Thursday, March 5, 2009

Very Moving Poetry

If Corn Flakes and Michael Phelps are concerned with ingesting and inhaling (see "What's in Your Bowl Today?"), then what of this matchbook advertisement for America's most notorious source of "gentle, dependable overnight relief"? Clearly, Ex-Lax is also intimately related to interiority—from tummy to tush, someone less cultivated might say—as the poem here indicates:

In days of old
when knights were bold,
Tummies, perhaps, had tin sides.
But folks these days
like milder ways.
Ex-Lax befriends their insides

Not surprisingly, Ex-Lax relates to interiority as it has to do with, well, exteriority. Here, the poem's historical move from the coarser and less-refined "days of old" to modern times and "milder ways" serves as an analogue for the desired gastronomical movement from inside to outside, and discomfort to comfort, which the laxative is designed to facilitate. Not only is Ex-Lax positioning itself as part of historical innovation and improvement, but that discourse of progress figures the personal progress one hopes to experience with the aid of "the ORIGINAL chocolated laxative." In this context of fluidity—which leaves out of all history between the middle ages and the 1950s—is it too much to argue that Ex-Lax's poetics of movement extends to the form of the poem itself, with the indented lines performing or demonstrating the effects of the drugstore item?

Lest one remain unconvinced of this (ahem) poo-etics, he or she need only open the matchbook, which has not only been emptied of its fire-starters—and which is designed to be emptied—but which also contains some "suggestions" from the local police department about how to best, most safely, and most efficiently move, both in car and on foot. By following the traffic lights ("Let the traffic lights be your guide"), we are told, one avoids creating a "jam" which no doubt tropes the very constipation Ex-Lax relieves and which the no-good law-breaking jaywalker instigates. Joining the movement of history, from difficult days to milder ones, with an urban landscape designed to move in particular ways, Ex-Lax in fact hitches its chocolatey cart to the ideals of modern America, all on the space of a piece of paper half the size of an index card. If that isn't a smooth move, then I don't know what is.

1 comment:

ryan said...

It has a darker side too. Have you seen Superstar?