Nail Chiodo

Loud in War

Canto V

Perhaps because he was a total sucker for disinhibition,
Perhaps because he was in part Italian,
Ethics of the tale, Lud knew he had to see Becky
With his own eyes before taking any further step
In his liberal arts education. She must have come
From one of those upper-middle-class, suburban
Think-tank households, where the American dream’s
Highest reveries got achieved in a silence
Broken only by classical music and the sound
Of washing machines: remarkable, though, was not the fact
She had been taking the pill since she was fourteen
As that she still sucked her thumb at twenty.
While one of her hands might thus have been busy
Suckling the kid like a teat, just as easily
The other slapped leather, brandished paper and pen,
And performed some logical feat. Of their conversation,
What comes back to mind is this excerpt. Our friend
(Insisting on the sole tack he knew and,
For good or for evil, could never abandon):
“Yes, but what about Philosophy, what about Plato?!”
“Plato’s OK, but he’s not spectacular.”
“What, then, is ‘spectacular’ according to you?!!”
“A good piece of fiction can be spectacular.”
Though he did not at all agree with them,
Her answers nevertheless agreed with him,
Left his mouth more shut than open.
Who had ever heard a vernacular
Of such an exquisitely philosophic kind,
Except perhaps the happy few, in the good old days
Of Bloomsbury, who had got it straight
From Wittgenstein? I will linger just enough
In these circles to add that Becky even matched Sraffa—
In terms of know-how—when she gave one the finger1
What, I ask myself, did Lud learn from her?
I believe it was something he already sensed
But might never have accepted otherwise:
From this sparrow in command of the skies
Whom no amount of adoration could stop
He learned that he was oppressive
And had no choice but either to find out how not
To be so, or to die. Whether he did in the end,
The rest may, I hope, help the ladies decide.

  1. Piero Sraffa (1898-1983), Italian economist, reader emeritus at Cambridge University; in regard to the episode in which he “gave the finger” to Wittgenstein as an example of a proposition without a logical form.

Canto VI