Salemi vs. The State of Poetry

(Joseph Salemi argues the case against the present state of poetry before Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia)

JS—I'm honored, sir, to stand before this court.
I notice, though, we are a few robes short.

AS—The other justices have all recused
Themselves.  They think the system was abused
When you were granted standing.  I dissent.
My colleagues claim to be incompetent
To judge the merits of the case you've brought.
But Antonin Scalia's never bought
The notion he's incompetent to rule
On anything.  I hear that at your school
It is the ancient classics you profess.
I know some Latin, sir, as you may guess
Since law's my line and I'm a Catholic.
What's more, there is no clever lawyer's trick
I haven't seen.  So don't presume to think
You'll sneak one by me—for I never blink.

JS—Deception, I assure you, has no place
In what is I believe a solid case.

AS—As I tell everyone who comes to bat
Before this court: I'll be the judge of that.
Be glad it's not a case of life or death!

JS—Beginning with the first Elizabeth
The course of English poetry stayed true
To principles conservatives like you
Insist must be the very bedrock on
Which civilized society is run.
Tradition should be hard as adamant—
So also your "original intent."
When courts usurp the legislature's role
In trying to obtain a legal goal
More than just propriety's at stake—
The moral order, too, begins to quake.
A court which tries to make the law is like
A certain kind of poet who would strike
Out on his own and flout the settled will
Of this legislature that's in session still—
Those wise men of true classical restraint
Who understood the poet is no saint
Or mystic, but a craftsman with an eye
On entertaining, not to answer why.
Romantic egos who supplanted Pope
Started this art upon the slippery slope
Of rank subjectivism, so that verse
Declined into the personal—and worse.
When gnostical religiosity
Lured modern poets to attempt to free
Their work from so-called artificial dross,
The "purity" achieved came at the loss
Of all the aids which help a poet sing:
Sans beat, sans rhyme, sans tropes, sans everything.

AS—Your argument's impressive but what could
This high court do in order to make good
The damages inflicted on your art?

JS—Your honor, I don't give a flaming fart,
To be quite blunt, for legal damages.
I want these bores with their "deep" images
To face the wrath of public ridicule.
I want the New York or whatever school
That might succeed it (who is next—Dubuque?
Those self-indulgent coteries make me puke)
To feel the lash of indignation's whip.
To workshops I would like to go and nip
In the bud that nascent generation which
Unleashed will soon be adding to the kitsch
Whose odor makes our literature a joke.
And all poetic gurus blowing smoke
Should suffer fumigation from my pen
Until we never hear of them again.

AS—You are a man, sir, after my own heart,
Since I as well give not a flaming fart
For restitution from the liberals.
It's much more fun to grab them by the balls
And using logic make them understand.
Approach the bench while I extend my hand—
Don't worry, the Salemi family jewels
Are safe.  Shake, pal.  It's us against the fools.
This court's dismissed.  But you are welcome, Joe,
To join me at that other bar.  Let's go.



About George Good

George Good has published poems in Light Quarterly, The Evansville Review, Iambs & Trochees and The New Formalist.