A California Ad Man Celebrates His Art

For those of you
who come here
out of spite
expecting to hear
a con man apologize
prepare to gnash your teeth.

I am here to celebrate
the TV commercial
the authentic poetry of our time:
lovingly produced,
widely received,
technically dazzling-
It really changes lives.

My title? "Tubular Poetics."

We deal in time and space:
thirty seconds of sound and light
rolling from earth to sky,
sky to earth,
kitchen to bedroom.

Our spirit is democratic.
We have made a pact
with Walt Whitman
to celebrate fecund America,
embracing all creeds, all colors:
men and women, young and old,
the runt as well as the athlete.

We praise hearth and home
in a manner that Beowulf
would understand.
Our art is tribal, mnemonic
designed to be sung into the heart
by families gathered round the fire
not warehoused in a public library
or read in private on a printed page.

Our words are deeds.
Like iron weapons
warriors carry into battle
to brandish at the foe
they must contribute to the victory.
If they don't sell cars or condoms
Grendel comes out of the fen
people lose food, status, power
and like a singer of unwanted songs
under the castle wall
we are not allowed to get on the elevator
and rise to the thirty-eighth floor.

Like Bert Brecht, we believe that art
is an instrument for social progress.
We are concerned about the sick,
the homeless, those denied justice.
Much of our best work is in praise
of cold tablets, real estate chains,
and motorcycle lawyers
and every afternoon when school lets out
we suffer the little children to come unto us.

Like all great craftsmen
we find the material reality imposes
only partly to our purpose.
Our task is to build a world elsewhere,
with porcelain teeth, perfect complexions,
fully rounded bosoms and bottoms:
a pastoral living room ...
an electronic bower of bliss

Into this world creep many dragons:
zits, dandruff, athlete's foot,
bras that sag or ride up,
bad breath, fatal to love
relentless fiends called
"Ring Around the Collar,"
"Hemorrhoidal Tissue,"
and surly appliances
that snap, snarl
and refuse to work..

In the cataclysms that ensue
we let good have its way with evil,
demonstrating the wisdom
shown a hundred times each day
by our hero with a thousand faces,
The Consumer.

Finally, like Milton
we have the highest moral purpose,
calling upon our Muse to justify
the ways of any product our agency assigns
to whatever target market is specified.

In doing so we've stumbled on free will
and with it a whole new tragic vision:
the knowledge that despite triumphal odes,
hymns, eclogues, paeans, songs of love,
and Juvenalian satire at its bitterest
millions ignore the good and choose Brand X
dropping down to darkness and perdition.

These are just a few of the qualities
that link us to The Great Tradition.


Poems by David Alpaugh:

A California Ad Man Celebrates His Art
The Young
The Man Who Loves Better Homes & Gardens
Hunger Artists
Impromptu Meeting in the Falklands
As We Watch McNeil-Lehrer
Electronic Epitaph

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets