From A Gallery of Ethopaths Ethopaths fear, as much as cancer, A straight, unvarnished, simple answer. They love the euphemistic chatter That clouds up an essential matter. Seeing things clearly and addressing Their substance with no elaborate dressing Strikes ethopaths as plain immoral. They’d rather take a dose of chloral Than state the facts in simple fashion. In fact, they have an ingrained passion For phrasing that obscures and covers, And this is why their language suffers: Circumlocution leads to blunder That tears one’s sound and sense asunder, Or else makes speech as gauche and clunky As that of a State Department flunky. They talk of the undeveloped nations When they mean wastes and desolations; Putting taxpayers through the screws Is called enhancing revenues; They speak of an out-of-wedlock child When bastard is how he should be styled. They’ll term the stride of Stephen Hawking As muscularly challenged walking— A euphemism most elastic: Back in the past he was a spastic. Having a cigarette and whiskey Is substance abuse, and far too risky To merit much more than stern rebuke. Such prissiness can make one puke. Sometimes they dress up outright lies In an upscale and chic disguise Meaning, when they say World Opinion, The New York Times and its smug minyan Of inbred editorial hacks And pompous governmental flacks. They clamor for language that’s inclusive When they mean censorship’s intrusive Finger in how you choose each pronoun. It’s hard to obtain the simple low-down On just what an ethopath is saying. His words are a kind of crypto-praying Where discourse is like a charm or spell Keeping one safe in a verbal shell Away from the brutish world of fact, Unmanageable save by discreet tact. Besides such gaseous obfuscation Ethopaths turn all conversation Into a surreptitious pleading For things that they think the world is needing. Statements by ethopathic vermin Always contain a coded sermon Telling one how one ought to think. Language for them is just a link In their relentless urge to lecture, And you can tell the verbal texture Of every ethopathic speech— They all advise, prescribe, and preach. Old Petrarch said the eyes revealed That which the soul would keep concealed. With ethopaths, it’s the wagging tongue That shows the stuff from which they’re spun. Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide. He is the editor of the literary magazine Trinacria and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.