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The Imaginary Burglar's Ballad

Titian, The Tribute Money (ca. 1516)

“The chief use of the ‘meaning’ of a poem . . . may be [to keep the mind diverted while the poem does its work] . . . much as the imaginary burglar is always provided with a bit of nice meat for the house-dog.”—T. S. Eliot, The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism

Most meaning lies in words' ongoing vibe,

Reverberating stories of our tribe.

Makers contrive to mate 'em with Platonic sense,

Unfeasible conjunction, though tangible—intense

Across live music's fine fantastic fence.

Information's like sugar, drugs, and nicotine addicting,

A cocktail of sapient matters wildly contradicting

Our deep-seated common feel for good and right,

For what it's like to live—and how you


Uncover art's delight.

Dante died of his wounds in History, and so did Virgil, his ciceronē.

Their corpus looms, too great to be consumèd,* undescried outside

—no longer such a handy guide.

Tip-toeing through that somnolent Deity's umpteenth McMansion

Note, I pray, the doomy scansion!

Unto Fido render Fido's house—

But to the Infinite, Her mouse.**

*Habitat destruction and the indiscriminate use of insecticides moreover threaten endangered blowfly populations.

**Cf. Matthew 22:21: Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ.


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