Aesthetic Realism Online Library Poetry by Eli Siegel

An Instance of Dyspepsia


There is a man of fifty-four years;
He has dyspepsia, it appears;
He chooses his food carefully,
He pays his doctors liberally,
He goes through life mournfully.


He looks on his meals, misgiving much
If the result of his eating them won't be such,
It will not make him feel even worse than is usual with him.
After each meal, he's torpid; things are dim
In his mind; and he lies on his couch for an hour or so,
Hoping the food of his living won't give him too much woe.
He is ugly and he is rich,
He has tried everything, everything which 
His doctors could in their knowledge offer,
Making him so he would not suffer
From his stomach's acting ill.
But he suffers, suffers still.


He has his servants whom he pays
Good wages, and so each one willingly stays.
Though the temper of his mind is an ugly thing;
Suddenly, reasonlessly, it will spring
On the person near him - his servant, the chances are- 
And will utter words, far
From truthful; and they are insulting, too.
But his servants, obedient, silently will do
All that he says; for he is sick, and then
These servants of his are men
Whose present means of life on this sick man depend.


And so he lives and eats and bears 
His ills as well as he may.
The doctors ask him ever how he fares,
And still tell him in an assuring way,
That he will be feeling well some day;
Be able to eat almost anything - 
And they try in other ways to be comforting.


He is rich and powerful, but is ready to die.
Yet there is no good reason why,
Considering the largeness of the means that are his
(He can easily pay
For the best care and knowledge there is
In the world), that death can't be kept away
For a good number of years.
But ah, the pains, and ah, the fears
That his crazy body gives this rich sick man;
Still trying, trying as best he can
To get all the pleasure that life has to give.
Though, yet, he too in his way can see,
How little happiness in his life can be.


His body, although sick, is yet
As any human body, intricate.
Here are all the things that in
Reality go to make up man;
The matter of the completely thinking man
Working on all reality's forms;
The matter of a woman's face that can
Cause in one who sees it storms
Taking in them a whole self;
Here, in foundation, is all the wealth
That is in nature when she makes
That which through her the form of human takes.
- And, oh, the things that are man's own,
Once himself to him were known!


This dyspeptic man with stomach in such a state,
It would not work well on the food which perforce he ate,
Without giving him continuously present pain
Which would make him cry out again and again;
Make him worry his servants; and gave his face a muddy look;
And made his mind weaker than it might have been - 
This man had lived yet at a time when his stomach was in
A condition it worked silently and well on the food he
And this was a time when he was a child,
A slender boy, and his bearing was mild
And soft. And he was taught
All the things that his teachers thought,
And the world could show him, in keeping with
Conditions as he found them, and if
He went aside from these, it was not that he knew,
But his body was new and he was young,
And whatever he as a boy might do,
Use and gracefulness went along
With his life; he was still being formed,
And in the roots of his being was unharmed.
But the world as it was gave the lad,
When he was grown, a form of life it had;
It was a life narrow and mean,
Lived as in the age that now is seen.
The world put him in a place in which,
Through one aim's following, he soon got rich.
And richer he grew as his years went on,
And more and more his mind was drawn
Within the bounds of this enriching aim
Which bigger and bigger to his mind became.


This man, with his body ugly and diseased,
Lived once through a time when his mind seized
On the beauty that in the body of woman is.
And desires for its possession then were his.
And he loved, and his mind had in it those things
That love of another's self to one's self brings.
His mind with love's wishes and imaginings moved,
And through possession at times were his 
     love-longings soothed.
Yet his self burned, though variously strong,
And this man then was fully among
Those other beings that with him living were,
For he felt the stir
That two selves make in each
When their longings one to the other reach.


He had been a slender boy and he had desired
Beauty as he saw it, and he was now
One who only (as far as his thoughts went) required
For his happiness that life allow
Him the means unsuffering to get
The foundations of man's having it.
But of his stomach was his protest - 
Why must he eat if he could not digest?
And man's body, gracefully complex,
Made so fittingly for sex and sex,
Made for mind's working, in his body's form he saw
But as something that did him almost to madness vex.


He lived on, suffering, complaining all his days,
Troubling others with his ways - 
His married daughter, his servants and his friends;
All the persons near him who the sick man attend.
He might have lived for a long time yet,
But that his cook once, in a fret
(She was by an insult of his into it set)
Forgot to do precisely as the doctor said.
Something else was running through her head.
On something harmful this sick man was fed.
He was then in an angry mood,
And one that made him careless, and his food
Gulpingly he ate; and as suffering came
Keener than before, he moaned and cried,
Afterwards grew quiet and in a stupor died.
The next day and all those near him were around his bed,
Before the actions of his body left him finally dead.
And they could not in their hearts sorrowful be, 
The end of this dyspeptic old man to see.


When the end of his life came, the city's papers said:
"One of the city's most eminent men was dead."
"One of our foremost insurance men has gone;
His career is worth meditating on.
He was born in our city of poor parents and never it left
Until from us God him in His Omnipotence reft."
"Here again is shown how a young man with perseverance
From rising high no circumstance prevents."
"Young men will be helped on their way
To success by the inspiring life of Harold F. Gray."


Harold F. Gray now is dead;
Because of the world's condition, his manner of life he led.
That this world's condition needs wholly to be changed by us
And can be, should be as anything obvious.

  Eli Siegel in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1459
© 2001 by Aesthetic Realism Foundation

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