The Young Man's Checklist of Imperatives
(For Jens Bjørneboe)

The first secret's an optical illusion:
The majority do not eat sauerkraut unless they like it.

Always consider what people will believe easiest
before placing your bets. Double it
when the teleprompter winks twice.

When in doubt, eat.
And let your body be pulled from your bed with a crane.
The loudest patriots are always the happiest.
And the happiest are always in control.

Your future is an automobile that will be broken into
again and again
as though you had something valuable to steal inside.
Seek the cold. Smoke to preserve.
Drink to your health.

Don't forget to write. Don't think for others
as it is too tiring and results in fleas.
Don't allow others to think for you
as it is too relaxing and results in thoughtlessness.
Don't fear for fear itself. When in doubt,
break the window.

Tell the predictable that you've already heard it.
Move only in shadows, bring mace and a clipboard.
Tell the earth that it needs a shower and a shave.
Hear the entropy breathing.
Head for sorrow and its 24 hour avenues
with the bright lights and myopic dreams.

Never walk up to a line. It'll just be waiting.
They predict the line will move and it will move
right into the next one.
And they will want money.
For the privilege of living, you should pay your dues.
Failure to pay your dues
could result in legal action being taken against you.
Or worse.

Praise your fellow man for not having killed you yet.
It was a big decision but in the end,
they decided to get the fries and cheeseburger again instead.
Praise the details. Giving at the door
is sometimes necessary to get in. Your friends
will turn into Cubists and demand that you do too.
In February, you scratch triangles into the dirt
that symbolize the triangles scratched into the dirt.
By March, you will have recanted.

Nightmares burn carbohydrates.
Tossing and turning is the triathlon of mythology.
Save up your thoughts. Even at a penny apiece,
they can still make you quite a fortune.
When they offer gossip, start an anthology.
You never know how fast good news will travel.
Consumers are addicts. The more you buy,
the more you steal.
So eat your meals in fat wads of dollar bills,
and let those nightmares burn away the fat.

About the past: keep it to yourself.
No one likes sore losers.
When time flies, study its trajectory.
Leaps of imagination should be performed from a distance.
The darkest hour is a commandment unheeded.
This is the checklist of imperatives:
Forget what was told to you yesterday.
No one will bother to apply it.

Jaap Stijl

based upon Jens Bjørneboe's, “Ti bud til en ung mann som vil frem i

If you've any comments on this poem, Jaap Stijl would be pleased to hear from you.