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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #389
The Great Poet
David Gunn

The sign in front of the Great Hall read "Tonight only, Great Poet reads from selected works." Presumably, everyone who needed to know this nugget of information already did, for not one person glanced at the sign as he or she entered the building. Neither did anyone seem to engage in an act of commerce. Armed and legged ticket sentries were posted at the gateway, yes, but, except for performing the briefest of retinal scans, they made no attempt to slow the influx of attendees. And pour in they did, by the hundreds. Thousands! One especially large tsunami of flocking humans that arrived coincident with the rising fish moon was estimated to number over a trillion. And somehow, everyone was able to fit inside the building.

The Great Poet was scheduled to read in the building's Great Room, the only chamber commodious enough to accommodate the mass of eager onlookers. Leading to that room was a Great Hallway, along which walls countless sycophants loudly proclaimed their self-serving adulation in the form of embarrassingly vapid verse. Two limericists, who had both chosen the same theme and taken offense at the other's presumptuousness, brawled briefly, but otherwise people were civil and complaisant.

At precisely seven o'clock, a great hush fell over the assembled masses. A curtain parted, revealing the Great Poet. The man was not great as in "superior in quality" but rather as in "very large in size." Girth, when applied to him, was pronounced with an extra syllable. He didn't stand so much as he loomed. The US Postal Service had awarded him his own +4 zip code.

He wore a long, feathery robe that billowed about him like dozens of unraveling rolls of toilet paper. His inflatable shoes gave the illusion that he was standing on air, currents from which had whipped his hair into a frenzied, Medusa-like mass of Möbius strips. His great salt-and-pepper-and-cumin beard, too, resembled a whiskery windrow from the point of view of a snapping turtle on amphetamines. Then the Great Poet strode to the podium.

He parted his lips as if to speak and a flock of pigmy coots flew out of his mouth. They soared up to and alighted upon the rafters in the ceiling, from which vantage point they gazed down with birdy fervor, ready to parse any avian metaphor the poet might employ. The Great Poet acknowledged them, then opened his mouth again. And again, no words issued forth, for the great hush that enveloped his spectators had silenced him, too. He held up his arms as if to say, "well, what now?," but the noisy rustling of his plumaged garment drowned out the gesture.

A stage manager ran to the room milieu console and dialed down the hush level from "great" to "not so great." Two things happened. The degree of ambient noise in the Great Room rose appreciably, and the poet himself shrank noticeably in greatness. But at least he could now be heard, and he leaned into the microphone and at last began to speak. However, many of the words now seemed fatuous and commonplace, redundant and prolix. He thought his voice still sounded muffled, his words impenetrable, so he motioned for the technician to decrease the hush of the hall some more. The technician did so, and the suddenly not-so-great poet's voice did indeed resonate more clearly in the room. But as his patina of greatness diminished, so, too, did the attendees' inclination to listen. As his words became less incomprehensible, so their degree of inconsequence rose proportionately.

People began to leave the Great Hall, first discreetly, then more hastily, then rudely en masse. Even the sycophants summarily ceased their submissive adulation. Glaring at his fickly fleeing fans, the poet stopped reading and began to extemporaneously rail at them. High above him, the coots, being members of the rail family, Rallus fulica, took this as an invitation. Then dived down, forced his mouth open, and disappeared back inside.

Outside the hall, someone had crossed out the word "Great" on the sign and crudely drawn feathers all over the poet's countenance. But not one person glanced at the sign as he or she was disgorged from the building. They all just swiftly faded into the night.

We hope that you, our listening audients, don't choose to swiftly fade from this broadcast of the 389th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar simply because it's a day of both fundraising and one without the attendance of Kalvos. Rather we hope you'll call in with a pledge of either financial or psychotropic support, for without it ... well, it's hard enough to be here without Kalvos. Donít make me suffer the consequences of a radiophonic no-confidence vote, too!