Thursday, December 3, 2009

some common sense

made man

each week i watch pigs
pulled off the trailer
flopped over shoulders
gutted into the deli
esposito’s pork & beef
each week slit perfectly
the spine of a bus stained
under closed eyelids
nothing out of the woodwork
but “what” questions
hung up to dry
what’s the point
says that one
give it up
i am the point i say
i leave holes all over
in trying to make myself
punch a past in world
series disappointment
what i meant peels itself
out of a bus that doesn’t
stop like water
follows the path of least
resistance you flow by
the mural that tells you so
that peels you out
of the woodwork a chill
sent down the spine
of the bus you caught
open the fare and say
ahh where to

Dear Tom Paine,

Looking back, it’s the thing that keeps everybody down I’ve always written about. The thing I’ve always been infected by. Just when I believe it’s cleared my system there it is again some afternoon. I think that thing is common sense.

Hear me out.

First, common sense is something we tend to direct at people. Thus, its sense is hardly common, hardly shared. Consider the rhetorical contexts in which the term “common sense” is used usually. We use it to disparage. In order to buffer a weak argument, we use it to imply that those opposed to us lack common sense, i.e., are too stupid to understand us: “We must change such and such – it’s just common sense.” If the proposition were actually common sense, there’d be no need to say so. We also use the term to reprimand. I imagine a father yelling at his son, smacking him on the back of his head: “Use your common sense next time!”

Tom, your pamphlet both disparages and reprimands. Beautifully. In choosing “common sense” as a title for your pamphlet, no doubt you had in mind a second definition of “common”: ill-bred, low class, disgusting (a much more common definition back then). You sought to inspire righteous indignation in the American masses, who would then direct their rage at the English aristocracy: “Damn right we’re common. And proud of it!”

Perhaps this is why our conservatives today try to co-opt you—not for your libertarianism so much as your rhetorical savvy. But I can’t give them that much credit. Instead I’ll say what’s more likely, and what no politician would dare say: our country is rife with idiots. Rife with commonness. George W. Bush would never have become president otherwise. Such is democracy, eh, Tom?

Borges once argued that arguments convince no one. I believe him. I am forever unconvinced. What’s most convincing to me about your pamphlet is the music. The orchestration. As Isaac Kramnick has written: “It was not Tom Paine’s common sense but his rage that turned hundreds of thousands of Americans to thoughts of independence in the winter of 1776.” Well, I am one of them. Long dead, flesh rotted to bone. Common.

Why was there almost nobody at your funeral, Tom?

Ryan Eckes

the chase
(poem written by stan in a dream)

the whole hour

it’s out


after the