious citizen,
Of freedom’s crib a denizen,
Should have the basic Ten Amendments
At his fingertips for reference.”

“Now listen here, my little man!
I’ve heard from you ’bout all I can.
There ain’t no tennis in my crib.
The Ten Amendments I have lived

“As good as most. My bank account
Has assets soon’s they un-impound
My ride. I’m conscientious of
The penitentiary’s grub.

“So don’t tell me I need a plan.
Stop slinging hash with big words, man!
You drooping there on my doormat
Tells me I don’t need none of that.”

George Shirley lives with his family in South Carolina.  He divides his time between the growing home-school movement and freelance writing.