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The Theory of Subtlety
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… a beautiful theory,
killed by a nasty, ugly little fact.

—Thomas Henry Huxley

… then there is this scene in “Alien,”

where evil attaches its slimy self

to an unsuspecting crewman’s face,

wrapping its tail around his neck for traction,

sticking its space thang down his

reluctant throat, violating, impregnating

with a big, gray, killer sperm.

Poetry has been known to get that ugly.

Leaping out of life’s incubator.

Sucking up the public’s gullible face.

A 30-pound albino leech, bloody with truth.

Truth that Sons of Stepford Wives

Do not want to hear.

“The words had no subtlety”—The Editor explained.

The words had no subtlety

‘cause when the L.A.P.D. bashes brains in

they do not do so politely.

There is nothing subtle ‘bout being

fucked over, no matter what

position you get it in, it is still getting fucked

when you don’t want to be fucked.

There is nothing subtle ‘bout

being the national testing ground

for the democratic distribution of crack.

There is nothing subtle ‘bout being black.

“Strange Fruit” could never be subtle,

never in Macon, Georgia.

Billie Holiday wombs out the song:

“Southern trees bear strange fruit.

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root.

Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze,

strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”

Have you heard her voice

distort with elongated pain

at the end of that sad-ass song?

“I don’t care how many Negroes are

in trees, or prisons, or the Supreme Court.

I want subtlety,” the Editor whined,

from his moutain desk in Tibet.

“Where is the confusing metaphor,

you are not meant to understand?

Where the puzzle of enigma

challenging our vast Protestant wisdom?

Where the Sunday New York Times

crossword puzzle style of poetry

to decipher over bagels,

before throwing the answer away?

The poetry is too emotional, too moral,

too correct, too pedantic,

too frantic.”

Children splattered over burgers.

Time to be frantic before you run out of time.

“Strange fruit” hanging off street corners.

This is not the time to be subtle.

This is the time to be loud.