introduction to a poem

This is an introduction to a poem called ‘All it Takes’ or ‘Clay Birds.’ Although I hesitate to call it a poem. But that’s my problem. Not yours. And I’ll be talking about that in another introduction.

I was listening to the editor of The Economist magazine. When was it? It doesn’t matter. The magazine’s been going for 36 years so they’re probably still doing it now. Every year they do a report on the year. And this one was for 2021.

Asked about what he felt was going to happen with the pandemic—the announcer covered himself and sort of undid the question by saying nobody can know—whether it was going to develop from pandemic to endemic, the Economist editor said Omicron looked like it might be the bridge from a pandemic situation to the situation of an endemic. Where we get vaccinated every year for Covid along with our other flu jabs. Then he went on.

He said that the first two decades of the millennium were very settled. Talk about rolling back neoliberalism, and so on. Local issues, but issues raised within a period of global stability, so it felt. Then 2020 hit.

People say they’ll hunker down, that they’ll wait for things to get back to normal. I don’t think they will, he said. I think the shape of 2022 is the shape of the coming decades, where we have more chaos.

We have it at all sorts of levels. From climate change to our fragile democracies. People living under autocracies, like China, although I think they prefer to call it socialist democracy, and in Eastern Europe are asking political leaders to do something. Rising prices for basic goods, housing. Distribution networks strained and disrupted and supply chains breaking down.

We are going to have to get used to chaos and this poem is about that. Called ‘All it Takes,’ because all it takes is a little chaos. At the social level and for nature. It’s natural to want to preserve the status quo.

We can see it in this country, how conservative forces can take advantage, because all it takes is a little chaos. These forces can mean well. They often do. Take the minor level of the national library. The so-called book cull. The chaos that’s been unleashed.

What has changed I think, which the poem addresses, is you can have your little chaos, you can indulge in it if you will. You can have your little coup. You little revolution. But conservative forces, and by that I mean forces of conservation also, whose good intentions are taken advantage of, because this is what has changed, conservative forces know it suits them. It suits the oligarchs. It suits the corporate hierarchy. It suits the rich and getting richer.

They know that all it takes is a little chaos to preserve the status quo. And the funny thing is that the left, perhaps the reason for the other title of the poem, are made of straw, easy to ignite. To sow more chaos, and, like clay birds, to take potshots at.