The Hedonic Calculus

Searching

Something Nasty in the Bookshop

Between the Gardening and the Cookery
Comes the brief Poetry shelf;
By the Nonesuch Donne, a thin anthology
Offers itself.

Critical, and with nothing else to do,
I scan the Contents page,
Relieved to find the names are mostly new;
No one my age.

Like all strangers, they divide by sex:
Landscape Near Parma
Interests a man, so does The Double Vortex,
So does Rilke and Buddha.

“I travel, you see”, “I think” and “I can read”
These titles seem to say;
But I Remember You, Love is my Creed,
Poem for J.,

The ladies’ choice, discountenance my patter
For several seconds;
From somewhere in this (as in any) matter
A moral beckons.

Should poets bicycle-pump the human heart
Or squash it flat?
Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart;
Girls aren’t like that.

We men have got love well weighed up; our stuff
Can get by without it.
Women don’t seem to think that’s good enough;
They write about it.

And the awful way their poems lay them open
Just doesn’t strike them.
Women are really much nicer than men:
No wonder we like them.

Deciding this, we can forget those times
We stayed up half the night
Chock-full of love, crammed with bright thoughts, names, rhymes,
And couldn’t write.

Kingsley Amis

The Five Simple Machines

You weren’t angry enough.

Yes I was, mumbled Federico.

She put a hand on her hip, then pulled the plug in the sink and the water spun down the hole counterclockwise as it always does in New York.  

I want you, she said very evenly, to force me to suck you while you’re doing the dishes.

But you’re doing the dishes, said Federico.

Todd McEwen

"Everybody is becoming like … a Stasi agent, constantly observing himself or his friends.’

"Everybody is becoming like … a Stasi agent, constantly observing himself or his friends.’

Valentines

I swept out the hearts tonight / They had tumbled from my bag / All over the floor little metallic reminders nestled in the dust.

I swept them all the way downstairs / They fell in little puffs / All gathering in the cracks, getting friendly with the fluff.

I worked my broom in sideways / They yielded soon enough / And I went all over the ground again, scouring with my mop.

A poet’s cat, sedate and grave,
as poet would wish to have,
was much addicted to enquire,
for nooks to which she might retire,
and where, secure as mouse in chink,
she might repose, or sit and think.
I know not where she caught her trick,
nature perhaps herself had cast her,
in such a mold philosophique,
or else she learn’d it of her master.
Sometimes ascending, debonair,
an apple tree or lofty pear,
lodg’d with convenience in the fork,
she watched the gard’ner at his work;
sometimes her ease and solace sought,
in an old empty wat’ring pot,
there wanting nothing, save a fan,
to seem some nymph in her sedan,
apparell’d in exactest sort,
and ready to be borne in court.

William Cowper 

A poet’s cat, sedate and grave,

as poet would wish to have,

was much addicted to enquire,

for nooks to which she might retire,

and where, secure as mouse in chink,

she might repose, or sit and think.

I know not where she caught her trick,

nature perhaps herself had cast her,

in such a mold philosophique,

or else she learn’d it of her master.

Sometimes ascending, debonair,

an apple tree or lofty pear,

lodg’d with convenience in the fork,

she watched the gard’ner at his work;

sometimes her ease and solace sought,

in an old empty wat’ring pot,

there wanting nothing, save a fan,

to seem some nymph in her sedan,

apparell’d in exactest sort,

and ready to be borne in court.

William Cowper 

Nevertheless, we are free individuals, and this freedom condemns us to make choices throughout our lives. There are no eternal values or norms we can adhere to, which makes our choices even more significant. Because we are totally responsible for everything we do.

Sartre emphasized that man must never disclaim the responsibility for his actions. Nor can we avoid the responsibility of making our own choices on the grounds that we ‘must’ go the work, or we ‘must’ live up to certain middle-class expectations regarding how we should live. Those who thus slip into the anonymous masses will never be other than members of the impersonal flock, having fled from themselves into self-deception. On the other hand our freedom obliges us to make something of ourselves, to live ‘authentically’ or ‘truly’.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.