(Writing wretched verse so you don’t have to since 1995)
Sartre, You’re Such an Asshole
You thought your derriere off, no beef there.
But your heart: was it missing a valve or something?
Why do all your plays end in suicide?
How did everything become sick to your stomach?
Can you really believe there was something political
in the sky above Van Gogh?
What a terrible idea. What terrible ideas you had.
Man is a useless passion, condemned to be free?
Hell is other people?
Hell is you, Sartre, and whatever sour beaujelais the sommelier brought.
I’ve met old teabags with more hope than you.
And your books are boring.
Your books are so boring they turn other people – perfect strangers – into assholes who smoke and make us suffer their anguish.
Who conduct arguments that make me want to sleep for ten days.
I don’t hold it against you that you were a wall-eyed dwarf
who tortured your wife. And I’m heartened that the Nazis
were enough to knock the stuffing out of your lassitude.
But I wish Simone or someone had force fed you a Paxil.
Then, maybe, you’d never have written
all those drab French sentences, we’d have missed out altogether
on your little empire of neant,
all that elegant blah, which, I think, is exactly my point.
Ah, the sudden, glib grudge against a major 20th century intellectual – it’s like catnip to the Bad Poet. And Sartre, I mean, how dare he! Just because he’s French he gets to smoke and fuck hot chicks and be ugly and no one says anything?
I can remember the exact night I wrote this, too. I’d gone to a grad school party, obviously lacking the sense that no sentence beginning with those seven words can end well. But there was a woman there I wanted – wanted in the saddest of ways – and I had only to impress her with my casual disdain for everything on the face of earth, my photogenic alienation, and then she would be mine. What happened instead is that she started flirting with a cute, blond undergraduate and eventually, in front of everyone, she went out to his Jeep and taught him some of the finer points of the Second Sex.
Why did this make me hate Sartre?
Brother, can you spare a decade?
I don’t need to tell you that I’d never read any Sartre. You know that by now. Some famous wit once declared that it’s a sin against art to read the authors you despise, but I’ve never read him either.
I knew this blond kid was a philosophy major, and sometimes that’s enough. Honestly, most of what I write is best understood as a confession of my own failure and doubt.
Still, I really did hate the way the two of them sat on that drunken porch mangling existentialism. I hated that they thought they were in possession of some exalted form of wisdom, something the common man would never fathom. And so I reacted as the common man must, with the scorn necessary to obscure my true predicament. Probably, I should have launched a talk radio station instead. That would have made me rich and impenetrable. But I stayed true to my own misery. Which, I think, is exactly my point.
This week’s guest poem comes from Emily Wilkes of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Ms. Wilkes is a proud graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she lettered in both field hockey and full-contact entomology.
Ladybugs are everywhere,
All the people stop and stare.
There’s a ladybug in my shoe.
Where did they come from – I haven’t a clue?
Ladybugs swarm in the air
Ah, there’s one in my hair!
Ladybugs are all over the dirt,
Now there’s one on my shirt!
I hope the ladybugs do not bite,
I don’t want them crawling in my bed at night!
Ladybugs have invaded the beach,
One has bitten into my peach.
Some cold weather would send them away
For frost, snow and hail I pray.
When I walked home I could hardly see.
Now there’s a ladybug in my tea!
Am I in love? Yes.