Friday, May 8, 2015

One more beast


A Geisha’s coiffure needs a stiffened pillow;
her loneliness, a bedtime toy.
So if you want to give her joy
stuff this misbegotten armadillo,
present it with a serenade– a wild fandango!

Sin thereafter with abandon! Dance a tango
to sounds of Theramin, Mandolin and Koto–
offer eternal sacrifice to Eros, ex voto.

Your fun spells extinction for the Pangolin? 
Anthropocene self-pardoned peccadillo!

At the clamorous insistence of numerous Asiatic kin, Parthian agreed to post this "tribute" to another species facing imminent extinction. He promises to abandon the post of lyrical zookeeper soon, as yet  another round of political nonsense makes its mischief felt.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Another Beast


Chimeric hybrid– an elephant-pig
(thrice as short, half as big)
ever keen for a midnight caper:
Behold Behemoth,  aka, the Tapir!

He neither gawker is, nor gaper
yet he observes his jungly scene
(obscured by steaming vines and vapor)
alert for ways to vent his spleen
upon canoes that may careen
on Orinoco’s perilous isles
where Anacondas swim with Crocodiles.

His eyes are weak,  so he “likesta peer”
(and sniff and snort, instilling fear)–
this randy, roving, ridiculous voyeur
seeks a Tapir maiden, chaste and pure.

Another scrap salvaged from the blizzard of folk-zoology noted in the last post. This comes from a different continent, and the translation from Spanish may be faulty, but it approximates the sense of the original..

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bestiary update

 The Aoudad

This desert sheep of rocky slopes
evolved a way by which he copes–
grazing always left to right
his uphill legs are shorter, quite
than downhill legs. Thus he hopes
somewhat efficiently to summit: 
one leap then reverses course!

Although untutored, still he learns
to husband well his thorny source
of victuals sparse on torrid hills.

You too may share his daring thrills
when you grow beards on legs and chin,
cavort with glee (while staying thin),
show the world that you are glad!

Emulate this lecher,  thrifty Aoudad!

          –for HCM

While the Arrow flew to a distant but accustomed target, his launching pad received a blizzard of verses contributed by careful observers of local fauna from cultures in every part of our perishing planet.  Most of them were fit only to kindle a campfire,  but a few merit the ephemeral preservation afforded by an unread blog drifting through the ether.  Today’s post is believed to originate in Algeria, as it bears a dedication with the initials “HCM”, indicating the Victorian era Bedouin explorer, Haji Chahid Muhammed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Polonius Redux

Life's cruxes demand solemnities, rites, rituals. We see this phenomenon in every culture and at the core of every religious tradition. Among the Parthians, custom calls for a boy at the onset of puberty to hunker down at his grandfather's knee (or failing a grandfather, the knee of the wisest village elder) and listen attentively to life's lessons learned. Here is a representative sample:

Tsunami torrent of lust and devotion,
Love, my love– such a chaotic emotion!

Lust’s wave overwhelms you, carries you out,
detaches your childhood’s anchoring roots–
freely you’ll wallow in aimless pursuits,
no handhold– all jetsam, your future in doubt.

The wave will subside along with the sighs
you exhale, unfulfilled, in desperate panic. 
(When raging, your hormones feel oceanic!) 
You’ll cease to seek solace in fantasized thighs,

Thrown with a partner to gasp on the strand–
survivors, miscast in life’s trivial skit,
you’ll wander a while, bicker a bit,
enacting a script that never seems planned.

A precocious Parthian youth of the 21st century returned the favor at a ceremony relegating his ancient mentor to the village nursing hut, as follows:

Thrown with your partner to gasp on the strand–
survivors, awaiting a long-deferred writ
(spotlit positions inexplicably quit)
your narratives lost, no room to expand–

Love’s wave must subside along with the sighs
you exhaled before drowning in panic. 
Flooding confusions become oceanic! 
Genesis 9:7 no longer applies.

Ebb tides suck you under, carry you out,
your footholds crumble,  convictions uproot–
freely you wallow in aimless pursuit
no handholds, just flotsam, survival in doubt.

Tsunami torrent of lust and devotion,
Love, my love– such a chaotic emotion!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lessons from the Impulsive Suicide of Andreas Lubitz

Parthian has read much prescriptive punditry following the horrendous impulse of the  Germanwings co-pilot to act out his recurrent, if not obsessive, fantasies– of destroying himself, an expensive aircraft, his anonymity, and 149 strangers, in that order. Reactions have ranged from resignation (Gourevitch, New Yorker) to hi-tech drone remedies (Cassidy, id), to palliative but practical measures (immediate change in protocol to mandate 2 crew members in the cockpit during flight). Rational risk assessors tell us that the incident represents an infinitesimal and irreducible residue of hazard after all other economically sensible prophylactics have been applied. Commentators with a broader perspective see worthwhile prospects from investing in: 

  • ground controller overrides
  • fully automated (drone) pilotage
  • more frequent and intensive mental health exams and background checks… etc.

Parthian proposes two practical measures that are immediately available, at a more acceptable cost relative to expected benefit than adoption of the U.S. crew protocol might entail. 

First, accept that powerful incentives to deny or conceal mental issues from employers and licensing authorities cannot be eliminated, however low the rate of impulsive pilot suicide may be.  The emphasis must be upon impulsive  self-destruction, because the Lubitz event’s most powerful teaching is that many, probably most, suicides do not fit the commonly held scenario of mounting despair reaching a tipping point or crisis, whereupon the dam of self-control is breached. It is much more likely that they represent long-festering suicidal ideation, confronted by an unexpected and irresistible temptation. Motive + opportunity.

Partial Remedy (with collateral benefits)
Revise protocols, to require the Pilot and First Officer to follow the cabin crew as they perform the seatbelt, tray tables, and stowage inspection after the doors close. Their duty is to make eye contact and exchange a few words with at least one passenger, in every X (time studies to determine number) rows.  This can be managed efficiently enough to cost little time, although the pre-take off checklists and other tasks must be delayed pro tanto. Parthian’s unverifiable but confident assumption is that the next Andreas Lubitz would be deterred at some significant (but indeterminate) margin from acting out a suicidal impulse because of his or her fresh and immediate encounters with trusting passengers (rather than “the passengers” generically considered).

Second, understanding that fresh personal encounters will not entirely foreclose another Lubitz-like incident, improve cockpit safety by adopting an arguably “riskier” alternative strategy to the current U.S. protocol. The alternative eliminates a cost–  impairment of the burdensome duties of the cabin crew. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Clerihews (Spring Cleaning)

Georgia O'Keefe
was of the belief
that flowers resemble vaginas–
and so her paintings remin' us

Frieda Kahlo & Leon Trotsky:
She his doll, he her tchotchke.
too soon!– dead
before they bred.

Philosopher Jacques Derrida
never varied a
whit from his claim
that all texts miss their aim.

Philosopher Jacques Derrida
construed whatever he saw
as text, only text,
never asking “What's next?”

Emily Dickinson's
similes quicken one's
sense of the numinous.
brief her effusions; in sum, voluminous!

Monday, March 16, 2015

World's Oldest Worldly Man

Methuselah's Rebirth

Supine upon his gurney,  waiting to succumb,
Methuselah’s epiphanies sum up a weary life.
Caressing beads beneath a calloused thumb
He’s glad, at last, to face the surgeon’s knife.

Methuselah’s epiphanies sum up his weary life:
Erotic memories, those little deaths he savors
(He’s glad, at last, to face the surgeon’s knife)
Will help his end epitomize the joys he favors.

Erotic memories, those little deaths he savors
When the mask upon his grizzled face descends
Will help his end epitomize the joys he favors:
Orgastic ecstasy, in an unexpected instant sends

(When the mask upon his grizzled face descends)
Oblivion, relief– the true surcease of sorrow.
Orgastic ecstasy, in an unexpected instant blends
Nowhere, hell, & paradise, into clay we borrow.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Strange Verse

A gaggle of Parthian vets gathered a few weeks ago to bemoan the world’s decline, and to compare contemporary and ancient bards. Not surprisingly, most of us liked the poets best who are included in standard mid-20th Century anthologies. Our leader then challenged us to produce a few lines governed by a restrictive and rigid formal design (sonnet, sestina, villanelle…whatever) which nevertheless feel ‘contemporary’. We must armor them against critics who will surely say we are anachronistic. A week later, we gave leftover plastic laurels to our most taciturn member. 

Our winner cited the shaped poems of George Herbert as his formal authority, and the contemporary obsession with how we die, and of what, as his thematic justification. Parthian deems the result worth posting, largely because it met two difficult constraints. Readers may decide for themselves if the verses can compare with the preferred ebullitions of literary gatekeepers:


It is a tough job
to nab an almost-thought
springing from lips untaught,
lacking both point and plot.

My list of sorry sins
longing for oblivion
finds no shrift, nor light
to suit my plight.

I am a psalmist today,
of sour disposition

who fights
in my mind’s drama
looking about for similar fools
who know how to paint old masks
with agonistic flights of fancy.

My incantations will unfold
twists and turns of animosity
(or attraction) among my cast:
myriad walk-ons
for bit parts who 
had no try-outs, no auditions
to join my post-absurdist play.

My history is a patchwork:
rags cut badly 
by my tailor
to shroud a mortal soul 
in a coma, an arc 
until at last,
right now, it finds
hugs from a waiting python,
lurking in bosky shadow
hungry for long pig
on a random day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Born too Soon (Update)

Parthian’s proposal for recording a “Cohort Birthday” for premature infants (to be used as the legal default for subsequent birthdays) elicited both expected and unexpected objections. The Arrow was not surprised to hear arguments about the crudeness (over- and under-inclusion) of anniversaries as a device to sort disparate people into lumped categories. Sometimes bright lines are worth their cost, and Parthian concedes that this may be true of lines drawn for voting age, driver’s licenses, and most of the other gateways we are qualified of disqualified to pass because we have reached a birthday. That however begs the question of whether a more equitable but equally bright line could not be drawn for babies born with ‘premature’ birthdays.

A more interesting objection derives from Parthian’s suggestion that a mother should be allowed some leeway in determining her child’s legally constructed Cohort Birthday. Pediatrics, and medical science more generally, continues to advance our knowledge of the developmental delays likely to ensue for children born with a great variety of essential (genetic) disabilities or accidental ones, such as oxygen deprivation in the course of delivery. In theory and in practice too, it is entirely possible to fix a more generous (i.e., later) Cohort Birthday than the limited adjustment suggested by the sketchy language Parthian included in his initial post on this subject. Therefore, it is objected, the class of infants entitled to the benefit of a Cohort Birthday should not be restricted to preemies. 

Parthian accepts that it is feasible and desirable to provide a Cohort Birthday for any child with a medically predictable delay in reaching benchmarks of normal mental or physiological maturation. Qualified doctors and lawyers should work together to formulate criteria and to set outer limits, aiming to best match a child’s adjustment to an appropriate peer group, while accommodating expected delays. This approach counsels a general statute along the lines P proposed,but implemented through detailed and more elastic regulations meant to keep pace with the progress of medical science. In many cases a confident prognosis establishes at birth a child's future need for special education services. Whether this entails a wider or narrower window for setting a Cohort Birthday is a technical question that depends upon such factors as support resource availability, effects upon children of inclusion in classes with students of different levels of physical development but roughly equal levels of educational attainment, and the like.