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ADELAIDE Independent Quarterly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Trimestral, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BOOK OF JOE
By Chris Wright

 

 

 

PART II

The Book of Joe
A Satire of Capitalist Society

By Chris Wright


VII

Then Jim the Politician spake and said,

Joe, my pity for thee gusheth as a fountain from mine eyes;

I look upon thee huddled in the dirt, shaking in thy limbs, and I feel my hair age in color.

My soul, made heavy and a burden to me, trembleth beneath its own weight.

Behold, the dew-drop palpitates when the leaf is shaken; my heart doth the same, when thou art as a frail leaf.

Like Atlas, I am bent under the world’s weight; for the sight of thee humbled is more than I can bear.

Such a king, mighty in deeds and spirit, reduced to such a beggar! The sight thereof trieth my strength, and maketh me to question my—hypocrisy.

Lo, I must be thy ballast: I fear lest the temptation, in thine affliction, to harm thyself may prove too great.

Wherefore heed thou my words, that thou mayst be comforted.

¶ Blame not thyself for thy torments: they are not punishments; they spring not from thy misdeeds.

They are accidents, with the significance of a feather’s path in the wind, or the thunder of a stormy sea.

Lo, the world is an iniquitous place, wherein good reapeth evil and the wicked vanquish the wise; sins go unpunished, while virtue cometh to nought.

Thou art blameless: it is the world which is damnable.

Yet remember, thou livest in the one country wherein justice prevaileth, and the meek are blessed!

God loveth democracy; God loveth capital-ism; God loveth the poor in spirit (like thee); above all, God loveth our republic and its citizens;

And so I say, our country is great! and thou shalt not long be forsaken, for thou livest in a great country.

Other nations are as jackals scavenging our waste, or barnacles feeding from the whale; we alone govern the world and the universe.

And we abandon not our friends, if they be powerful; so shall we not abandon thee.

Thy troubles have surely blinded thee, for thou seest not these truths. If the Market doth not right thy wrongs, then I shall:

Yea, I shall write a bill to remedy thy poverty and subsidize thy recovery, like to the laws passed in support of Terri Schiavo;

(Oh, that their effect had been as intended, and her glorious life had been prolonged fifteen years more!)

But this time, I promise thee, it will achieve its object; even thy rehabilitation.

Thou shalt be as a sultan, with palaces greater in number than an emperor’s; with hirelings greater in servility than the American masses; with harlots greater in skill than Japan’s geishas!

Thou shalt be more than an internet mogul: thy works shall reach across the earth, into the jungles of Congo and the deserts of Persia;

Thy real estate shall raze the rainforests of the Amazon and tame the wildness of the Alps: it shall dwarf the grandeur of the Pyramids!

Then shalt thou turn thine eye to the past, which is now the present, and survey thy recent trials, and remember the darkness of thy descent, so distant from the brilliance of thy rebirth;

And thou shalt reflect that the sun riseth only after setting; that the rainbow appeareth only after the rain; that spring blossometh out of winter, and the young life is borne from the bloody womb;

And thou shalt then give thanks for thy fall into the valley of desolation.

Lo, I shall bring all this to pass, be it through bribery or extortion or the granting of political favors or the arranging of high-minded, productive compromises.

I ask for nought in recompense but thy sublime friendship, which giveth me pure joy.

(Howbeit, if I undertake thy salvation thou shalt contract certain pecuniary oblig-ations.)

VIII
Joe answered thus:

I thank thee, Jim, for thine unselfish devotion, but it availeth not.

Thy legislative brethren have personated Mammon and forgotten me: I bring them no profit, and they bring me no sympathy.

They shall submerse thy project in the swamp of committees and subcommittees and sub-subcommittees.

Moreover, orators like thee speak with a golden tongue and act with leaden limbs; I shall be dead ere thy promise come to fruition.

(And lo, I doubt not but thy demanded guerdon will be in excess of reason: I am no Midas, though thou take me for one.)

Nay, Mammon hath deserted me, and thou hast the power of an ant.

I am now but a worm burrowing in the dark of memory; the livid past haunteth me and maketh my countenance as a ghost’s.

Memories paralyze me, reduce me to an avatar of regret; even so my soul is like the cinders whereon I sit.

Solitary images crowd in the eye of my mind, beclouded not by my tears: I perceive them in the lucency of sorrow.

Lo, my grief defieth expression.

The roseate cheek of youth smileth no more on me; the freshness of the virgin recoileth from one so aged as I.

The glittering chimeras of youth have dulled into the dun banality of truth;

Melancholy and its mask, cynicism, have supplanted boyish elation.

My life, mine achievements, are dust;—whither (let it be so!) my body shall shortly return.

Behold, such pleasures have I known as could fill an eternity of recollection; such satiety have they reached as would fill Solomon himself with envy:

The frosted crystal glass, etchings of Bacchus thereon, brimmeth with cham-pagne, bubbly and tingly on the tongue; this have I experienced.

The Pinot Noir, enthroned in a translucent chalice, is a liquid velvet waiting to warm the palate; this have I experienced.

The tender steak, juicy as a ripe pomegranate, sprinkled with crisp cooked onion-shreds, placed beside a steaming potato still covered by its skin, its innards buttery and creamy, maketh the salivary glands to leak in torrents; this have I exper-ienced.

A lively conversation, without malice or competition, wherein two minds commune unhampered by dissemblance, displaying wit and wisdom, is a pleasure equaled by few; this have I experienced.

A friendship, that rarest of commodities, that ennobling affection between mutual minds, without which life is a miasma through which one gropeth blindly, choking: this is rather a necessity than a pleasure; and this have I experienced.

The comely maiden whom one embraceth in love, inhaling her moist breath, kissing her milky breasts; the panting of bosoms sweating together; the soul’s love-exalting martyrdom!: this, too, have I experienced.

Alas, but I knew it not! These were all little to me, and trite.

Foolish is the heart of man! which taketh for littleness all things that are great, and for greatness all things that are little.

Would that I could converse with my youthful self, though he heed me not: I would tell him, Savor thou thy diversions;

Dally as thou treadest thy primrose path; for thou shalt miss it ere long.

Howbeit, he would reck not my rede: his spirit would remain in the carnal state of his body, wherein pleasure is instinct and instinct is mindless.

Yea, mine appetites were sated, so that I wearied of them; but my happiness was sickly, for I knew not whereof I wearied.

I knew not the meaning of my discontent.

Indeed, I bethought myself rather blessed than discontented; but I knew not what blessedness is: and therein lay my dis-content.

—Alas, the heart of man is an enigma: I can discern no coherence therein, but chaos only;

All is tumult and contradiction, beside which nature’s violence is weak.

An eternity would not suffice for under-standing: how much less ninety years! Ninety brief years!

Yea, time’s pinions are swift. All my happiness was brief as a zephyr, which caresseth the cheek and is gone.

And now even the memories thereof are poisoned.

IX
Lo, though my soul crieth out for pleasures, they are mere ornaments; erewhile, my substance was my money.

But for money, my life would have been as a yawl tossed in a tempest, anchored by nothing.

But for mine acquisitive passion, my diffuse urges would have had no rallying cry.

I would have been an orderless assemblage of appetites, conscious of no self, like to an infant.

And mine enterprises would have been infantile.

Behold, I was no idle votarist of Mammon: I built shrines in His honor, wherein I prostrated myself in prayer;

I proselytized and converted thousands; I gave sacrificial offerings unto Him.

For I loved money as the philosopher loveth truth; even as Narcissus loved his reflection, so I loved money.

Though I am ugly, money made me beautiful; though my soul was leprous, I was adored.

Though I defiled Hymen’s bed, money made it consensual; though I was a whore, money made me a pimp.

Money and I cohabited as wife and husband: when I spent sleepless nights studying my bank accounts, I sent Money to the opera, where her luster outshone the music;

And when I regaled partygoers with tales of my success, Money played the anchorite and secluded herself in my den, minding my finances.

Our mutual devotion rivaled Antony and Cleopatra’s; our loyalty inspired entre-preneurs everywhere.

Alas! what would I not have done for thee, Money, hadst thou not betrayed me!

And why? Did I not court thee with greater deference than thine other suitors?

Did I not anticipate thy needs? Was I not sensitive to thy fluctuations?

Thou hast cruelly wronged me. Thou hast acted without justice or judgment. Even as grim Saturn acted, so hast thou, Mammon.

Behold, moreover, the issue of thy malice: my friends, base flatterers all, have for-gotten me.

They have left me in this Hades, with three non-entities for companions; yea, though my boils run pus and I grovel in mud, they have left me.

Thou strumpet friendship! Verily I despise thee and thine emissaries.

Alas, too late have I learned the lesson of Timon of Athens: Mammon is fickle, and friends are the same.

X
Then Jon the Preacher answered and said,

Ye unbelieving pagans! Ye impious freethinkers! Ye deny the true Lord and set up idols in His stead.

Whereas the Jews under Moses worshipped the golden calf, which Aaron molded for them, ye worship gold!—which ye call Mammon, and the Market.

Ye ascribe Laws thereto (though ye say, falsely, that the Market is the Lawgiver, and ye are the receivers); and ye believe they are manifest in the rest of Creation;

Yea, ye add the sin of pantheism to the sin of idolatry.

Behold, Jehovah forged the world in the smithy of His soul: ye are therefore made in His image; yet ye are ungrateful.

Indeed, it seemeth that your conscience He left uncreated.

Howbeit, all that passeth before your eyes is His work; even the earth, ministering munificently to our needs: the central orb in the universe (and we its central inhab-itants);

Yea, and the waters thereon, and the skies thereof;

The great Sequoia, with its celestial ambition; the tulip and the hyacinth, which embroider the ground;

The leviathan that churneth the ocean’s brine; the wingèd sprites that slice the air.

Verily, I say unto you, His omnipotence is matched by His infinite goodness, the which is evident from society’s perfect benignity.

He hath further shown it by infusing me with the divine craving for little boys: when I play with them, my soul climbeth to pinnacles of pious fervor.

(He shall surely smite into oblivion the pending lawsuits.)

Lo, all who doubt me doubt Him; and all who doubt Him are doomed to endure fire and brimstone for eternity.

He is merciful, yes; but He really hateth people who do not believe in Him.

All ye evolutionists, all ye atheists, all ye gays, all ye non-Christians, all ye dis-believers in the Gospel of Jon: woe betide you!

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Joe, Jehovah is wroth with thee, for thou deniest Him: thence come thy tribulations.

Yet despair not: thou wert once my friend, and I will give thee advice;

(I heard a small boy whisper it to himself as we cavorted in my church:)

Affliction is a treasure! Till thou art matured by it, thou hast not affliction enough.

Till thou hast shriven unto God, thou art surely not riven enough.

Yea, he whose nature is catholic knoweth pain; he who is small-minded hath not lived.

Thou wert once small-minded, Joe; yet as thy body rotteth from inanition, thy spirit ripeneth inside its own womb: it shall shortly be reborn.

Thou art now as a camel, burdened in the desert of thy loneliness; thou shalt soon become a lion, and wax free.

For the rest of you, who know not pain and live in the citadel of complacency: ye have no future, as ye have no past.

Your disdain for the Lord hath erased your names from the annals of history: ye are shadows, cast by beings that reside in Hell.

Alas, such folly! Ye sharpen your wants on the whetstone of wickedness; ye assuage them in the tabernacle of the profligate.

Ye broadcast your sins in the voice of pride; ye multiply them with the avidity of lust.

Ye are verily destroyed.

(Howbeit, if ye donate to me a portion of your money, your fate will palpably improve.)

XI
Western Devil!

The cry was from afar: a dark figure was running toward the pile of ash whereon the four men sat.

Western Devil!

Sticks of dynamite were strapped to his body; in his left hand was a remote control, and in his right a copy of the Koran.

Western Devil!

He stopped a short distance from them, glared at them with the frightened but frightening eyes of a trapped wolf, and spake thus:

Are ye Joe, and Jim, and Bob, and Jon?

The men nodded.

Praise Allah! The Day of Judgment hath arrived, Great Satans! I am Abd, your nemesis.

In a few hours (depending on the length of the trip), ye shall be in Hell.

Wherein have we sinned? asked Jon.

Your sins are numberless. I shall name but a few.

Ye do not worship the religion of truth, and ye do not pay the poll-tax in recognition of inferiority;

Allah therefore commandeth (in the Koran) that His people make jihad against you.

Moreover, ye have subjugated Muslims and humiliated us: yea, ye have vastly more power than we, which is very unholy.

Moreover, ye corrupt Muslim youth with your fashionable raiment and your addictive music; and your women do not wear the veil, but have rights equal to men’s!

Moreover, ye spread evil democratic ideals throughout the holy land, thereby lowering Muslims from blessed ignorance to per-nicious open-mindedness.

Moreover, ye do not flog the adulterer and the adulteress a hundred times, as Allah commandeth in the Koran;

Yea, Jesus even forgave the adulteress and told her to sin no more, whereas Moham-med had the adulteress stoned to death, and was thus holier than Jesus.

Moreover, your laws do not decree that the hands of thieves be cut off, as is decreed in the Koran.

Wherefore ye are evil and will suffer a grievous chastisement in the hereafter; howbeit, Allah hath commanded me to anticipate your chastisement by killing you.

I will kill myself also, for seventy virgins have been promised me in Paradise, and I am impatient.

Verily, never have I lain with a virgin: yea, women do not like me; but Allah loveth me, and I will have my revenge!

I will make slaves of mine Houris and beat them, as Allah permitteth in the Koran.

I will finally lie with women and not have to pay for it, and they will heed mine every whim!

Whereupon he blew himself up.

 

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chris wright

About the Author:

Chris Wright has a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is the author of Worker Cooperatives and Revolution: History and Possibilities in the United States and Notes of an Underground Humanist. His website is www.wrightswriting.com.

 

 

 

 

 

     
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