Poem by Kenneth Patchen: I DON’T WANT TO STARTLE YOU…

they are going to kill most of us 

I knew the General only by name of course. 

I said Wartface what have you done with her? 

I said You Dirtylouse tell me where she is now? 

His duck-eyes shifted to the Guard. All right, Sam. 

1 saw a photograph of the old prick’s wife on the desk; 

Face smiling like a bag of money on a beggar’s grave. 

Who is that fat turd I said — as hit me with his jewelled fist.
While his man held me he put a lighted cigarette on my eyelid. 
I smelt the burning flesh through his excellent perfume. 

On the wall it said Democracy must be saved at all costs. 

The floor was littered with letters of endorsement from lib- 

And intellectuals: “your high ideals,” “liberty,” “human jus- 

Stalin’s picture spotted between Hoover’s and a group-shot 
of the DAR. 

I brought my loiee up suddenly and caught him in the nuts. 

A little foam triclded from his flabby puss. All right, Sam. 

They led me into a yard and through a city of iron cells. 

I saw all the boys: Lenin, Trotsky, Nin, Pierce, Rosa Luxem- 
burg. . . 

Their eyes were confident, beautiful, unafraid. . . . 

We came finally to an immense hall protected by barbed wire 

And machineguns: Hitler, Benny Mussolini, Roosevelt and all 

The big and little wigs were at table, F.D.’s arm around 

Chiang Kai-shek’s around the Pope, all laughing fit to kill. 

As soon as a treaty was signed, out the window it went; 

But how they fumbled at each other under the table! 

I snatched up a menu; 

Grilled Japanese Soldier On Toast 

Fried Revolutionaries a la Dirty Joe 

Roast Worker Free Style 

Hamstrung Colonial Stew, British Special 

Gassed Child’s Breast, International Favorite 

Wine list— Blood 1914, ’15, ’17, *83, ’34, ’36, ’40 etc. 

So much fresh meat 1 thought! A butchers’ holiday. . . 

The General paused to enjoy the floorshow: 

On a raised platform little groups of people stood. 

Flags told their nationality, orators told them what to do. 

As the bands blared they rushed at each other with bayonet 

The dead and dying were dragged out and others brought on. 

Sweat streamed from the orators; the musicians wobbled 

The Big Shots were mad with joy, juggling in their seats like 

And they never get wise the General said as we moved on. 

Out in the air again. . . . 

A line of petty officials and war-pimps waited before the door. 

As we approached they drew aside respectfully to let the 
General in. 

I heard a woman moaning and I knew what they wanted there. 

Now do you know what we’ve done with her the General said. 

To go mad or to die. . . 

They forced me to watch as the General went up to her and 

Her eyes were looking at me. 

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

2 Responses

  1. Michael Strenk says:

    Would seem to sum up the scene, international and domestic, pretty well. Although I may be imagining it, there also would seem to be a hint of why they really want our wives and daughters in their “workforce”.

  2. Ken Rosenberger says:

    The Fleming Foundation, where the doctor dares to be different. Wow, a lot to unpack there, as they say. Several words I hadn’t expected to see, when I selected this URL, although I wouldn’t want to be over-prudish.

    Certainly vivid, going for a stilnovisti effect, or am I mistaken? As Zippy the Pinhead’s sign read, “What does it all mean?” Looking forward to the exegesis.