I Stand On the Shoulders

by Eric Chaet

I stand on the shoulders of tyrants & their victims
of warlords & the slain & enslaved
on the shoulders of comfortable heirs
& of migrants & their children
& those emancipated without tools, skills, or information
scrambling for traction amid others’ pride & contempt
& on the shoulders of generations following traditions
of tribes now nations & of tribes now forgotten
& of tribes grimly surviving by temporary expedients
I stand on the shoulders of brilliant innovators
including entrepreneurs who give far more than they take
& of the merely lucky & unscrupulous using others’ creations
& the time & attention of people defeated by circumstances
to operate the machines, & promote & distribute the products
& to harvest the profits & enjoy what money can buy
I stand on the shoulders of fanatics & cynics
of the obsessed & the disengaged & coolly composed
I stand on the shoulders of dreamers
& also on the shoulders of those unable to conceive
of the potential being born within what’s actual
or being strangled or culled
I stand on the shoulders of the the healthy & the sick
of doctors, & maintainers of clinics & operating rooms
& of those who figure out the costs & prices & send the bills
I stand on the shoulders of producers & consumers
& on the shoulders of bureaucrats who stand on my shoulders
& beginners & experts, the triumphant, the frustrated & flattened
on the shoulders of embryos, children, old people, & corpses
& if you’re standing on my shoulders, don’t be too grateful
because I’m standing on your shoulders, too—
I stand on the shoulders of the Neanderthals
& of the crocodiles who preceded & have outlived them
I stand on the shoulders of song birds & birds of prey
I stand on the shoulders of trees, grasses, & forbs
I stand on the shoulders of creatures without shoulders
of jellyfish, worms, plankton, protozoans
I stand on the swarming shoulders of insects
mitochondria, neurons, & phagocytes, sperm, & eggs
I stand on the shoulders of viruses, bacteria, fungi
of gases & rocks, clouds & puddles & streams & oceans
I stand on the shoulders of soil & seams of minerals
& on the shoulders of autistic & worldly analyzers
I stand on the shoulders of steam engines & transistors
of languages, writing, printing
classics, pop songs, propaganda
I stand on the shoulders of centuries of mechanics & plumbers
& algorithms, codes, & programs
of geniuses, mediocrities, & giddy sorcerers’ apprentices
I stand on the shoulders of rows & rows of crops
& cattle—stalls & pens, milk, slaughter houses, meat
& of builders of houses, ships, planes, munitions
& factories & elaborate mobile processing plants
& operators of trucks, ports, roads, warehouses, & stores
I stand on the shoulders of middlemen
straining to maximize profit without breaking contract terms
comedy & tragedy, balance & harmony—far-off ideals—
I stand on the shoulders of the honest & dishonest
& those so long dishonest with themselves they believe it—
of those who have developed their intellects
& of those mired in ignorance & opinions based on errors
I stand on the shoulders of who I was in the past
& of criminals & police, judges, guards, convicts, & fugitives
I stand on the shoulders of crowds of excited gossipers
& of manipulators of crowds’ wild hopes, resentments, fears—
& standing on the shoulders, I have seen further
than a rabbit, mouse, or fly—
but it’s not enough.

Having stood on the shoulders, I have seen
that in the midst of what’s gloriously inspiring
injustice & consequent suffering prevail—& pretense—
because it’s unbearable, knowing you’re wasting your life
merely adapting to what’s being done to you against your will.

Having stood on the shoulders, I have seen
that I must climb down from the shoulders
&, very carefully, do what has never been done before
what I have never been capable of & am not yet capable of—
& if I fail, I’ll be only one more, however far-seeing
pretending—
while adapting to what’s been done to me against my will.

///

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