Thursday, January 29, 2015

Manhattan Lament


I really love New York, but—I don’t know—
When subways are shut down because of snow,
I have to ask: what’s happened to this city?
When did New York become a scared old biddy? 

We used to cope—now all we do is panic.
We see a small leak and it’s the Titanic.
It doesn’t matter if we have great plumbing—
The moment that we see that iceberg coming

We man the lifeboats and abandon ship
Because we see disaster in a drip.
And God—don’t get me started on TV
And how reporters lo-o-o-o-ove calamity. 

The media can’t see a drop of rain
Without going full-on batshit insane
About potential flooding worse than Noah
Or storm surges like tidal waves in Goa. 

They feed us all with civilized hysteria
Like each snowflake’s a terrorist from Syria—
And help to make, with tones grave and sincere,
An echo chamber telling us to fear 

Where voices calm, amused and never manic
Will soothe our terror while promoting panic.
The way they talk about the world makes it so
Crazy, no wonder everybody’s schizo. 

When January blizzards are a crisis
That’s greater than a terror strike by ISIS
And panic is all part of public service,
The breakdown ain’t just social, folks—it’s nervous. 

New York’s become your frightened spinster aunt—
The one who’s scared of shadows, and will rant
For days about how unsafe life’s become—
Who’s terrified each time she sees a bum 

Because he wants to take her maidenhood—
Who tells you what to do for your own good.
“For your own good.”  The four deadliest words
Spoken by anyone, from Popes to Kurds— 

And also by the safety-minded crew—
In all of our (of course) best interests—who
Shut down the very subway that the Great
New York Blizzard of 1888 

Created to keep people safe and warm
So they could get around in any storm.
Not any more—the precedent’s been set.
Trains will shut down whenever rails get wet. 

The thing we built to keep the city going
(No matter how incredibly it’s snowing)
From uptown woods to Brooklyn neighborhood
Will now always shut down—for our own good. 

It ought to stick in everybody’s craw.
It’s Mary Poppins mixed with martial law.
What’s next?  Forced blindfolds during an eclipse?
House arrest when there’s ice, so no one slips? 

If this happened in Moscow, we’d cry: “See?
Even for Russia, that’s stupidity!”
But because it’s America, we’re free
To be told what we can’t do equally. 

And what makes this hilarious to me?
It all went down with perfect irony:
This great gigantic storm from which we hid
Did not cripple New York—the Guv’nor did. 

Oh, politicians!  Weak from end to end—
Scared to take chances, scared that you’ll offend—
Supporting firewood when it gets cold
Is your idea of being brave and bold. 

You want to shut down trains in an eruption?
Talk to me after you’ve shut down corruption.
Try taking stands without taking a poll.
You want to keep us safe?  Pass gun control. 

And if you love this city, for God’s sake
Leave it alone—because each time you take
What makes it special and you shut it down,
New York, New York, is just another town 

That thinks it’s cool but closes after dark
And frowns at fun and pleasure like a narc
And fears we’re all potential malefactors
And treats us all like Hitchcock treated actors. 

So if you want a town that thinks it’s smart
But acts real dumb—is Puritan at heart,
And never quite has its head screwed on straight—
That always talks of how it once was great 

And was a city with which to be reckoned
(But never finishes better than second)—
And just has self-importance to get lost in?
You might as well rename this place New Boston.


Copyright 2015 Matthew J Wells



1 comment:

Molly said...

Brilliantly stated, and wittily. Hoorah! Although I cannot comment on the Boston reference, with the rest I heartily agree.