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The Chief Head Scratcher's Book Tour

If they can get you to ask the wrong questions, then they don't have to worry about the answers.
- Gravity's Rainbow; Thomas Pynchon

The pollster on his book tour explains
How mere trends are mistaken for conspiracies -
That nations, cities, people, numbers have lives
All their own. He pulls out a newspaper
In a quiet moment and plays mental origami
With the articles until they become
A kind of map for his next poll.
Connections hide, meanings shift, emphases
Weighted by seasons, interpretations of one number
Dependent on who is standing next to it.

But he has this itch a question mark can't reach.
He asks who works where for how much,
But not why or where they would rather be.
He asks who will have voted for who but not
Who should run instead and for what.
He knows he is tracing chalk outlines
Around the body of public opinion.

It occurs to him in his hotel room, lights out,
Night sky full of stars he can't see to connect,
That he is the modern poet, or what a poet should be -
In touch with the people, polity in motion
While poets blush at exposed politics in a poem
With a prudery the church used to pretend towards sex.
Or he is the shepherd with the question crook
Searching for the lost and undecided.
Or he is the new Socrates decanting
The mean and the norm from the good and the true
(Which, no matter what vintage,
Always turns to hemlock).
Or maybe he is the only kind of leader left -
The person who asks the right kinds of questions,
Or at least the person who decides what
Will get asked in the new questocracy.
He is right nineteen times out of twenty –
The king and judge of tiny certainties.

But these tour nights he longs for home,
Needing to belong even while he knows
His demographic must travel to thrive –
Become part of the anonymous other for a while.
He lies there alone, finds a straight-edge to reach
Around at his back and the one still point
Itching there like a decimal without a home.