Old plywood boards cover the windows of an abandoned building. They are worn by weather and scratched and stencilled with letters and partly concealed words. On a painted white square someone has written ‘Dirge‘ in green.
Wiki tells us that a dirge is a somber song or lament expressing mourning or grief such as would be appropriate for performance at a funeral. The word is also commonly used to describe singing in an un-tuneful manner. Used here it is probably just the street name of the writer, however, the artist and poet in me sees it, in context, as a theme / title for the art work my eyes construct from the whole board. The board is a dirge, a lament for the passing of old buildings, their past inhabitants and time itself – it’s evocation is somber as the board is somber and its visual ‘singing’ is ‘un-tuneful’ in the sense that the board is out-of-tune with the aesthetics of conventional visual art work.
The eponymous poem that follows is about fragmented and futile moments such as are reflected in this post and much of street art. It is about the life of an individual that shrivels amid the institutions and forces of contemporary life. It is about the loss of personal experience in the world of mass culture.
DIRGE by KENNETH FEARING
1-2-3 was the number he played but today the number came 3-2-1; / bought his Carbide at 30 and it went to 29; had the favorite at Bowie but the track was slow-
O, executive type, would you like to drive a floating power, knee-action, silk-upholstered six? Wed a Hollywood star? Shoot the course in 58? Draw to the ace, king, jack?
O, fellow with a will who won’t take no, watch out for three cigarettes on the same, single match; O democratic voter born in August under Mars, beware of liquidated rails—
Denouement to denouement, he took a personal pride in the certain, certain way he lived his own, private life, / but nevertheless, they shut off his gas; nevertheless, the bank foreclosed; nevertheless, the landlord called; nevertheless, the radio broke,
And twelve o’clock arrived just once too often, / just the same he wore one gray tweed suit, bought one straw hat, drank one straight Scotch, walked one short step, took one long look, drew one deep breath, / just one too many,
And wow he died as wow he lived,
going whop to the office and blooie home to sleep and biff got married and bam had children and oof got fired,
zowie did he live and zowie did he die,
With who the hell are you at the corner of his casket, and where the hell we going on the right-hand silver knob, and who / the hell cares walking second from the end with an American Beauty wreath from why the hell not,
Very much missed by the circulation staff of the New York Evening Post; deeply, deeply mourned by the B.M.T.,
Wham, Mr. Roosevelt; pow, Sears Roebuck; awk, big dipper; bop, summer rain;
Bong, Mr., bong, Mr., bong, Mr., bong.
Source: Kenneth Fearing: Selected Poems. Published by The Library of America, 2004.
‘The 100′ series was initiated by my 100th Post in April 2012. As text and images are the essence of my blog my intention is to present 100 pieces of textual art from historical and contemporary artists and from my own hand. To view the series to date click on ‘The 100’ in my Category Menu.