The Leading and the Lead

The dreams we have, wrapped up in paradox,
So many things become so many toys;
We make excuses, weak, habitual,
Like radios we keep on for the noise.
But this might be our leading quality,
The mien that we maintain with so much poise.

So keep your equanimity, your poise,
The world goes mad in fits of paradox:
A shiny mask of varnished quality
We smile through amid our guns and toys,
And bands that blare our fanfares and our noise
Until it’s just a thing habitual.

Hypocrisy becomes habitual
When we can wear it with esteem and poise
And not evince the slightest sign, or noise,
That we’re aware of any paradox —
Just flowers here, and spongy-soft plush toys
We buy once we’re assured of quality.

Or, we trade quantity for quality,
The many, cheap, become habitual:
A thousand plastic soldiers as our toys,
Who we then place with care, and thought, and poise
Upon the brink of war and paradox,
The calm before the launching of the noise.

Then panic starts. The calumny, a noise
That rises as it shrinks in quality,
And anger waves its flag of paradox:
The slogans old and worn, habitual,
But yet, delivered with such force and poise,
We’re not aware that we’re among the toys.

We’re action figures, puppets, dolls and toys.
Our words are never heard, just background noise,
Our dignity a sham of empty poise.
Equality is just a quality,
We say the words by rote; habitual
We are in our embrace of paradox.

Just toys of broken quality:
Our routine noise, habitual,
And our grand poise an empty paradox.

(Sestina form use based on a suggestion by Katherine McKnight Shipp.)

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