Friday, March 19, 2021

Urgent Letter from an Unconcerned Alumnus

More than forty years ago, a lifetime
And then some for far too many poets,

My pretendy-radical young friends
And I thought it was nihilistic fun

To get paid to sit and forge signatures
For the Concerned Alumni of Princeton,

Nicknamed the Conservative Alumni
Of same, at the bottom of form letters

Soliciting donations in the name
Of alumnus and columnist George Will.

George Will, George Will, George Will, George Will, George Will,
We signed in ballpoint ink, penny per line,

Or something like, and sometimes improvised—
Gorge Will, God Wills, George Dill, Gord Shill, Forge Will—

Giggling at such sheer stupidity.
Were alumni really so gullible

And attentive that they would think ballpoint
Signatures meant George Will wrote in person?

Probably those most conservative,
Well-off, and anxious would have donated

Anyway, and those who wouldn’t didn’t.
Who knows what they were even conserving

Back then. Investment in South Africa?
Privileged alumni’s sons admissions?

Long time gone. We had our fun. Now we’re old,
Older than George Will was then, old or dead.

Safe bet some of those erstwhile radical
Friends have voted Republican since then.

Nihilism itself, of course, endures,
Pointlessly, which is at least half the point,

As does George Will, who has come to suspect
His Republicans are the nihilists.

They don’t seem true conservatives to him.
An essential conservative insight

About everything, George Will now writes, is
That nothing necessarily endures.

Let’s say he’s right. That’s a conservative
Insight, stress on the necessarily.

Things can endure, the conservator thinks,
But only if we trouble to save them,

Salvation being the project of all
Conservation, whether of politics,

Traditions, buildings, languages, species,
Or ecosystems. Would it follow

That an essential radical insight
About everything, then, is that nothing

Endures? Oh, not radical in the sense
Of paradigm-shattering or novel—

Radical in the old way, at the root,
Said a thousand different ways but always

Turning out, granted some twisting, the same,
Suggesting that nothing we do saves things

From changing the ways they change, until none
Remain to argue the rules of the game?

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