Monday, October 9, 2017

The World

The world says that I have to pay attention
   To what it says must occupy my mind.
I have to be a cog in its convention
   Of relevance, or else I’m unrefined.
The world says that it is the arbiter
   Of what I should be seeing—doing—wearing—
For my own good. And so I must concur.
   If not, then I deserve to be despairing.
The world says that what it says matters more
   Than anything I say—and its approval
Is all I need to get me past Fame’s door.
   Without it, bouncers see to my removal.
      The world says I must give each waking thought
      To what it calls important—or I’m not.

They say the world will come to you if you
   Just keep doing the work, but that’s a lie.
It only comes when brought by someone who
   Sees something in it that he wants to buy.
They say the world will always notice talent,
   But talent is defined as flattery.
Sing the world’s praises; it will call you gallant
   And stay blind to your mediocrity.
They say the world will recognize great art,
   But that’s the greatest fiction of them all.
Works that have brilliance, vision, style and heart
   Are chaff if not sold at the shopping mall.
      They say the world decrees where worth begins—
      And every time we buy that, the world wins.

The world wins when it says "I am the one
   Who brands you with the tattoo of success.
You cannot shine unless it is my sun.
   Without my label, all is worthlessness."
The world wins when we say that we define
   Our own success, since that means we’re conceding
We’ve failed at the world’s game, and get to dine
   On our own praises, which is special pleading.
The world wins every time we factor in
   The world to an equation. It’s a term
Whose value changes what we’ve done or been
   Into an either or: winner or worm.
      The world wins when we seek out its affection—
      And wins big when we give it our rejection.

Rejecting the world means that we still care
   Enough about it to defend our work
Against its disapproval—its unfair
   Ignorance—its supercilious smirk.
Rejecting the world means we tried to win it
   Over to us, and then cried “Sour grapes!”
Because it wouldn’t give us half a minute,
   We bitch it out for days with gripes and japes.
Rejection feeds the world’s great vanity,
   For hatred’s just a hotter kind of loving.
Beneath its heat, it says you want to be
   Embraced and welcomed by the one you’re shoving.
      It doesn’t want her gone—it wants her sweet.
      Which makes rejection yearning in defeat.

The world can’t lose because the game is rigged
   To either make it win or make you fail.
It poisons every toast you’ve ever swigged.
   (I swear to God, it’s like the world is male.)
The world can’t lose because it is the court
   And judge and jury where worth’s law is passed—
That puts your name on Time’s final report
   And then rules whether you will fade or last.
The world can’t lose unless you just don’t give
   A shit what it thinks. Takes a special soul
To care so little for applause, and live
   Without what others cling to, and be whole.
      The world can’t lose unless, for all you love it,
      You vow always to be in it—not of it.

The world is everything, for those who look
   For someone else to tell them all the answers.
“Here’s the great movie!” “There’s the must-read book!”
   “That company may move, but they’re no dancers.”
The world is everything a vampire is—
   It needs your blood to live; it fills your head
With hungry dreams and condescension’s fizz;
   Then leaves you soulless, brainwashed, and undead.
The world is everything you’ve ever wanted—
   State-sanctioned virtue, tolerated vice,
The lure of fame whose absence leaves you haunted—
   And all you have to do is pay its price:
      Be the world’s champion, not its accuser—
      And then call anyone who is, a loser.

The world is just, or so it likes to think,
   And fair the way society is fair:
It serves the Ins a complimentary drink
   While telling all the Outs “I just don’t care.”
The world is just too proud to be disgraced
   Whenever someone says it might be biased.
It claims it’s just coincidence its taste
   Runs to the straightest, whitest, and the guyest.
The world is just another inner voice
   That tells us all the things we cannot do—
Praises us when we choose to give up choice
   And swears it’s champagne when we swig its brew.
      The world is just a low voice from on high
      That will praise nothing it can’t profit by.

The world is nothing more than a collection
   Of self-sustaining myths. It’s like a church.
Give it your worship; it gives you protection.
   Deny it; it will leave you in the lurch.
The world is nothing but an elevator—
   Once you’re in, upper floors are all you’ll see.
It guards the penthouse like it’s Joy’s dictator,
   Crying: “You must find happiness through me!”
The world is nothing less than a machine
   I have no control over, so why should
I think its ignorance of me is mean
   Or meant? Or that its praise of me is good?
      Why look for vision in what cannot see
      And always puts the vain in vainglory?

“The world is ours!” successful people cry.
   But they don’t ever own it—it owns them.
Its praise—and not their gifts—put them on high,
   And what it raises up, it can condemn.
The world is yours to do with as it pleases,
   But only when you choose to give it power.
And when it does deliver on its teases
   And kisses you, the aftertaste is sour.
The world is mine, when I can say to it
   “You don’t own me!” and mean it—every word—
Do what I will, not what it will permit—
   And be untroubled, not a fountain stirred,
      Each time the world thinks of new ways to fool me
      Into believing that its standards rule me.

Copyright 2017 Matthew J Wells

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