or, A Focus Group in Hades
Sing out, O Kryptolia, O hitherto unknown Muse of hidden things!
Muse of secrets, of furtive plans, of whispers and rumors, sing!
Allow your humble servant to leak the tale of that perilous journey
The vote-gatherers took, the pollsters, the dizzy-spinning men,
To Hades, seeking the counsel of the dead.
It was McAdoo the far-seeing, McAdoo of the silver-templed head
Lobbyist, powerbroker, whose Porsche shone iridescent green,
Who caused the knees of Senators to buckle in fear or gratitude, depending,
Yes, McAdoo it was who rose at lunch, and the PowerPoint preso glowed
Behind him in the warmly paneled conference room.
“Come,” he said, “we who would know the minds of the electorate,
Who with our tools can discern the currents of opinion,
So that we can gain knowledge of interest to the powerhungry
And design for them the magic spells that bind their followers
And cast confusion into the camps of their adversaries…
“We seek to understand the hearts and minds of all who live
But there are others who know more than we ever could
Others no longer hindered by their own biases or interests
Others who vision exceeds that of CNN, or Fox, or al-Jazeera
For they have left this world and watch impassive from below.
“Know that next week shall I set out for the sparkling Aegean
There to conduct certain – shall we say, transactions
Which shall give me safe passage to the banks of the Lethe
There to conduct focus groups among the shades of the departed
And you can go with me – for only ten thousand dollars, double occupancy.”
What hubbub, Kryptolia, what buzzing, what flipping of phones
Did McAdoo’s words among the gathered suits create!
Like that swarm of cicadas, rising from near-score years of slumber,
Their wings darkening skies, their wings beating the air,
So did that conference room hum with the sounds of rearranged schedules.
And so indeed, as the administrative assistants had arranged,
Did private jets, corporate jets, jumbo jets, circling like seagulls,
Flit between the clouds above the Acropolis; and grey-eyed Athena,
Had she bothered to appear, might have smiled – smiled that rueful smile
That the gods put on when confronted with the follies of mortals.
And here now, goddess, show us the names on the passports,
As they are stamped by the customs personnel, watching their watchlists:
crafty Macgillicuddy – stout-voiced Herberts – Chen, of Hong Kong,
Liu who rarely smiled – Delaceur, ambition-driven, heedless of others –
Hendricks and Al-Gabir and Barychnikov, Smith (A.) and Smith (R.).
And behold, the great yacht Gorgon cruising among the Aegean isles
Where once sailed crafty Odysseus, proud Achilles, doomed Agamemnon,
Kings whose ships could serve as mere dinghies for this craft,
Whose banquet halls would perhaps fit upon its foredeck,
And whose fields would be hardpressed to supply its sumptuous buffet.
The Gorgon sought its harbor, a bay along an islet set upon the sea
Like a small emerald displayed on cloth of velvet blue.
Skiffs were launched, each ferrying half the touring band,
To the pier where their host, Stavros of weathered face,
Stood anticipating their arrival, ready to welcome them.