J.T. Barbarese

Human Condition
July 11, 2013 Barbarese J.T.

Human Condition

~after « L’effort humaine » by Jacques Prevert


The human condition isn’t some grinning

stud made of plaster or stone and posed on one leg

and creating the idiotic illusion

courtesy of commercial art

of balletic joy and jubilation

as the other leg rises to mimic

how sweet it is to be home at last



the human condition does not carry its son on its right shoulder

and its father on its back

and a daughter in its left arm

while wearing a tool belt

a happy-looking young wife dangling from an arm


It wears a truss

has the battle scars of the underclass

doesn’t own its own home

doesn’t own any ground

and isn’t allowed to stand on the ground it stands on

savors the stink of its labor

will die of black lung diabetes hypertension

makes lousy money, eats bad food

its kids have lice, has no health insurance

works like a slave

it is a slave


It has no “life style”

never experienced The Age of Reason

Instead endured the age of barracks and factory slums

the age of penitentiaries prisons housing projects enterprise zones

house-front churches and


It planted all those vineyards

tuned all the violins

then fed itself on its own bad dreams

drank itself  sick on the wine of resignation

the black cheese of defeat

and like a poisoned squirrel

spins in nonstop circles

in a low vastness

of dust and dropped ceilings


It hammers the endless chain

It enchains itself

despair greed work slaughter

illness insomnia boredom surrender

hammered gold chain

a croix de guerre

of carbon iron steel

cinders and dust

hung on its neck by hired whores


Charm bracelet of misery

where it hangs its

framed headshots of the mighty

saints’ relics campaign ribbons purple hearts

prom pictures wedding pictures

Pope bobble heads

good-conduct medals

and great televised moments

white house tours rose garden press conferences

the well-heeled ivy league punk

who didn’t believe in accidents and ended up president

it’s gone to museums and honored exhibits

seen the great equestrian portraits

the great full-body portrait

Pharoah Ramses hopping on one foot

the great gilt-edged portrait

of the great fortune teller, great emperor, great thinker, leaper, moralist


and the great busts—

the great giver of pain

the great passive aggressive

the great liberator

the scorch of Hitler

the hangman’s head

no matter where

same shape size color

loathsome head


Turn on your TV

Death’s head

J.T. Barbarese‘s last book of poems is True Does Nothing. Forthcoming later this year is After Prévert, a translation of selected poems from Jacques Prévert’s Paroles.