Degentesh, Katie. "I Certainly Feel Useless at Times". The Anger Scale. Combo Books. Pages 18-19.
Katie Degentesh writes some of the "easiest" Flarf I have read, which is to say, the most lyrical, perhaps the most directly useful. Let's begin with a definition.
A lyric is usually fairly short, not often longer than fifty or sixty lines, and often only between a dozen and thirty lines; and it usually expresses the fellings and thoughts of a single speaker (not necessarily the poet himself) in a personal and subjective fashion. (J.A. Cuddon's DLTALT, p. 515)
Well, that certainly describes the individual poems of The Anger Scale. Each "feeling" is defined (if not straighforwardly) by a question from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Normally, these questions would be answered simply "true" or "false". Degentesh writes a poem instead.
"I Certainly Feel Useless at Times" is easy to read because it sticks to the point. Its speaker is "an old, wire-twisting, engineer/inventor type" and although Google-sculpting always allows for (and risks) contradicting such descriptions, shifting between voices without any clear markers (like so much modernist poetry in the Pound tradition also does), there is no reason to be puzzled by the subjectivity that emerges here.
As the title suggests (though Flarf's titles are by no means always this suggestive), our engineer is feeling useless and, you guessed it, his inadequacy has to do with women. Being older, he worries about competition:
In the end it is pretty damn reprehensible
to be a younger, more vigorous man than myself.
But he understands something that younger men do not: "women in this society are oppressed". And they are oppressed by the very rituals by which men try to win their favours.
There is a memory in this poem of a relationship betweeen the engineer and a so-called liberated woman. It begins with one of those rituals, which the engineer seems to have pulled off successfully (if somewhat oddly):
Now is the time to tell her how gorgeous she is
giving her peanut butter sandwiches
stuck together with foreign coins
Secretly it pleased her, and she
held her head higher than ever again
feeling a glory in so rolling
that is four times as dear
as any other in North America
Can we not agree that this is finely wrought lyric? That it expresses a feeling clearly and precisely, even where that feeling is (by its nature) full of ambiguity? What gets in the way of the love of these two people is larger than them. But what we have just read tells us (in a sufficiently new way) that so is what they feel in the first place.
Sexual politics is the enemy of romance. And sure enough, it ends badly for this affair.
God will put anyone to use who has the real thing
One time back in 1979 he called an emergency meeting
Then came the massacre of fourteen women
You certainly feel invigorated after that kind of day
It blows the cobwebs back to the sci-fi well
Remember that he had been worried about men "more vigorous" than himself. Now he feels invigorated. In 1979, the battle of the sexes no doubt required an emergency meeting in Heaven. I recently saw Eve Sussman's The Rape of the Sabine Women and I don't think the comparison is forced. I think this poem is a great example of how Flarf effects a a Kopóltuš in the debris of one or another Khurbn.