Friday, August 25, 2023

The Meaning of Ezra

Ezra could be poetic
And generous with poets,
A champion of the arts.

He was also self-righteous,
Obsessed with conspiracy,
And a despiser of Jews.

A lot of his energy
He spent on tirades ranting
Against perceived enemies,

Including, of course, the Jews,
Democracy, factories,
The modern world generally,

But somehow he made his name
With modernist poetry
Made of fragments and edges,

In which the lyricism,
And the aesthete’s name-dropping,
And the buckets of venom

Were collaged in a mountain
Of weird associations
Peculiar to Ezra’s thoughts.

It was aspirational
And vicious, and it failed, but
It accumulated shards

Of occasional brilliance.
Now what do you make of this?
In defense of a dogma

Of an omnipotent God
Who is also pure goodness
And the omniscient maker

Of a world of suffering,
Theodicy’s logical
Lunacy was invented.

An inverse theodicy
Could try to deal with Ezra—
How could this hateful person

Think of himself as moral,
Sometimes practice real kindness,
And compose some stunning verse?

One trick’s been to separate
Good Ezra from bad Ezra,
Although his poems unite them.

Another’s asserted art
And politics are different,
Although his poems unite them.

Or you could not be bothered—
Say all of Ezra’s worthless;
All of art is politics,

And to admire anything
He wrote makes you complicit
In all of the things he said.

He might more or less agree—
He fused art and politics;
He believed in what he said.

But aren’t all these approaches
Sandbagging and barricades
Around your own moral self?

You forgive Ezra or don’t
Based on how you see yourself,
How you think you should be judged

By the judges you’ve approved,
Given there’s nothing hateful
Nor truly awful in you.

Why not judge knowing you will
Be judged by other judges
Than you’d want or imagine,

If you are recalled at all?
How does any wickedness
Coincide with any art,

And why do both grade smoothly
In and out of each other?
What’s the meaning of Ezra?

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