Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Age of Forfeit


Age of Forfeit
"..I deny the tastes and habits of the age.
 I am its punk debauche..A fierce lampoon
seeking to inherit what is necessary to forfeit.." 
~1959, Gregory Corso
Ten years old in '59
learning how to eat plastic
how to steal the eyes
of sorrow, how to watch the TV box
build the marshmallow engines of dreams;
learning how to flip forward and back,
an acrobat of lies, an appearance nun, bride-to-be of
Christ's money, of necrotic success, of tears
that can only come out at night.

Ten years old in '59
the decade of glorious acquisition,
born from war and set to marinate in flag-juice,
to memorize the ABC's: Avarice, Bombast, Consumption
at all costs. Eat cake on your birthday. Ignore
the bleached bones of beauty floating
in your corn flakes, the ghost-children, your peers,
who howled as they died in the split atom's vomit.
Don't look at

the malice behind the service.
Don't go too far. Don't grow your hair
or wander in the ruins of compassion;
there's no money there. Don't ask why you're 
starving on plenty, little girl, little pawn. Learn
to iron a shirt, feed the baby, please your man, work
in the cafe, at the office, behind the 
dimestore counter selling blood-paste 
for lyrically lying lips

or you'll be the joke,
the reject, the outcast forever
running for your life.

December 2021


posted for


Images: Fifties photographs, courtesy of Soren Larsen, © Frank Larson   Fair Use


  1. Poeming at its most powerful. This gongs with undeniable truth. The toxic compulsion of the mainstream's pressure to comply and the consequences for resisting it.

  2. Wow. From the images to the poem itself, this is an angry, honest, bruising tour de force. There is so much here that I love--appearance nun, tears that only come out at night, flag-juice, the atomized peers and every line that came after that. Corso would have loved this, I am certain; I know I do. I have no personal memory of the 50's, but know the zeitgeist and this calls it out for exactly what it was. No wonder the generation that grew up then gave the finger to it all a decade later. Just fantastic stuff, dear BFF.

  3. wow. wow. love all of this, the message, the style (corso would smile) every word comes straight from the gut, i love that... so beat! "to memorize the ABC's: Avarice, Bombast, Consumption
    at all costs." yes
    "Don't grow your hair
    or wander in the ruins of compassion;
    there's no money there. Don't ask why you're
    starving on plenty," yes, love all of this joy, i've really missed reading your work

  4. I turned 18 in 1959 ... your words (** an exquisite write) hit me like a wall of bricks. I was her in many ways. Phillip is spot on .. Gregory Corso would not only smile BUT write a glowing critique. Happy Holidays in case I haven't said it before. I treasure you.

  5. As always, Joy, I'm swept away by your command of the language and the theme, which sparkles with your incisive wit on the state of "culture" you grew up in. And we see the fruits of it now. The last stanza cut to the quick as one who to her own culture became "an outcast" for bucking the system.

  6. You captured a time and the feelings and theme beautifully Joy! Every line is like history and a generation and what they faced and fought brought before our eyes!! Amazing!!

  7. Gosh, this is breathtaking, Hedgewitch. I actually had tears in my eyes towards the end. You make the reader not just want to join your protest but get up and march. Too many, too many good lines to mention. I love the whole thing. But if I had to pick some choice ones, these:

    "how to steal the eyes of sorrow"

    "tears that only come out at night"

    "Ignore the bleached bones of beauty floating in your cornflakes, the ghost-children, your peers, who howled as they died in the split atom's vomit." - STUNNING.

    "Don't grow your hair or wander in the ruins of compassion; there's no money there." - but the whole of this stanza is so powerfully distilled.

    Just wonderful <3 <3

  8. And also, Happy Solstice Greetings to you too!! :-D

  9. I read this yesterday but wanted to let it simmer a while before a second reading: The iron mace swung first, almost berserk, through the devices of consumer education, the idiot box with its opioidal promise of sweet surfeit and its manic take-no-prisoner consumption of the human spirit. Second reading I thought, maybe to be 10 in 1959 was just far enough aft or fore to have been hammered rather than seduced by it; just old enough to encounter it with some prior ground rather to be born in it, like first experiencing computers in one's 20s than at age 3. For wombs saturated in cathode rays delve children who are nurse and become reflections of it -- devouring Me's. TV babies grew up to be social media parents, giving birth to collective ghouls so "rid of the ruins of compassion" the "split atom's vomit" is just another hue of Nickolodean slime. Anyway, the speaker's vantage is also her curse, to have missed the wave just enough to remain unbaptized in its wake: to have eyes bereft enough of consumerism's caul to see it for what it became. Fierce stuff Hedge, spot-on and proof that poets need far and distant hours to find words three deep. And the craft to say 'em without drowning. Yuletide cheer and amen.

    1. Thanks, B. for such a deep and heartfelt reading. I will always hate the fifties, but in many ways it was just a black-and-white version of now, full of McCarthyism, open racism, forced consumption and conformity. Plus ca change...Thanks for being such a supportive reader of my work through thick and very thin, and a good Yule to you and yours also.

  10. Wow, damn. One amazing, hard hitting line after another. I'd have to quote the entire poem. "Learning how to eat plastic" should be the national motto from the 50's on, as we're still at it, geese with funnels of synthetic gavage in our throats.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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