The Cold War
publication date: 2011/05/15
trim: 9 x 6.5
price (paper): $14.95
ISBN 13 (paper): 978-1-932511-95-6
The Status Seekers
Many people are badly distressed, and scared, by the anxieties, inferiority feelings, and straining generated by this unending process of rating and status striving. The status seekers, as I use the term, are people who are continually straining to surround themselves with visible evidence of the superior rank they are claiming.
—Vance Packard,The Status Seekers (1959)
In those days, we studied the difference between antenna
and aerial, commercial and ad, channel and station.
Sometimes it was hard to figure out how to be sincere.
Many compensated by becoming compulsive talkers,
a few took long slow drinks of ice water on hot days,
and all the time Givenchy was going on, and we didn’t know it.
In place of the meadow grew a circle filled with squares.
The embossed wallpaper, badly in need of fixing,
banged against eternal furniture, a Dunbar chair. Distressed,
our hearts peeling, we could either plan it out , or we could do it.
In the magazine: a townhouse, designed; French vegetables,
uncanned. How to keep the deer from nibbling the
rhododendrons upstate. (There was an artichoke in that bud.)
I wanted to be a holy girl, to sigh as if swimming in God.
In all games, I would be the one in shreds,
or straining to hit the birdie over the net and blast Jamie’s head right off.
In God and the ways of knowing. We were in thrall to the deep
and meaningless, and with great hope launched a fervent—
Let’s consider what is real: Do clothes last forever,
either in substance or in style? Can all ambition be for
this life alone? We knew the Gibsons (man, woman,
girl, girl, boy) of the resigned eyebrows. Swarthiness/
despair/passivity/collar-dirt clouded them like flies.
We knew the Crawfords, blond-rose, fresh from the club
(who worried: why had a saga never bloomed for them?).
Both required countertops. And countertops being required,
several diverged. How nausceous, how $14.99.
It would be nice to have more money. Some abstract art
would be nice. In my maxi dress and corsage of violets,
I could hear things (in the larger sense):
Sweet peas, join me. Girls, pixie cuts, shifted, birdlike.
It began with the rock, the river and the tree.
We could not all be best, not in the smaller sense.
My thighs spread like feathers, that was one demerit.
My grandmother came from Naples; she had subtlety without finesse.
I pedaled home through a shallow puddle—it busted apart—got
lunch—then the staticky commercial—then the wrong-looking sneakers.
“The history it weaves—that of the second half of the twentieth century, a history that put in place the entire ethos that led to its own dismantling—is incredibly timely. But the book is evocative of growing up in this country even now, with our equally funny and horrifying contradictions. Each time I've read it, I've found myself very moved by its fierce clarity and compassion.”
Kathleen Ossip's poems occur in the charged space between journal entry, social history, philosophical treatise and dream. These are borderless poems, poems of chaotic beauty. "I believe almost everything now," she affirms. The Cold War is a bracing delight.
—Dominic Luxford, poetry editor The Believer