Poetry

Counter Culture,1948–1968

First Cup of Coffee We’ve dropped our subscription to the WSJ. Can we do without a newspaper? We’ll see. I’ll miss some things in it, but I am no longer interested in what the corporate acronyms are doing. I used to be. Years ago, when I knew less about the market—indeed, about everything—their mysteriousness fascinated me. Would the XYZ corporation merge with GM. Could CVS hold off a hostile takeover by YUM? What was “a hostile takeover”? I had no idea. But I had read somewhere that a corporation was an artificial person who had the same rights as a real person.

Also it was said to be potentially immortal. Wow!

In those days—the late 1940s—I worked in a restaurant in Kansas City, doing a bit of everything except cooking or interacting with the customers. I bussed tables, ground hamburger and scraped the intestines from shrimp with my fingernail.

I now claim to have been  a  member of “the counter culture” avant la lettre. 

These images document the counter culture 1948 and 1968.

counter culture
Counter Culture, 1948
hiooies
Counter Culture, 1968

 THE COUNTER CULTURE

The lunch crowd’s gone, and so I draw myself
some Guatemalan mud and sit myself
just like a customer and help myself
to what remains of someone’s Daily News.
I want to read about my pals,
AT&T, GE, and Marriott.

They occupy, like Seraphim, Thrones, and Powers,
another world but intervene
in this one where they go about unseen
unless a wizard like myself decides
to summon them

I peep and mutter, charm my pot
with Half-n-Half and Sweet-n-Low,
I stir it slow.
So, do they come? They do.
Incorporate as Adam—women, too—

or so ‘twould seem—
Sharon, Ethyl, Loral, Tiffany—
but there’s no sex as we know it to these.
They get in bed together, yes, and squeeze,
but merge instead of coupling.

“So now, my friends,” I say, “about my play.
A word or two from any one of you . . .
Producers would be clamoring to . . . No?
Okay. Well, I’ve got work to do.”

The legal fictions fade from view,
and, faced once more with bills to pay
I stand, re-wrap my apron ‘round my waist,
re-tie my strings, and then resume,
among the counter-culture’s stools, the real life of the unbelieved in.

From Flying Backwards. (See Sidebar.)

Note: There are nine ranks of angels: First rank: Serephim, Cherubim, Thrones; second rank,  Dominations, Powers, Authorities; third rank; Principalities, Archangels, Angels.

4 thoughts on “Counter Culture,1948–1968

  1. Herb, this made me laugh out loud. Several times!
    Let the newspapers go, I say! You can always find them online if you miss them, and as you’ve been a subscriber to the WSJ…. they will find YOU!

    Cass

    Like

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