Elegy 567: The Primitive, the Civilized


What Inter-Dialogism presupposes— that the individuals involved in the interpenetration of brain matter are in adequate condition and in a state of responsiveness so that the interchange may occur— is derailed in Cheltenham Elegy 567. Here, the conditions of Inter-Dialogic exchange are met, but in a state of violent extremity— the protagonist of the first movement has a pistol being held to the head of his possible interlocutor. The question then arises— for Inter-Dialogic interpenetration of brain matter to occur, do extreme conditions expedite the process of brain interpenetration or do they thwart it? Elegy 567 does not attempt to answer this question directly. However, it is implicit in the poem, and in Danny bothering to sign the offered voucher without complaint or any response at all, that a congeries of elements— the protagonist’s tirade and the brandished weapon, not to mention the implied presence of others— coalesce to posit a brain altered by extreme circumstances to both accept what would otherwise be unacceptable and to alter generalized circumstances with a signature pulling back on assumed authority.


Always with the cheap shots, Danny. Always with the sense
that more than half of you and your bullshit judgments were
just arbitrary, just made up trash you used to push people
down because you knew you could. Now that I’ve got
the pistol to your head, I’m announcing that you will now
sign this voucher, OK? From this day forward, you can’t
rank us, configure us in any untoward way, shake up our
deals unless you can prove a reason for doing so, or put us
in the hapless position all over again of being vassals for
a bunch of lunatic brats. And before you leave, one more
thing— I’m handing you back the spreadsheets for the last
six months, because we both know they’re fictionalized nonsense,
& before I shoot your feet I’m willing to be circumspect—
Cheltenham: if you want to get out, you better have a gun.
The word on the street (and this just happened) is that Danny
had a piece pulled on him as he sat & listened. The leader
demanded leniency. He signed the voucher & left. Now, I’m
pulling back on my investments with his group, thanking
the Lord in heaven I didn’t grow up in the land of cheap-shots
& below-the-belts (or Hatfields & McCoys, what have you). The leader
I mentioned is leaving, anyway, to a place less mean-spirited against,
well, everybody. And he’s willing to vouch (I love this) for the fact
that he’s not really from around there anymore. Who is, these days?
The second movement offers a perspective shift, from in extremis asperity back into routinized normality. What the second movement seems to signify— that the implied community’s opinion of Danny and his antics was, or had turned, negative— adds weight to the idea that Danny, being Draconian in whatever position of authority he held, himself thwarted the delicacy of Inter-Dialogic brain interpenetration with raw violence. When Inter-Dialogic tensions are expressed, as they so often are in the world, with knives and guns, rather than language, the primitive achieves victory over the civilized— death wins over life. What the protagonist of the first movement achieves by employing both, language and weapons, is a reunification of circumstances with an awareness of intelligence, ability to reason, and willingness to employ rhetoric to achieve justification in the situation at hand— in other words, to take the possibility of Inter-Dialogism and its refinements, and place them back on the proverbial table. Because he does this bearing firearms, the shift back from raw violence and coercion back to reason and civilization is well rounded, etched in communication signals that no one in his milieu can miss. Thus, even if he has to work twice as hard, the result (as is professed in the second movement) is a bold triumph in the conflation of two Inter-Dialogic worlds, the primitive (messages expressed with weapons) and the sophisticated (messages expressed with language). His rhetorical fluidity is aware of this— his own triumph, and the release of long-suppressed animosity— and a path is cleared for the right, efficacious form of communication to occur, however explosive or hostile.