The New Cool




          In the 70’s the Guadalajara cartel exported food bags of pot

          On Cessna 150’s for the subversive Americans

          To fuel rebellion, and alleviate any misgivings

          About insubordinate behavior:

          And that, the defiant Americans thought, was cool.


          In the 80’s the Cali mafia exported cocaine on DC-3’s, in little baggies

          Worth thousands of dollars apiece to the euphoric Americans,

          Elated about the benevolence of capitalism,

          In order to drive the all-night stock market speculations,

          So we could all make manifest our destiny of becoming rich:

          And that, the ecstatic Americans thought, was cool.


          In the 90’s the Taliban refined Afghani heroin

          And carried it over porous borders

          To the Americans marveling that we were

          Finally undisputed champions of the world

          Now that Gorbachev backed down:

          And that, the intoxicated Americans thought, was cool.


          In the early 21st century MS-13 started manufacturing ecstasy

          That people could smuggle over the borders

          In VW buses to the Americans still awe-ful about

          Our place in the world, but wondering why

          The loony is worth more than the dollar:

          And that the rebellious teenaged Americans thought, maybe, was still cool.


          Today things have changed.


          Today the third world exports the pain, disillusion and unemployment

          That they have known and cultivated an immunity

          Against while we were safely expanding our minds

          Behind the fortress of our laurels.


          Today we import the pain we never thought we’d be subjected to

          Through bloody memoirs, wrapped in the skin of immigrants,

          Wrapped in the package of images instantly

          Transmitted around the globe

          That subject us, our peers, and our children

          To the vicarious trauma of lived experience.


          Today we import the concerns of others

          Who we ignored for years

          And who we cannot, on pain of death

          Continue to ignore.


          Today, my students, or rather hepcats, looked at me

          A wanton collage of histories,

          Individual, but all part of the same stream

          With ideas about cool. These ideas

          Are part of a cycle they have not lived enough

          To see revolve.


          One wore a black hoody with a pot leaf

          And shrugged every time I asked him a question.

          Another sat in the back of the class sniffling,

          Miniskirt and high heels,

          Eyes and nose shining like Christmas,

          And every time I asked a question, said

          “What was the question?”


          At last, one in a solid white T, near the front of class,

          Threw me a bone on the meaning of meta-discourse

          And metaphor; she attempted to say something meaningful.

          And this: efficiency, ingenuity, and responsibility

          We are all coming to learn, is the new cool.  





                                                                                                                    Peter Fernbach