Politics and Culture in the Comic Zone

Daniel Rigney

Daniel Rigney
New Texas, USA
August 01
free-range writer
In this writing workshop and citizen's blog I'm exploring various short forms, often from a satiric angle. My interests include politics, culture and the human comedy; old and new media; social theory and urban life; the commercialization, corporatization and tabloidization of everything; sustainability; Unitarianism (UU); coffee; and writing (sorry, I mean providing content). Turtle stamp is from Tandy Leather. Interested in republishing a piece? Contact drigney3@gmail.com.


Daniel Rigney's Links

JANUARY 4, 2013 6:35PM

Houston Existentialism (Poem)

Rate: 3 Flag

By Daniel Rigney (with apologies to Carl Sandburg, “Chicago,” 1916)  


Carbon dealer to the world,

Launcher, shipper, creator and healer of cancers.

Power player, gerrymanderer, engineer of inequalities.

Sprawling, storming, steaming, warming

City of the Big Fortunes.


They tell me you are acquisitive and I believe them, 

for I have seen your Nieman-Marxists.


They tell me you’re hard-working, and I believe them,

for I have seen your highways choked with driven drivers

burning oil in search of gold.


They tell me you are soulless and my reply is:

On the faces of the trafficked and the traffickers I’ve seen the marks of mammon.


They say your deepest thought is positive thinking,

your sacred creed commercial boosterism, 

your summum bonum Growth,

and corporate life your only ‘real world.’ 

(But what about our opera? Our ballet? Our haute cuisine and our investment art?)


And having answered so, I turn to those who sneer and say I’ll show you a city whose architectural erections dwarf the mighty towers of Dallas.

Where Wild West and Old Confederacy met, a city stands whose gated opportunities attract a world elite from every continent.     

And so the world comes to us and becomes us.



“Where do we come from?" Gaugin asks. “What are we? Where are we going?”

To these three questions Houston adds a fourth:

“How are these questions profitable?"


Some may scorn a city that spells success with dollar signs,

and can't imagine any other way.


But Houston is a city that means business -- 

wagering big and bold on buried fossils,

doubling down against the laws of nature and its prophets,

who foretell the doom of carbonomics 

and the extinction of the petrosaurs.


At sunrise, the carbon right

will not go gently into that renewing light,

but fume and rage in vain against the passing of the gaslit night.



Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
"Neiman-Marxists" indeed! Very ambitious poem Dan! R
Thank you again, Marilyn. Hope you got my New Year's greeting on your "Under the Wire" post, which I enjoyed immensely. I've been saving that Nieman-Marxism pun for years, looking for a chance to use it. Today was the day.
This is a poem that needed to be written. Just what did happen to Big Tex? More than a hotfoot.
Thank you, Steven. A good question deserves a good answer.

Big Tex lived on the State Fairgrounds in Dallas when he died in October, on his 60th birthday, from an electrical fire that seems to have started in his voicebox (His recorded and amplified message: "Howdy, Folks!").

The flames quickly engulfed Tex's clothing, including his 75-gallon hat and size 70 boots, leaving only his charred metal skeleton, which was taken down and hauled away two days later on a funereal flatbed truck.

Tex was an iconic representation of a Texas that scarcely exists today, except in the occasional and nearly extinct Hollywood western. R.I.P.

Stop me before I make an irreverent reference to the annual "Burning Man" arts festival in Nevada. Wouldn't be right.
Awesome poem - and so familiar. :)
Houston in a nutshell! Neat!
Hi, Rachel and Kathy, and Happy New Year. I doubt the local chambers of commerce will be including this in their promotional materials, but I'm afraid it tells a true story in any case. Thanks for your comments.
Big Tex was never the same to me, after I saw a video of junior executives and a lot of bleached blondes, dressed in expensive western clothing, line dancing. I don't think that Texas is any more absurd than any place else in the United States, but it would seem to me the type of thing that says any link with a real sense of place and with the past is irrevocably lost.
On my one visit to Houston I was pleased to find that the lunch counter at the dime store had a Gumbo du Jour, and then my friend Mad Dog and I stumbled upon a voodoo shop. Which accounts for my phenomenal success in life.
Yes - well done - and so much bigger than the city I lived in. Thanks for reminding me.
Hi Daniel, great poem! Sounds like you have a love/hate relationship with your city, which is why the poem has power.