“Loeb” is a reference to Leopold & Loeb, two students at the University of Chicago, who committed a notorious murder in 1924, killing a 14-yr old kid just to commit a perfect crime and thereby prove the superiority of their criminal skills. Their crime wasn’t so perfect, turns out, and they were imprisoned for life until Loeb was murdered in prison in 1936. The poem comes from a moment when B. was still in the hospital, and feeling a bit paranoid. It describes an incident with a police officer in an elevator pretty much how it happened, although I suspect he didn’t say anything to the cop about eating his brains. I wouldn’t have. Armed meatheads are like sleeping dogs. Let them be. I heard an interview with David Sedaris once, where he told about running into an airport security agent with a bad attitude, and Sedaris, who was writing a book of animal fables at the time, simply looked at him and thought, “I’m making you into a rabbit.” This is precisely why authoritarians don’t think much of artists—we do things like imagine eating their brains or turning them into rabbits. We throw snide at them and propose eating Irish children as a way to control the Irish population explosion, who starved while England thrived. We write stories where the pigs run the farm, but pretty soon you can’t tell the pigs apart from the evil humans. How about “Purity Of Essence”? Hah! Problem is, uniforms and guns are symbols of power, but power is generally more than symbolic. One story has Aesop telling his animal fables to the people at Delphi, who were so insulted that they forced him to jump off a cliff. For me, in about 3rd grade, I remember a filmstrip about Aesop, with a drawing of him being chained to a cart and ridden off to his execution. I guess that was a lesson about speaking truth to power—for eight year olds! The warning didn’t take with me. I am wary around the police, though. I’ve never had a problem, but I don’t them any grief. Mainly because I respect what they do.
But I saw a police officer with a high-and-tight haircut in a gas station last year, and I almost—almost—told him what I thought about that. It wasn’t supportive. But I held off. A high-and-tight is an inch or two wider than a Mohawk. It’s symbolically circling around to the same place—a Mohawk is a statement of implacable punkitude with kick-your-ass overtones, and high-and-tight means I’m fully prepared to Taser your ass into convulsions if you don’t show me proper deference. I’ll ask some basic questions later. Similar outcomes from opposite political motivations. Either way, I avoid it. I saw GIs loading onto landing craft for the D-Day invasion, everyone high-and-tight. Put me in that spot, and yep, I paint my face and sport the warrior’s haircut. That’s the only attitude to adopt. But that cop I saw in the gas station was a meathead with a badge, looking hard for some action. I sympathize with B. on this one.
Comedy and satire are powerful weapons though. Mel Brooks says his purpose in life is to point his finger at Hitler and laugh at him. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are some of our most effective political commentators, and Lennie Bruce, George Carlin and Richard Pryor were some of the most devastating ever. So, eating the meathead’s brains? It’s ridiculous, but that’s the point. Now when I see a cop with a bad-message haircut, I can think of better ways of cutting him down to size than starting direct trouble. I wonder if he had his cotton tail amputated, or is it still there tucked away beneath his gun and his silvery, jingling handcuffs?