I'm a professional copywriter and the editor of Misfits' Miscellany, an online poetry journal. You can read my poetry at Misfits' Miscellany as well as at Drunken Absurdity, online and in their upcoming print issue. You can also read my stuff at Underground Voices, BoySlut, The Weekenders Magazine, HorrorSleazeTrash and in issues 138 and 139 of Zygote in my Coffee. An extract from my novel NOURISHMENT is due to be published in issue 18 of Jungle Jim Magazine.
21st Century Boy
by Philip Vermaas
I imagine a kid
smart enough to intuitively mistrust
and decent enough to feel confused
by others sliding seamlessly into it.
I imagine him coerced through
the iron arguments, bolted with experience,
of too-complicit-to-listen parents saying
it’s a contract into which he
has no choice but to opt,
or least not fight, if he wants to
get fed with favourites and be free to go,
as he now must, invisible.
The iron money that’s paid
to the entrenched institution
is quick to sway mom and pop
to the principles of a factory
in which they consider themselves
I imagine this uneasy commodity kid
is left no air for his own words to form
and then having to practise unwanted isolation
in the relentlessly validated word-swallowing fog
of do-your-part oppression.
I imagine he does OK,
kisses a few nerdy girls
for whom he has a million words
expect the ones he needs to be honest.
But his kisses are a whole other poem;
and, for all their books and spectacles,
the best nerdy girls
are heading into the system
with the cosy cost-effective rationalization
that they can change it from within;
even those who study history.
And he thinks they must be seeing
more clearly than he does:
he does stand so far away.
He gets OK grades
at an expense which is too high
to either whisper or ignore
but about which
the coerced and capitulant
insinuate is nothing more
than “there is no more”.
He steps again
on the trodden path of suggested life
by taking an old seat in the lecture hall.
He wants to study fairness and dissension,
philosophy and the art
that leads to the wolf’s elusive true cry;
or at least an eloquent whimper
for which he won’t get arrested
as a thorn in the side of peace.
But raised eyebrows
point away from these quaint subjects,
as the self-appointed heads
of sense and contribution
nod towards classes with the firmer titles
of tastable futures.
So, he takes up engineering
and is told as much about
its application for careers
as he is about induction and
supporting structures made of
mother- and father-less metal.
I imagine the system
that makes an engineer of he
who eventually chokes himself to sleep
next his secretly similar Sarafem spouse
in the catalogue-couture house
in the sempiternal suburbs.
I imagine the system
is one which needs him,
needs more commodities
to strengthen its grip
on the collusive majority
who save themselves
as they close their eyes to pray
at the gates of the iron institution.
Top to bottom,
puppeteer to strangled wolf,
somewhere in there
we’re losing the chance
to move forward
based on the right
that it’s good to feel you’re
contributing to a structure
which doesn’t require you to
conspire in your own oppression.
It’s the same right
as the one which allows
you to stay awake and still feel
OK about being human.
About Philip Vermaas