DOLOR by Theodore Roethke
I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper weight,
All the misery of manila folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplication of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows,
Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.
I’ve always liked this poem though it is so heavy-handed and grim, using mundane phenomena of day-to-day life to paint a picture of the relentless tedium of life. Usually we don’t notice this tedium for we are acclimated to it and take it to be reality…and it is good that we do; for this “tedium” makes consensually-validated reality possible and we can trudge through the necessary pretenses of daily living. But then Donald J. Trump stumbles onto center stage and we see just how “unnecessary” this sheep-like behavior is! For example, why must we “make nice” every day, obeying rules of decorum and civility when we could easily just lay aside our inhibitions and say or do what we really are thinking? Just one example comes to mind, last fall on the debate stage, when all but one of the presidential candidates were “making nice” with one another only to discover one of their members was playing by different rules. Furthermore, Trump’s willingness to “tell it like it is” resonated with many voters who quickly fell in line with him, finding his disinhibition the perfect expression of their pent-up frustration which Roethke beautifully portrayed in his poem.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Thingsfall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. (The Second Coming, by W. B. Yeats)