Skin Deep
(or Hamlet in the Video Arcade)

Wood veneer. No, plastic wood veneer.
Yes, plastic wood veneer on metal sheets.
On metal sheets of television sets
With phantom images. On metal sheets
Of microwaves while heating without heat.
They say you can't tell a book by its cover, but
You can: glossy paper, author-bold,
And neon colors; faded fabric, gold-
Embossed, and edges fraying: the kinds of books
That have those kinds of covers. Fingernail
Polish on press-apply fingernails:
Neon glossy plastic disposable.
The Shakers used to sing that 'tis the gift
To be simple. But now the Shakers are gone, extinct.
Do you suppose they'll drop the bomb today?
Perhaps tomorrow. Or a meteorite
Will do the same, and billow dust enough
To bury dinosaurs. Or not. Perhaps
The postal workers'll strike, perhaps the PACs'll
Sway votes, perhaps the NASA shuttle will shatter
Incandescent once again, perhaps
A mugging (but, you know, it could never happen
To me), or sprays of desperate gunfire in
The playground, just like "Spaceblasters" (yeah!):

"blip, blip."
Designer emblems on designer jeans
Proclaim the real thing, deep quality
You can count on: faded fabric, edges frayed.
And non-designer emblems signal non-
Designer jeans (proclaim the real thing).
Hey, anything so long as you're not caught.
Scrape through, 'cause baby, it's a dog-eat-dog
Society, and just the fit survive.
Employment histories in prestige type
On prestige paper, plastic credit: to
Have emblems till tomorrow's long enough.
Neon toothpaste for designer smiles
To forswear a humdrum doomsday: natural
Selection and survival while it counts.
For "who would fardels bear, to grunt and sweat
Under a weary life, but that the dread
Of something after death . . . puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of?"
Yes, plastic fardels dipped in chocolate,
Extravaganza video teeth.

© Douglas Allchin 7/23/90