being for, and after, W. H. Auden
We still insist on keeping traditions,
in defiance of all logic.
Southerners, for example,
eating black-eyed peas and greens,
not doing even one load of laundry
for fear of washing fortunes away.
Elsewhere as well, no one dares
to dispense with “just in case.”
Wystan would love the Internet,
for its structure more than function,
though leaking secrets would fit right in
with his penchant for the underground.
He would marry Edward Snowden
to get him British citizenship
and complicate the legal process,
take up exile in Reykjavik.
But their elopement would be a near miss
because of Auden’s inexpedient
insistence on an Anglican ceremony
with candles and incense and a rebel priest.
Would have lobbied for Bradley Manning
to go to rehab rather than prison,
though his interest might have waned
when Chelsea appeared on the scene.
He would have wanted to visit Russia
to see whether the meteor hit,
inspect any craters left behind.
Deplored the Boston bombings of course,
but sounded the alarm about our response,
what’s been lost in our attempts
to halt violence; said of war
truth learned in Spain: All sides are wrong.
Hardly a papist, but might have smelt hope
in the air that Francis stirred.
Nor a royalist, but might have seen
progress in the heralded birth
of Britain’s half-common Prince George,
who thanks to infusion of maternal genes,
might become a handsome young man,
reminding Wystan of German boys.
He still would question how the priests
account for Philippine typhoons,
for wind, and fire, and flood, and crashing
planes and trains and cars, all tragic.
Probably make secret donations
for the campaign to take out Fred Phelps,
insisting if someone called him on it,
that his position was purely rhetorical.
In the dawning apocalypse,
his belief would still hold firm,
though perhaps he would argue
that it has already come,
seeing as, despite our progress
toward a more tolerant society,
we have taken some steps back,
become more anxious, lost our warmth.
Note: Modeled on “A New Year Greeting” by W. H. Auden.
T. Allen Culpepper