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.
“Shh, old man,” Reggie mumbled to himself as he eyed the TV. “It’s not the end of the world yet.” He leaned closer to the television. “The end of the world hasn’t come yet, for we old soldiers still sit in purgatory uncalled. Surely that devil would call us if he knew we sat at ease.” The TV blared, for Reggie used the sound against the loneliness of his soul.
News reports troubled him: the president declaring war actions, kids dying, no one understanding why killing was so easy for the man, volunteers sent packing as democratic pigeon minders, told they got no business, old people dying and no one caring.
”Hush, Reggie, pray he doesn’t call you. You can barely keep time at a social dance with the old women down in the basement of the church. Not much of a social, all of us left by families that know our minds are going. Not much to be happy for, to care for, to do. Puzzles and number thingy squares. Old women knitting. Women ruminating like cows, no brains left. Young folks and nurses bugging folks to be active. Folks showing us computers, damned machines. Shh, damn it, man, don’t get so upset. Don’t call attention to your dark soul. You don’t want the attention of that type. They bury us with trumpets blowing and our service honored, but there is little honor in what we did. We killed, oh that we served as God willed. Oh, that peace was close, but it ain’t coming.”
The news flooded the room. Missiles launching from planes, children laying dead, yellow gas coating everything. Reggie looked down at his hands. His hands, beautiful hands, that had held a child when it was born, helped it learn to walk, paid with labor to send his child to school, and watched with pride at the start of the Great War III. Strong hands that had served him, that had held his wife as she sobbed at the telegram from the War Department, now sat idle in his lap. Sad hands that watched the news take his wife’s will to live, that buried her.
“Reggie, man, you have to keep quiet, man. Don’t say your thoughts too loudly, or they’ll have you out the door as a traitor. I’m you, you know, still you. I’m me. I was…I am, I get so confused these days.”
He moved the food on his plate around in circles. TV food, the folks next door brought TV food to him each night. They said it was okay he didn’t know them. He hated that. They told him names. They had no faces. The food was placed on his TV tray. One plate, one fork, one spoon, one glass of water. His teeth were worn and so his food was precut, mushed by him into the catsup. He took a bite, swallowed, and took another. Food had no real meaning, it just kept him alive. It all tasted the same.
“When’s it morning, old man, when’s morning coming? Not soon enough. Devils on the TV, devils in church, next it will be devils in my home.”
The door to the room he sat in opened and closed. Reggie didn’t bother looking around.
“What do you want now?” he asked. “You don’t normally come for the dishes. Got something for me?”
Whoever had entered the room hissed at him, “Good evening, Reggie.”
“Don’t know why you bother me every night. I’m an old man. Got a devil for president, a war to begin more wars, ain’t nothing going to ever be okay again.”
“Your pain, it seems worse tonight, Reggie. Shall I take it from you?” The stranger moved to the front of the couch. He pushed the plastic container of pills in front of Reggie.
“Pain means I’m alive. I’m an old man. Ain’t nothing going to matter ever again. Leave me alone. I don’t want nothing from you.” He watched the TV change to a game show. “See they roll that wheel and people guess words. Fools always take too long. You want to watch this show with me? I ain’t about to go out with all that fireworks on the news going on.”
“I can take your pain away, Reggie. I can ease the burden of your heart.” The stranger sat down and rested his hand on Reggie’s knee. “I’m worried about you, Reggie, you don’t do anything but watch that idiot tube. The news will make your heart stop, if you keep watching it.”
“Heart stopped years ago when the wife died.”
“Reggie, all you have to do is tell me that I can take your soul to a different plane. But you have to say it.”
“Hell, you think you’re the devil or something? Take my soul to a plane. A plane to a place where no-one gives a damn. Nah, you get out. I’m not going with no devil. I have my own devils inside me. I live my own hell, don’t need to go to one.”
“Heaven won’t come to you, Reggie, not ever. You’ll never find relief sitting here. Come with me, Reggie, you’ll be warm and with family.”
Reggie watched the wheel spin. “Hey, weirdo, you know that phrase right there? Daniel Webster said it.”
“Fine, Reggie, fine. What’s the phrase?”
Turning to the illusion beside him, Reggie laughed and said, “Get the hell out.” He leaned back in his couch and closed his eyes. “Devil wouldn’t want me, I’m too much of a grumpy old Gus. Close the door as you leave. Damn curmudgeon needs his rest.”
The devil stood and smiled. Reggie was one of his favorites. He could bide his time. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Reggie.”
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...
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.
It’s raining outside, and I can’t say I’m sad about it. So many places in the US and Canada are suffering from drought. I like the rain, although I can’t go to a ball game or to the fireworks tonight. My grass is green in July and the air is mild. I can go and splash in the puddles, jumping up and down like a kid as the neighbors call for reinforcements and my husband shakes his head. My garden is blooming and I haven’t had to set a sprinkler yet. I’m saving money by watching nature at work. The little green frogs climb the side of the house for the bugs at night, and the fireflies are hovering just over the grass if they are males and about six feet up if they were females. They prefer nights and I prefer them to the mosquitos who hunger for flesh.
I have movies that I love on the Fourth. 1776, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Forest Gump, anything not to violent but that represents history. There was a great show on Edison and how his lack of mathematics eventually worked him out of the electric business. They rarely mention the things that he did to Tesla, although he wanted to be the genius to think of things, he didn’t want to be a team player. So, we ended up with General Electric and Westinghouse which were a very important part of my upbringing.
I’ve been to the fireworks in Washington DC, Chicago, Akron, Minneapolis, St. Paul, San Francisco and I love the color, the sound and the smell of the different chemicals. My son and son in law buy from local legal firework stands and make safety a part of their private show in our driveway. They even make me put my shoes on. Sometimes we have been in the mountains when people start firing their fireworks off and you can see them for miles. Traveling in the US is something that became Americana in the time right after WW1. My dad learned to drive a Model T by accident when he took the brake off at the top of a hill, or that’s one story he told. He said his father was angry, really angry.
I served in the US Army and marched in parades on the Fourth as a member of the 6th US Army and 1st US Army. Marched up and down the coast of the Pacific, and visited a lot of places that needed music on the Fourth. I’m pleased as punch that we entertained so many. Music is a passion of mine. It builds an energy that is transferred to an audience, as long as you play the right notes.
But the biggest part of being a patriot, is a series of behaviors that my parents modeled for me and I tried to model for my kids. Voting after studying the platforms of the candidates, that’s number one. Helping my neighbors if I can. Donating to food banks, clothes banks, and charities. Paying my taxes and telling the truth about what we earn so that schools, roads, police departments, farm subsidies, the military, etc. can do what they are supposed to do. People who put their faith in God to solve problems instead of following up their words with actions really take away from our society. I honor the President of the US with paying attention to his policies, writing him with my opinions, and being respectful of him or her. Respect and politeness, saying please and thank you, not gossiping or lying to make a point are all standards of behavior that I was told were American. I taught school because it was a job with the honor of working with the people who would run my world when I got old and grey.
Our country was founded by a group of people as different as if they were the same. They shouted and argued but they also acted. They found people who could find ways to communicate to represent them. Granted there were problems, but the American way was to find a way through them. Injustices still exist that shouldn’t anymore. I hope we work our way though them soon. We were promised an awful lot growing up. I want everyone to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Enjoy the fireworks tonight if it isn’t too dry or too wet. Happy Fourth of July.
How is it that I am on every fundraising list in the US? I get the queries from both parties. I didn’t sign up. Someone must be making a fortune on selling the list. “If we don’t get a donation from you, we’ll never get the election. Terrible things will happen.” It reminds me of the rhino in the cartooned story “The Giant Peach.” But where it says wonderful things will happen, there is just a gap with the pleas for aid. They promise me destruction, death by checkbook, alienation, and damn it, why haven’t I paid my membership fees to join the party.
Firstly, no one told me I had to pay to be in a party. No one sent me a bill. I just got the dunning letters, pay now or never be in the party again. I hate that. Oh, I’m not a sore loser that my beloved candidate didn’t get enough votes. The system is corrupt, and it isn’t a federal system. There is no way a voter can get enough votes to outdo the super-delegates. Half of the votes come from those super beings living on top of Mount Krumpet, how can you defeat the Grinch?
I am suddenly apathetic about the upcoming election, and that’s new for me. I’m sure I’ll develop enough energy to vote in November. Women’s rights are very important for me. I have a beautiful daughter, raised to be independent and powerful, she’s my reason that I will vote.
I’ve become tired of the voices, screaming, yelling, lying. I’ve become tired of the media’s focus on the loudest voices. I hate PAC money. Money shouldn’t be needed in such grand amounts, but how else can you get face time with so many people. Voting should be a personal thing with the facts and figures having been clearly delineated. We have the internet, TV, radio, and the mail. I think the mail is the best way to get information. You can look at it or not, toss it or put it on the fridge. It supports the US Postal System, which needs those presorted rates. Why do we need millions to run a candidate? I’m not naive. I know that people need to be paid. Ads need to be paid for. Most of the people in a campaign are volunteers. The top hired staff get paid really well, and I resent that on a “I’m only middle class, why should I pay you more than I make” basis. Give me a good platform and I’ll donate.
I want to remain apathetic about as long as a commercial lasts. I’m sending notices back to all of these fundraisers with a note, “I don’t live in your state.” It will relieve the weight on the “Internet tubes.” Look that up if you need a giggle.
So for today, I will trade politics for baseball and root for the Nationals and the Twins. I loved FP and Bob’s outfits last night. Very slick, gentlemen. FP, my dad had a jacket just like that, but he didn’t have the part. Johnson men in our family lose their parts early and replace it with a shining dome of intelligence. I hope the team does a good job, both teams. They have good millionaires playing for them, and they never charge me for their existence. They send me happy emails about silliness and jerseys. They offer, but there is no angst.
Happy Saturday all!
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.