Tonight at a meeting of the Creative House of Lancaster, I’m going to be participating in pecha kucha with a presentation of a poem of mine. It’s a poem that draws extensively from Anthony Burgess’ book A Clockwork Orange, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (including its choral setting of An die Freude, a poem by Friedrich Schiller), and the Great Depression of the early twentieth century under Herbert Hoover. Despite all those distractions, I consider this a deeply personal poem, about myself as an emotional human being overwhelmed by the joy and also the insanity of the world.

There are footnotes to this poem, which just serve as an opportunity for me to record some of the significance, sources, and English translations of certain lines. I’m omitting them here. I also do not plan to keep this poem online very long, as I am still shopping it around to online and print periodicals.


Alex, Our Humble [punk of a] Narrator
through Burgess’ Clockwork Orange,
turned me on to his musician hero, “Ludwig van,”
enough that when a deal came my way
to grab his Ninth for five bucks
I didn’t hesitate.

Unconcerned like Alex how my parents would respond
I cranked the final movement and felt something
clear and distinct
though all should have been vague association, memories

                everything needles for Alex—
         needle onto vinyl at the final movement
         needle into his own rooker and then his own ha ha needle
                into the two young ptitsas lying drugged on his bed

All should have been slow and shadowed yet
I felt through severed roots my blood
      lift with every German word,
      and joy sank down so far
      it transformed before me to freude.

I beheld myself weathering 1930 in a shantytown
      of tin lean-tos, choking on the President’s promise
      that prosperity was hovering just around the corner—
      “Hoovering,” we would jest—
      and yet if I had heard this glorious Theme
      of all humanity [for so the liner notes declare] I would still
      have felt part of the choir, felt its music welling up
      to overwhelm the growl of despair in my stomach
      as I pushed home.

I heard a defiant voice
      halting my cyncism, “Nicht diese Töne!”
      when I began to scream against the hopeful
      began to yell over the sound of death
      in the composer’s ears,
      “Half the audience did not wait for the end!”

I remembered Burgess’ other Alex, F. Alexander
      who believed humans “creatures of growth and sweetness”
      like oranges, railed against an “attempt to impose
      laws and conditions appropriate to a mechanical creation,”
      raising against these things his “sword pen” even after Alex
      and his gang raised their own ha ha sword pens
      against his wife, one at a time, like clockwork.

What I knew
were words I did not understand
      speaking to my soul: “Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?”—Do you
      come crashing down, you millions? And as my soul
      in the embrace of the multitudes said yes and yes
      and yes the voices rang, heavenly words
      O my brothers, “Über’m Sternenzelt
      Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen,”
      here below I heard “the old Joy Joy Joy Joy
      crashing and howling away.”

One thought on “(Ruminations on the) Theme of All Humanity

  1. I really like this poem. It puts me in a particular place and frame of mind, the joy and insanity of real life pushing against each other. I know that’s just kind of repeating what you said, but I have a hard time putting into words what poems and music make me feel. That’s why other people write the poems and the music that can explain these feelings and I just enjoy reading/listening to them!

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