Monday, February 6, 2017

Ovid, Woody Hayes, and me

An 8 foot bronze statue of Woody Hayes in Columbus, Ohio

I hate the Buckeye state with a passion,
a state that’s never been in fashion,
a state of mind as much as anything,
a state of anxiety and Anchor Hocking,
depression glass and bug-eyed fiction.

Ovid in exile in Romania—
the literal Transylvania—
that is what the Buckeye state is like.
I hoped Trump would take a hike,
but he won here and in Indiana.

Why, O why, did I come to Ohio,
this rustbelt of hicks and no-mo,
this land of rivers and lakes polluted,
Midwestern pride strained and convoluted,
in cities like Columbus and Toledo.

The state of presidents but not prescience,
of conviction but not much conscience,
of Rutherford B. and Woody Hayes.
Of the latter I say, “Heavenly Days!”
He was demented with winning and offensive.

Woody embodied Midwestern lack of esteem
and became wrapped up in his dream team,
The Ohio State Buckeyes, which displayed
to effete easterners how the game’s played.
Woody was Ohio’s waking wet dream:

Thirteen Big Ten Conference titles, and trips
to more bowl games than the market has dips,
not to mention, at the risk of sounding
like boastful Buckeye braggarts, their resounding
five (count ‘em) national championships.

Woody went out of his Cotton-Bowl-picking mind,
punching players and officials as his sanity declined, 
tossing ten-yard marker chains into stands,
doing all but walking around on his hands
when his beloved Buckeyes fell behind. 

Instead of being institutionalized,
Woody became revered and lionized.
He achieved a kind of god-like status,
as though the object of a divine afflatus
that has been dutifully notarized.

At least Ohio’s number one in something,
in football, even if it’s sort of a dumb thing.
They’ve raised an eight foot statue of him
in what was a kind of Bronze Age whim,
rendering Woody Ohio’s ding-a-ling.

The great American novel is about where
the east is east and the midwest nowhere,
about a lad from the dregs of Dakota
who discovers there’s not a single iota
of hope in the wish “I’m not from there.”

As Ovid in exile longed for Rome.
I do too for my home sweet home
of Boston, “the Athens of America.”
But I’m exiled in this Siberia
with irritable vowel syndrome.

A man of letters, the a, b, c’s, 
a blowhard among the stooping Ph.D.’s,
a stoopnagle when it comes to the hex,
blinded by the truth, like Oedipus Rex,
I didn’t see the forest for the trees. 

I’ve been here for a quarter century
as if in debtors’ prison for penury.
In spite or because of my pain,
I feel I can’t ever go home again.
I’m like a hamstrung hung-up Mercury

who’s become a red state Appalachian, 
playing musical chairs, like Khachaturian,
without self-respect or clout, the odd man out,
the Lone Ranger’s “Get ‘em up, Scout,”
a rednecked prophet, an octogenarian.

Now Buckeye fever is less than an ember 
that I now conveniently can not remember,
just a little rust-belt historic domicile
where the banished live in exile.
It’s a long time from May to December.

I’ll depart in the form of cremation ash,
in a container made from a calabash,
strewn on the ocean off of the beach,
with waves of the future just out of reach.
Gladly did I learn and gladly teach. 

If only I had a tenth of Ovid’s talent,
if only I was gifted and multivalent
and turned my unhappiness into art
and talked to a partner heart-to-heart
instead of being forever ambivalent.

A statue of Ovid in Romania

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