Saturday, July 25, 2009

Not In So Many Words

Mark Twain is credited with defining an "expert" as any damn fool away from home. Today we regard an expert as anyone who can boil down a complex issue into a digestible sound bite.

Groucho Marx is having his way with us. The smart-aleck quip along with a raised eyebrow could overthrow governments. On his show, "You Bet Your Life" Groucho engaged in a little banter with each contestant. "I see that you have eleven children and you're 30 years old", Groucho observed, "how do you explain that?"

"I love my wife", the gentleman replied.

Groucho gave him a faux-startled look and answered, " I love my cigar but I take it out of my mouth every now and then."

The Marx brothers tapped into our psyche with their iconoclastic and zany antics. Their brand of subversion won our hearts more than Karl Marx. Groucho and Chico spoke the language of the streets, of the immigrant masses in New York City in the early 20th century. They channeled the quick repartee, the moxie, the pushcart swindle and survival in the urban jungle.

While those two brothers pierced the pretensions in our name with machine-gun rapidity it was Harpo who said his piece with a nod, a shrug and a honk. He carried silent film into the fourties as the wisecrack his brothers never said. He was the interval in the fast-talk, the mute in the clamor.

When humanity is all talked out, words at our feet exhausted, we can look to Harpo who distilled the pain and the frolic to the essentials inside his coat - a telephone, one ice skate, a cup of coffee. Junk man, collage artist, archeologist,
he gave us back the artifacts of our fractured civilization.

He saw the world as a broken piano and made a harp of it. When he embraced the strings it was almost too private to watch. His arms reached the firmament making waves that moved the tides and his eyes stared down the stars with the human lament.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! This blog, though of course written in words, pays homage, rightly, to the unsaid, unspoken, even unwritten. For a poet, such as yourself, to give voice to zany, touching Harpo, is evidence of what feeds your poetic sensibility. Bravo! More attention should be given to the meaning of silence...even between the words.