The Supreme Ironist

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* Selections from ‘Oklahoma’

I
The foremost ironist of the age rode into town upon
a Palamino named Dobbin, or was it a Percheron
called Quicksilver. Whatever the case, he smartly made his
self at home at the bar, charmed the burghers and their ladies
in his gambler’s brocade waistcoat, beaver-felt town hat, and soon,
he was the toast of seven counties and the Malamute Saloon.
He regaled them with tales of the sea and ten years under the sail,
of battles with sharks and krakens and such and a prodigious whale
that was white and held a grudge blah-blah, and cannibal tribes
in the frozen North and degenerate cults whose voudou vibes
could send a man stark mad, and he’d swear it was true on the bible
though it sounded most unlikely and was all unverifiable.
He’d tell of the desert’s blasted wastes beneath the merciless sun,
just how he’d survived by eating his teeth and sucking the chrome from his gun,
or crawled for miles through malarial swamps south of the Rio Grande,
then he’d send somebody to the hardware store for a long stand…

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,
Ha, ha, ha, ha, hah!
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,
Ha, ha, ha, ha, hah!

II

He told his stories once and then he told
them all again, but in a different order
with extra pathos here, more sex or slaughter
there, some elaboration on just how bold
he’d been in certain specific circumstances,
then he’d crack a nut with his teeth, and wink,
stand every galoot in the bar a drink,
and tell them what a gnu looks like, where France is,
how many beans make five. The gaiety
was boundless; such times they’d never known before,
and the minister’s Sunday sermon roar
was but a mousy squeak, the laity
opined, beside his rollicking homilies
on loyalty, hygiene, wrath, and bravery;
though some of his saws seemed a tad unsavoury
in their conclusions, his choice of simile
coarse, they drank it, as at their mothers tit,
but his tab distended, the barkeep frowned,
then he’d suddenly have an errand in town
and leave them un-replete …

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,
Ha, ha, ha, ha, hah!
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,
Ha, ha, ha, ha, hah!

III

The months crawled by, his audience dwindled, summer came and went.
In deepest night, in his hotel suite, he worked till his candle was spent,
then gazed through the dark at the moon outside with horror-full, sorrowful eyes
as the vengeful hounds of truth bore down on his dismal pack of lies.
He rearranged them, changed words round, but by way of a critique
the townsfolk huffed indignantly, said, ‘You told us that last week
and it wasn’t even funny then. Come on, entertain us, move us,
tell us stuff that puffs us up, that edifies and improves us,
flatter our intelligence with pithy little apophthegms.’
and they gazed on him with pity, as they might a man condemned.
It wasn’t so long till his credit dried up, he was shunned by men in the street;
the Townswomen’s Guild passed motion of censure. His ostracism complete,
he fled the sting of the scuttlebutt, the harsh judgmental faces,
and skulks in the sage brush, clad in a barrel with inner tube braces
chewing his knuckles, tearing his hair, crying for mercy to God.
There he is, the dirty dastard! Quick! Throw rocks at the sod.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,
Ha, ha, ha, ha, hah!
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,
Ha, ha, ha, ha, hah!

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