A Deafening Moment

I wrote this poem on July 4, 1997, after taking part in and observing a traditional barbecue at the New Jersey shore. I remember writing it as you would a stream of consciousness rant. As even a casual sports fan may recall, there was an infamous boxing event around that time, a rematch originally billed with a promotional wink (knowingly or not) to William Faulkner as “The Sound and The Fury.” (Shortly thereafter the World Boxing Association spectacle was to be remembered as “The Bite Fight.”). It featured a clash of pugilistic warriors: a first-class heavyweight titan and a modern-day villain, a ravenous ring thug who shares his name with a chicken manufacturer. In a frenzied, circus-like ending that would cause a Hollywood producer to preen, the villain bit off a piece of the champ’s ear and modern civilization is still shaking its collective head and reeling from the consequences.

As I bite into my
Ear of corn
With the surf crashing
On Long Beach Island,

And I bite into my conscious rage
With firecrackers booming
In a mental slapstick routine
Of independence observed,

And I bite into the flying burritos of angst and shame harmonized
With bikini-clad American flags slopping up poisonous lotion
While bow-legged pale piranhas munch on their lunches and fantasize,

And I bite into an exhilarating breeze of pretension reduced to fisticuffs,
Exorcized by the spirit of the sea’s therapeutic contents,
With scavengers overhead lining up their next fateful victim,

And I bite into a fury of foolish sundries rattling the concaves of my inner sanctum,
Salivating with delight at the fleeting embrace of peace and prosperity,
Winding delicately around a flag pole,
Waving riotously at stoned spectators,
And winking snidely at their rituals.

As I bite into my half ear of corn
Like a prizefighter who has lost his senses,
Who has found the task of civility unnerving,

As I bite into my half ear of sweet Jersey corn,
I realize that residing in a shore house
With a sweeping ocean view from a wraparound cedar deck
Even if it’s just for a week
Is a world better
Than habituating the rich muscular body of a mentally deficient savage,
A loose jowl of lunacy,
A mad dog drooling and foaming capitalism,
Capsized by a preposterous payday,
Shaking and bobbing his thick head furiously,
A gyrating short jabbing jaw of jealousy
Ripping the cork from dignified composure,
And spitting it into the faces of overstuffed pseudo-Romans
In an arena of green filth and sinister applause.

As I bite into my half ear of corn
On Fourth of July,
A holiday I was taught
To respect and revere
For its historical significance,
A Time to reflect humbly on the valor and selflessness of past generations,
I acknowledge my solitary glimpse
At the fruitful results of war
For freedom’s sake
Over the ugly reality of being stuck
Sticking out my chin, rubbing elbows and exchanging blows
With a greed bleeding abrasive broker
On a noise-polluted stock exchange floor
Who panics at the sudden rise in interest rates
Because the price of pig ears has just fallen to a new all-time low.

As I bite into this sweaty indifferent ear,
I study the fragmented kernels closely
And see how each one I so unceremoniously pluck with my teeth
Creates a ditch in the surface,
Divisions that leave the cob a shadow of its self,
A tattered piece of its better whole,
Making me wonder
Why we all so often
Screw up a good thing
Such as a sporting event,
A relationship
Or a country.
– DC 7/4/97

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