If I roamed in speech like Mark Twain, Making sure of my woods, river, sea, I'd wander in a circle, find an old goat, A grandfather, a porch, gold, river pirates. A wooden rocker and an audience, newsprint. Of innocents abroad, of jaded women here. If I enlisted like Mark Twain, casually, Caustic humor, avoiding combat, dinner. Serving for two, yes two, weeks And late for dinner. Tents and shovels. Tour of duty, the South, Rising late For breakfast, late home for dinner, Lectures from well meaning adult fools Who don't understand that war means blood. If I prayed like Mark Twain, for he did, It would be short, sweet, to the point, An argument of reason, intellect, An avoidance of familiarity, a face, questions. He prayed for salvation for his absurd truths. He never even got a letter in return. I am not Mark Twain, although I ramble in A concrete jungle, a zoo of originality, Of pauses and starts, hesitation, then Galloping on two feet with little hands. Children are my joy, his too. I enlisted, found a hole with my name, Foxlike I waited for the big dog, But all he wanted was sex. Sex, with me! Fraternizing with peers, I said no, and no, I found the door to file papers of abuse. Learned men are a grouping of Rotten apples, grapes on a vine. I have no time for old boys. Networks, bah. I don't pray. No, never got an answer, Not even a no. I figure God will Send me a postcard, or an email Asking for money, when God gets around. Everyone wants money. I have a hole in my pocket. Leaking. I am an emotional clamp, holding together A family of squirrels. Who knew? Mother always knew best, then I, Me, became the All Knowing Mother To mine own be true. Schools and crossbows Peeking from Concrete towers of sand. Sand stolen from the river. Free. Wait, there's a charge? Grumpy black bear, Moose Feet, It's something Twain saw, In the City of Gold at sunset In San Francisco, My dream city. Twain and I would have whiskey Talking politics, reading Dickens. Laughing at the words lost On a system of learning. Unlearning. Creeping, shadowing, loathing. We'd chat, sympathize, reconnoiter The political landscapes with Enough comedy for years of shows. Appalled that thinking people still hate. Appalled at the randomness of the bible Applied at a voting booth. Politics And religion rarely join joist to hinge. Mankind at its best, condemning sky, water, Others because they can, do, lust after. He'd shake his head, write a book, Find Adam in the park. Discuss with disdain, And I would listen, rapt, filing for later All of the similarities through time, A century of time, of things he thought Would mend, but haven't. So I write.
Pace your hate, as you line up for the cause Of suppression. Homogenous populations, all the same, in tacky Red hats that Support a change to control the liberal masses And their ideology Of helpful compassion. They give to others what We don't have. Betrayed by life, we blame all of you who want to Continue Roosevelt's policy. Heard on Fox news, conflicted and wounded, Unmade in their beds. Giving a face globally of self-centered anger, A movement thought dead. Those who hate, have buried seed, seed from Eons hidden from light. Majority voters, liberal thinkers, compassionate Lovers of all, Who are these new oppressed? Your mother, father, sister, Brother, uncle, niece, aunt. All liberals want is a chance to be happy, to share, To be kind and considerate. This is a crime, signed by a swirly pen, by a old man With tangerine skin, gibbonlike,jumping up and down, Red hair dyed so that he cannot be old. A screamer, A bully wishing to be King of the swamp, the dark underbelly, anti-regulations Of protection. Our new leader, a sociopath, a leader of sociopaths, Of spies and lies. This is what the haters wanted. A chance to burn with Fire and fist. To force back into the box the godless, the "fairy", The rebel child. Force back into the box the librarian who allows that Filth on her shelf. Force back into the haze, our global responsibilities, The cost we should not Bear, and bare the back without brother, the bible Thumper in bunny clothes. Beware your hate, for you are a candle in the dark, Beware your match. Reason is a dangerous opponent on the battlefield, Where compassion Equals hope, hospitals, schools, wells, medical care, Where a bridge Is not too far, it pulls, tugs, pushes our knowledge Of others, like a kite. Beware the actor, the captain, the ship, who find Lie after lie And tattle to the world. Pace your hate, because I Will extinguish it.
Overwhelming, the number of letters Your soul can handle, Before it all comes crashing done. Twelve letters, rolled off the tongue, Held in abeyance only by the off switch. How? Why? And the answers pull me Into a world I do not know. Positions on humanity that spout And sputter into being based On a nameless fear of something... Political parties spare for the news Broadcasting a descent from known facts Until even the broadcasters must turn away. Limits on being human, kind, mindful, Actions based on color, mindset, empty empathy. "Don't let them in." No, not out either, For a four year old refugee might Play games of war as youth becomes teen. It's a ridiculous argument, Holding that a sixty-five year old... Change all that was good, helpful, given As a gift from government. Make it void of Color or charm and let me scream My frustration at the overwhelming hatred Of bigots, fanatics, tv viewers... They sing a song of hatred, without A single why. One hundred thousand visas, Cancelling hope. Banks cheering, burdens given, Regulations falling, Morality redefined Millions of mothers standing, fist raised to the morn. Overwhelming, twelve letters becoming twenty-four. Discourse to hold off the helplessness Of being Disabled, a woman, unable, wished able, To make the world step back into sanity. Not the globe, My world, my resolve, my liberty. You threaten me at your peril, for I think. I write. I protest and resolve. I turn, I hide nothing, I am...and being I must Prevent this overwhelming sense of doom. Overwhelmed as we rise, surrounded by void. By Twelve letters that roll off the tongue. Easy letters. Ts and Ls, Es, O, a G. Government stating that there are none of the above. Twelve letters that hold us back. W, V, R, H, M Twelve letters to define the abject despair, Actively adding the ing to the pile We face now, with limits on rights, hopes, dreams, loves, friends, health, Overwhelming. And continuing...
I'm too old to sit in the corner, Too old to twist and turn To find my heart and mind Torn asunder over the Future of the past, the once and future, Over hatred and bigotry. I'm too young to concede The world won't change Its clothes for the better. Won't go to a Humanity-R-Us Establishment for a refit. Overthrow the twenties and big brother's uniform. Can't see the colors for the black and white, like TV when It started, with removable tubes You could change out tubes, glowing bright, at The drugstore, right past the cashier While Dubois sits writing in the corner still. Your still produces the elixir Of rebellion, energizing, Thought provoking, intoxicating, At a forgotten power of protest, Of knowing right from wrong As you swing your placard proudly. School taught me to be nice. A fatal character flaw, unreasonable, Being nice, compassionate, sweet, helpful, All words that buzz and bee. Liberal. I'm too young to join AARP Too old to swing from a Constitutional noose. My email sings the need for money, Donations, signatures, and one, Oh, blessed one, that asks for a tip. A tip for taking my money Because I must be old enough To be rich, to have, to hold, to keep. I'm too old to sit silent, Chevy waiting, To drive with fist shaking, gun toting Road rage. Oh yes, I'll yield, sometimes, But not about my politics. Compromise, act. My caution light gleams yellow, But the red light fails. I run as I take action. I'm too young to hand over hope, tethered to My heart, forever to a cause. So many, Change causes change. I change. Voices cluster. Liberal changes are on sale, bargain prices, On cheap fabric imported that Feeds a family overseas, but saying, "Buy American." Too old to wear a flag upon my two piece, My jeans, jacket, elbow patches. Burn my flag, I'll cheer your voice, Serve my flag, I did that. Embroider my flag on a globe, Don't use my flag to beat and bludgeon Those in need. I'll use it for your shroud. We came, my ancestors came, arrived Found a place, to grow, manipulate Become human, chase their tails with Their tales of how we became great. It was 1624. We started it. The movement. Blame us. We advocated freedom, compassion, hope, education. Don't tell me I'm too old, too young, To tell you to resist the crazy. Crazy Worse than the flu, poverty, student loans, Worse than children dying, drowning, starving. I'll resist your overly patriarchal ambiguities, Attempts to cow and control. My body, my life Too Old, Too Young, not to care To not open my heart to others, to welcome. To litigate with my head. Policy maker. Too proud of being a resistance. For when they first banned intelligence, They hurt us all. Stole from us. . Grow old, grow energized, Hit with words, but true ones, Turn your television to truth. Read a book, French philosophy, Grow young, stand and turn to the light, Like a sunflower, follow the judicial glow. I'm too old to find my seat On the bus, train, plane, without First asking to pre-board. I'm too young to have my dreams dashed As they play pingpong with my future. Let me land, resist, fight. Let me...
Ranger Percy took her duties seriously. She followed a routine that began with first light and ended well into the dark. It was a routine that most new mothers are accustomed to having:
Change the babies,
Feed the babies,
Out the dog,
In the dog,
Feed the dog,
Prepare for the charge of the babysitter,
Out the door,
She loved her job, creating a safe haven for those who needed to touch nature. Everyday, she followed the park’s trails looking for the beauty she could point out to others. Somedays the park was quiet, and those quiet days were filled with the sights of fawns, ground hogs, bald eagles, osprey. Other days were filled with activity, crowds surging to the river with their churches, earnestly baptizing rogue elements and bringing them back under the banner of the church, praying for the devil to be gone, and sharing an open barbecue with any who wandered near. Or perhaps it was the weddings that were held under the white picnic shelter where everything was new and clean, that fit into her fancy. Somedays the park was filled with rain and wind or snow that caused the gates to stay locked. On those days she poured extra coffee into herself and watched the antics of the deer under the picnic shelters. Safety first, she would think at the deer. Then she would smile at the idea that the deer were so well-trained they avoided the drifts and acted like tourists.
Logs washed up on the riverbank with the changing tides. Ranger Percy would wander among them along the beach selecting interesting driftwood from the boring logs. She saved them for a local woman who wandered through the park, talking to herself, who would paint them with scenes of fish underwater or goblins lurking and then leave them like a sacrifice to the wild. Percy would load them into her vehicle and put them on display at the Visitor’s Center.
Second equipment check,
Drive the parking lots,
Return to office,
The windows of the Visitor Center filled with steam as the class on batiking for teenagers flowed on. She wandered over to the gift counter and rubbed the steam from the window, only to move rapidly out of the center to the walkway that led up and away from the building. Her homeless woman, the one she left the driftwood out for, knelt on the ground mumbling to herself. She had knife in one hand which she raised over her head and then plunged into a bundle of flannel.
“This for your heart.
This for your hands.
This for your feet
To travel to different lands.”
“Come, my dear, for
where you bleed, is here
in the present and a gift
To succeed. Travel through the smoke…”
Then she lifted the knife and held it over her head saluting the sky. A bag lay on sidewalk, close but not touching her.
“Are you okay, lady? I haven’t seen you around much. Is something wrong?” Slowly Percy moved toward the lady. She kept her handgun in its holster, preferring instead to calm her and keep her from injuring herself or another.
The lady looked at her blankly for a moment, then shook her head. “No, I’m not okay. I will never be okay. I am not sure I will make it through the day, let alone the night. Nothing will be the same.”
“Would you like to have some tea with me? We could go to my office in the Visitor’s Center, it is a lot warmer there too.”
“Why should you care? The world left me long ago. No one will remember me.”
“Come with me. I’ll show you something. I’ll make us some tea.”
They rose together.
“Thank you, but this is only tea. Nothing can leave my place filled when I’m gone, and I will be gone.”
“This is the room I made for you. You left these behind you. I was so surprised to see how they all went together, a mural. Is the display all right with you?”
The bag was opened. The flannel set to one side, with the knife now out of view, and the before the ranger’s eyes was a small wooden figure carved so carefully that it seemed alive. With a sudden intake of air, the figure opened its eyes and reached out to her.
The lonely old lady was gone.
Your base accusations thrown Up into the light, then fired Off one by one where others Out of the loop mock and destroy. You should have called, asked While listening, looked again For the rainbow's wraps between us Where we had left them, uninterpreted. Instead, you rose, phoenix-like voice Raised, accusing me of stealing Your opinions, inflating your ego, Stealing away your personality. Baseless, I thought, until I couldn't Find a way between us with a flashlight. I couldn't find the boxes of photos I Had left in hiding, the photos of pain. I looked for the boxes of joy, missing The ominous spaces, the boxes of sorrow Which had been sealed by us both. What dark Adjustments were made by you without me? Now we step like opposing forces armed To the teeth, with no base to function from As the war begins. Why? Some blame time Which was never my friend. Is it over?
on a field of honor.
not have been
There is a quality to rain,
When your heart is low,
When the desire to breathe
Wanes and the tides of death
Want to intervene.
We forget the lost ones;
The ones with no hope,
With no love,
With no dreams left.
It takes so little to hold on,
To give a hug to a stranger.
Needs to be fulfilled.
But empty time fills the hopeless.
Change is not inevitable,
The void of contact into that dark hole
In the center of my heart
Overwhelms and ties my hands,
But the water calls.
Water for cleansing,
How I wish for a storm!
Music, poetry and writing are the methods of following change in the U.S. Music uses repetition, rhythm and where it helps, rhyme. Rhyme is difficult because it has to further the message without over simplifying it. The movement of the blues and jazz, of black hymns, of swing, put such energy into music of the common man that we needed the sixties events to sway us into all of the rock genres. We had radios. That’s nothing in today’s world but in the sixties and seventies TVs and radios became cost effective to own. It was a social revolution. The process of miniaturization was on the development tables. We had seat belts in cars. We didn’t have to rely on a newspaper that was out of date before it was printed. No, words of the doings of man seemed rocketed to us. And we sang songs and danced to welcome the changes.
At the time I was in college studying music performance in the 70s, there was a dispute over the role of modern music (as it’s now labeled). We studied the classics, progressive, gregorian chant, romantics, baroque, and folk music through the ages. Plus we had our own style emerging in direct response to our environment. The music of the sixties and seventies was so powerful that it swayed a huge portion of the population into a passionate response. There were messages that were so powerful they couldn’t be spoken with the same impact. We demonstrated, stood up for rights and believed we could achieve them. We saw West Side story on the TV with Leonard Bernstein conducting. We wept tears at a story that Shakespeare told so long ago put into our world where racism was real and the South was dangerous. Times changed quickly. Things that seemed my parents had always known suddenly exposed themselves for what they were, new and changing to meet the demands of the entire population of the U.S.When I graduated in 1975, Native Americans were about to be given the vote if they lived on so-called government “reservations.” In 1976, Title 9 came into being giving women a new outlet in sport. It was a real challenge. In 1977, I was in the last basic training class of only women. We wore the Woman’s Army Corps insignia all the way through basic, and it was retired with our graduation. Standards changed and people changed with them.
Poetry and music lyrics share similarities, and they both deviate in how they are used. The tools are there. California Dreaming is said to have a simple set of lyrics, but the concept was new. The method of delivery was new. The fact that the idea was accessible was also something new. We’d seen and heard Elvis. He outlined the status quo for us. We saw John Wayne who was the ultimate macho man. We learned from the music that the Beach Boys sang. And there were many new lessons. We didn’t have to stay in one place for the rest of our lives. We could travel and that concept brought on a period of extreme social change, and because of the Kennedy brothers being murdered, the image of Jackie’s son saluting the flag covered coffin, the tragic death of Martin Luther King Jr, the music we heard was portraying both sides of our society, good and ill.
We knew more. We questioned our roles as women, becoming a stronger voice for the right to be more than in the past. Men had to choose an image that the TV wanted to suppress, macho or stupid were portrayed as the two options they had. The TV hyped Jackie Gleason and John Wayne. But there were strong elements there too ; The Smothers Brothers and Laugh In. Intelligence in both sides of our species. Only the messages mattered. I watched those “Commie Pinko Shows” with my parents and we loved to laugh at the mixture of music, jokes, skits and just plain fun. It was hard to believe that that was dissident thinking, it’s still hard for me to believe. It seemed like the John Stewart Daily Show, a representation of our world with humor.
My generation talked. My mother’s generation talked and we communicated. That was strange. For many many years when I needed a wise best friend, my mother was the one to turn to, she always had a song for an aching heart, a melody for an infant, a poem for a toddler. She’s still my best friend. But, I digress, we were talking about love and (deep breath) sex. That was new. We were talking about current events and we knew them because of the TV and radio. We talked about, sang about, and demanded social change. For a little while, things did change. It looked like the dreams of the 60s were coming true. I was all in favor of a nicer kinder world, like the one Stevie Wonder sang about. I loved his lyrics, music and optimism. I loved Peter Paul and Mary, and Janis Ian, Phoebe Snow, Shawn Phillips, the Who, and the what, where, and why.
Then came the period of the 80s and our social progression and ethics changed. We became more egocentric, the accumulation of things by adults became more intense. Money was the important thing. Do unto others before they do unto you. You saw the black rage at society with rap because of the inequities that life provided them, again with rhyme and a strong bass, words so powerful that they broke your heart, angered you, or made you sorrow. You had grunge begin in the white population in protest of materialism, surely there had to be more to life than this existence, and suicide took some of the best artists. You saw alcoholism appear strongly in music where it had been mostly in prose before that time. Drug addiction was still referred to with stealthy whispers, “Only that kind of person does drugs.”
Then the internet took off. We could afford computers at home that had more power in each case that the huge rooms of data banks from the past. They improved every day. Technology doubling itself, faster and faster. There was a rebooting of the seventies material in the 2000s, issues that had been laid aside, brought their messages back. It looks simplistic but it represents who and what we are today.
Poetry is complex with people finding a voice in a nearly forgotten format. It isn’t always clear in its message, it requires thought and the interpretation doesn’t guarantee that you understand what the author meant. But the reader’s message is equally valid. Old dusty professors will always come up with a different interpretation that those studying under them, twenty to forty years younger. Time changes our outlook. Music simplifies the message. Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait is straight forward and the music heightens the experience so you don’t forget the simple words. Puff the Magic Dragon was and is a story for the imagination of the young and old, not a drug message. Where have All the Flowers Gone is a song about the repetition of the mistakes that we repeat as a society. The Beach Boys was about having some fun and not becoming too serious to soon. “Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tack and they’re all made out of ticky tack and they all look just the same.” A protest about the loss of creativity and the sameness that felt forced upon us.
The audience and the message have to concur before fame occurs. We have something to say, audience needs to want it. Music and writing are two vehicles to send a message that will leave footprints long after we are gone. The amazing thing is that because of the internet, writing and music are marching around the world demanding to be read and heard. Cuba allowed some old English rockers to perform in Cuba and they wanted to go meet fans who could have been jailed for listening. They performed for free. Imagine that. Classical music is performed for free on the streets and plazas of the world. Day concerts of Beethoven, so that the music lives on. Bach is used to heighten our knowledge of math. So is Mozart. Wagner introduced a social message that helped bring on World War II and the quest for supremacy. What a powerful medium emerged! Tolkien took Wagner’s message and wrote a message of opposition and unity in the face of evil. There was a cartoon, Wizards, that took a cartoon audience through the message that Tolkien took four lengthy novels to write. Before Tolkien was Dickens with his eternal belief that we have to believe in the good of people, that good would overcome greed, that good people would be rewarded. There was Plath who suffered from severe bouts of depression, her poetry was part of her therapy. She needed meds. We all have a little bit of all who have come before and while poetry-blind as the times may be, I know a revolution of poets just waiting to emerge. Just check in on LinkedIn.
It isn’t the written word alone that is swaying thought, it’s the combination of music and attainable art, attainable word, dance, politics, social ills, and the acceptance of change. There is nothing simple about it. I find myself singing the damnedest things at strange moments. And behind all of the musicians, writers, politicians, do gooders and tyrants are the messages that the common human needs to hear to preserve their sense of self. There’s nothing simple about lyrics, only that when analyzed out of context and condemned as primary, elementary, simplistic, and even moronic, aren’t. But the analyst is a fool to think they can control the reception something gets. We’re evolving, and we demand the right to hear ourselves reflected in art.
When the grass was short, Knees were barked and Giggles lasted through the day. When the weeds grew wild, Skirts were short and Glasses magnified the world. When the leaves fell, Streams were colored, Work was life endowed. When the ice blew, Snow drifts suffered, Adult eyes grew jaded. When trouble struck, Murder most cruel, Debts buried mountains. When color drained, Blood was forgotten, but Genocide prevailed. When liberty hid her head, Shamed and lonely, Safety became an illusion of the past. When false men screamed in anger, Children met death, Streets rained red with blood. When jealous greed drank a draught, Slowly sip by sip, glad Blindness filled our eyes. When police dressed in shrouds, Denying other’s truth, Armed repressions stole freedom. When children looked for justice, Winter came early, Paris was set aflame.