Tall Poppy Syndrome (Or, The Earthworm Manifesto)

In a show of taffy endurance,
Little heads poke from the soil and waver in unison under the breeze.
Poppy faces, crimson and flecked, spread out uniform,
Proudly awaiting the gardener.

Far below, they gather conspiratorially. Up, on a podium on a stage on a glen, the little chorus finishes with a brief minuet and Professor Glory slides to the spotlight. Above him, there’s a banner… “EARTHWORMS OF THE WORLD UNITE” is what the canvas sez, yes, here’s an exemplary specimen taking the stand, to deliver this, his greatest manifesto.

(And mama says, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?”)

This is the show:
The bereaved and bereft file through,
Troubled by life and its mysteries and loss,
Only to find themselves in the poppy garden.
Tended oh-so-precisely,
Each little scarlet showgirl
Sways with the group as though all
Were some semi-aqueous mass.
And somehow, perfection and precision
Implies its peace and wonder
Upon sorrowed eyes.
Somehow, in the midst of this tragedy,
Is bliss and tranquility.
The heart wonders.

Inside the great outside’s mini microcosm, the earthworms gather for the discourse. And the speaker says, “There is a grave danger all about us, and its name is Concrete. For too many years, our kind have flirted with the concrete in the rains,” (and at this, the crowds’ collective shoulders sink, suddenly realizing that this is another wholesome-lifestyle lecture), “climbing aboard that menacing mass in order to soak in its wet glories. And too many of our boys have gone, and too many have never come back.” Some of the earthworms slink away. Some listen, hoping the discussion will take a turn. Most listen, and recall the moments they’ve spent, writhing in a puddle of water, ecstatic in its cool touch, euphorically unaware for the first while that the skies have cleared and the rain has let up. And they sniff in disdain. ‘So what?’ they scoff. ‘It’s in our nature. It’s what we were meant to do. Why question it?’

Paranoia is the new religion.
Everything is an offense,
Or part of a conspiracy.
Passing in traffic becomes an attempt to get ahead.
In this way, the individual becomes a threat,
The not-a-team-player of our synthetic reality,
Where the desirable ideal
Is heterosexual monogamy with parenthood;
The day-by-day labor-and-save,
The measuring-tape of human value.
The power of the question
Becomes a menace,
Betraying the carefully-constructed facades,
Where romance is a pool of the moment,
The blissful victim oblivious to the porous stone’s deadly thirst;
Where the shortest distance between two points
Is not a Jack Van Impe sermon;
Where children flip on the television,
Bask in its Lite Brite glow,
And no longer have to do anything difficult,
Like think.

And the Professor continues, “my colleagues and I, we have devised a plan of demolition. We plan to obliterate this concrete — fissure it into millions of harmless fragments, as it were — and spare us this heavy toll on our society.” Well, they don’t like THAT, no, they start realizing, ‘this is no crackpot, this is someone who could really jeopardize our way of life.’ In a fit of sudden and heavy disgust, they shudder violently with wrath, and gather together their knives and pitchforks, and drag this poor creature down from the podium, pulling him like the sackful of hammers they believe him to be, over to an oaken sliver, pinning him there. This sliver is then pushed up, erected into the heat of the sun, pushing him up into the dry hostile elements which could kill, then left there with its captive to die. Bloody prophets.

In a show of taffy endurance,
Little heads poke from the soil and waver in unison under the breeze.
Poppy faces, crimson and flecked, spread out uniform,
Proudly awaiting the gardener.
And one little poppy, brazen and excited,
Pokes up further than the rest.
It’s the ambition of youth, the quest for achievement.
And the caretaker finally arrives, to trim and to tend,
Little poppy beams.
“Look at me; look at me!”
Single soul above the crowd.
At this, the gardener approaches,
And lops her pretty head off.
Thus, the serenity of the garden is maintained.

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