The Age of Mediocrity


Leo Racicot

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 125 in December, 2010.

when celebrity
actually involved

How Elizabeth Bishop
worked on one sestina
for years
til she knew
it would blind you
like a diamond

And I read once
that Lucille Ball and Harpo Marx
spent 16 hour days
refining a mirror mime
that lasted a mere 3 minutes
on screen.

How Truman Capote
pushed his pencil
to produce
such perfect sentences
his wrists and fingers bled
until "In Cold Blood"
was born.

How Werner Herzog
that Hercules behind a camera
asked many sacrifices and sorrows
of his actors and crew
to create the dazzling stanzas and landscapes
of "Fitzcarraldo"

How Nina Simone
sweat out a song
sweat and song
rivering over her neck
and breasts 'til they reached
their message of perfection.
Simone -- vocal gold.

Why, I ask myself, should I put any craft
into this poem?

What is the use
in slaving over creation
in a world of easy access
and instant acclaim?

Is it too much to ask
that world leaders
first learn the turnings of government
before trying their hand at high office?
that comedians be funny?
that singers be able to sing?
that the bells we ring
be worthy of our summonings?

What happened to talent?
Hard work?

Fame today
Forgotten tomorrow.
It is the shame
of our age
that we have opted
to be small
the quick and facile fix
Warhol's Fifteen Minutes of Me

hollered Salieri,
that self-acknowledged Mediocrity of Mediocrities himself,
"Mediocrities all!"