Please?

I write the words that do not rhyme.
Poetry it's called. It called me.
Do my words scatter in the wind?

The breeze that takes the poems
Blows through Spring, Summer and Fall.
Am I part of a rainbow of particles?

When you read me, the real me, do you
scoff or do you ask for more?
Is it the bare soul that offends?

I travel leagues as a digital dot
On a web of transparent knowledge
Looking to see if I can become a snowflake.

I travel to far away lands, to the seas.
Each stop I leave part of myself
And take part of you away to show.

No, not the lover, but the friends 
That are with me for a breath
Before the wind scatters us again.

I write the words that do not rhyme.
I am a poet, seemingly out of time.
From the safety of my sofa, I watch.

The world frightens me these days.
Words are harsh once again.
Dreams are dismissed as lies.

But I will continue to look for 
Those who hold the end of the rainbow.
Have you seen me passing with the wind?

Catch me and hold me. Hold me close.
Take the hole in my heart and fill it
With a sense of purpose. Please?
Am I alone? Do you see the star I came from?

The Eagle’s Rush

 

It was there, over my head in the swamp,

That I met the dancing wind.

With a speed that rushed the world past

as I stood still, I was inspected, rejected,

Passed over as a dinner treat.

Who was I to walk there in another world?

Who was I to seek secrets?

I spun on my heels looking for power.

Turned quickly to spy the motion I felt,

more than saw.

Dancing on my tip toes, I tried to follow.

Not for me, the race through the trees,

Not for me, the freedom to fight, to fly.

Oh, but envious eyes I did cast

after the lord of the sky.

Music, Poetry, Prose and Changing Times

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 We didn’t have to rely on a newspaper that was out of date before it was printed.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.

Hamilton, Musical, Powerful, Soul Imprinting

Don’t believe that you can truly understand more than one thing at a time. Not 100 percent if you are multitasking. Not even mothers will have 100 percent understanding as they deal with work, commute, screaming child, sick child, obnoxious child who learned how to blow chocolate milk through his nose. No, each of those things can balance the others, some outbalance the others, but you can’t experience the whole picture. If most cases, you don’t want that whole picture. But then there are musical performances, books of a pure truth, insights that leave you momentarily undone. So it is with Hamilton.

It’s the sound, the pulse that bleeds into your awareness. Music is the novel of passion, played upon a stage that requires your ‘mind’, body and soul. Great operas ripped the tears from the ones who got it. Madam Butterfly, The Telephone, Bernstein’s Mass, 1776, Westside Story, these will catch you and leave you breathless feeling that you have felt or learned something great. They are stories. Novels.

With greatness that we miss in our busy days filled with office, school, ball games, little league, ballet lessons, commutes, and tae Kwon do, because we don’t pause to see. Great novels make the soul weep. Flowers for Algernon, the first time I read it out loud to students ripped into my consciousness and left me crumpled in front of fifth graders. When the principal walked in on the weeping, he backed out and never said a word. The Reprieved Reformation about a safe cracker who found a reason to change, to lose his greed and save his humanity. AS I Stand Here Ironing, a look at a mother, whose daughter once again is in trouble. Whose teacher wants the parent conference (hear the drumroll of fate calling), but who is HER daughter, HER creation.

Hamilton, a poor boy, orphaned, witness to plagues and treasuries, a man hated and reviled, clung to by women and worshipped, a man against odds, the man who created the treasury, and a duel. It plays like a Shakespearean Novel on the top 20 list of the BOTM  (book of the month) club. And it’s the presentation.

I performed in Bernstein’s Mass (what does a Jewish composer know of Catholicism?) where the priest who loses his faith, his congregation and his soul was portrayed as a young priest starting out and the disillusionment, the delusionment, the despair he felt that tore him to shreds balanced on notes that are harmonic in their disharmony. It tore us as performers apart, it silenced the audience and they left quietly, thinking. I saw it at the Kennedy Center the same way. It was beautiful and framed perfectly. I saw it at Lord Albert’s Hall where the priest was portrayed as a pedipiile and that WAS WRONG. It made me sick to watch or listen to it. The tenor changed the entire message. He was a tenor. Really. A European, a German tenor with a skeptical look at any chance of purity in the Church. A tenor who thought that Bernstein was mocking the church. No really, a German tenor trying to understand a jewish composer’s view of the catholic church as the congregation took and used…never mind, it just didn’t feel like what I had performed and seen performed. Granted I am from the upper MidWest where even the atheists have a feeling of respect for some concepts of church and community, except for pedipiiles.

That’s what we are trying to do, isn’t it? Trying to effect our readers and public with our vision of the world at that instant. Music takes the instants and compounds the eyes with ears, the blood with pulse, the soul with wonder, fear or hatred. I should have put my two careers together before this, the narration of exploring a saga by pace made so much clearer to me now.

I’m an intellectual, know as a nerd in this time and place, and I am attempting to write the great novel of my time. Arrogance in the least application. No, not arrogance. I want to be a writer to leave a footprint that I understood something beyond what I am now. I want to be for the future to seek guidance from and to turn that which is bloody and awful to a tale told by a fool about the purity of man.

It’s the sound, the pulse, the overwhelming focus on one incredible thing at a time. It’s a message that must speak of itself. It’s the dark calling to the nightmares, setting them into patterns. It’s why children put their noses under the covers while their eyes search the shadows.

Then the man from Hamilton speaks of his upbringing in Puerto Rico, an American territory. He tells of the tragedy of poverty, of exploitation by hedge funds who now attempt to topple the people by placing demands for payment against a government not allowed to file for bankruptcy. He speaks in the language of the musical Hamilton. He appears on shows including John Oliver’s. We know John Oliver as a man of intelligence and integrity who has a campaign against cigarettes internationally with Dave, a diseased lung. We know him as the exposer of lies and corruption. That he sides with Hamilton in his pursuit for justice for his home gives it credence.

The sound of children crying from hunger, orphans, health care costing twice for the same system we have on the mainland. They became a territory as a result of war. They have an honor roll of US Veterans of War and believe in the US as part of their nation. They still see the our hope as theirs. So we walk away and leave them adrift in a world of greed where teachers can’t teach because there is no money.

Hamilton. Novels, Operas, Comedies, Lies, Justice, Defeat. Ultimately, in order to understand life, you have to stop and focus on just that. You have to let go of what you think and what you feel without the experience and open your heart to the message. Hamilton has a focus for today. It’s powerful. I hope to write a novel with that kind of power of exposure someday.

On the Occasion of Things

I was thrilled to see the blossoms of Spring trees over the last month. It brings a lot of random chatter to mind. Chatter that outweighs the squirrels who now bring the feeders to the back door and bang until I fill them. They’ll hang them up themselves soon. I think they have the right idea. If we want something in life badly enough, we should look to be actively working towards that goal. My goals? I want to continue reading everyday. I have two books waiting for my attention. Carl Hiassen’s Bad Monkey and Jonas Jonasson’s The One Hundred Year Old Man, who climbed out the window and disappeared, these sounded so good from the titles alone. It made me scurry to the bookstore clerk and buy them, with all the enthusiasm I learned from the backyard squirrel gang.

My husband has been following Spring training for the Nationals for the first time. He’s an Eeyore who feels like Chicken Little. But the Nats seem to be having fun. I was hesitant to show enthusiasm because if things go wrong, I get to hear about it. I don’t like drama unless it’s on the stage or in a book, so I’ve kept mum. But as the first game of the season came along, I decided to take the plunge and become a number one fan. I failed at being a cheerleader, as I cheered for all of the players from both teams. The Braves vs. the Nationals, and the pitching was fantastic. Both teams were very well coached and gave off that special aura of teams that cared. I’m supposed to stick to one side or the other, but the sportsmanship and the game intensity left me breathless and exhausted at the same time. Life can be like that. It has its showers, and thunder storms, but in the end, I want to be that person that has overcome the storms and played the game to the absolute best I can.

Fatherhood has been on the horizon. The concept of the father who works full time and the son who wants to play ball is about the economic sphere you are in. Look at LaRoche, who left the Nats, and took his golden first base mitt with him. It was in the news for several days because he retired, turned down millions of dollars to be with his son. His family is a baseball family. His father brought LaRoche to watch him practice and play. LaRoche started bringing his son when he was old enough to understand that this occupation was his father’s passion. The son was there, in the dugout and sometimes practicing, with the Nationals and never caused a disturbance of any kind. If fact, he was our good luck intern so that we took the National Baseball East award (is it called something like that?) The year he left, we didn’t win our pennant. But he was told his son wasn’t welcome at his new team. The NEW team’s management thought that his son would be a distraction. So LaRoche quit. Literally, he took his ball and went home. Six months of intensive baseball moments, and they wanted to take that father son balance and remove it from LaRoche’s life. He made the right decision. Boys need their dads. They need to toss a ball around or go biking or have a special moment together. Our society had moved from male to female to mocking males to not understanding why the male image was so hard to maintain. Or sure, being a doctor is nice, but if you have a son, shouldn’t you teach him how to be a man? Shouldn’t Fatherhood and being a man have positive ramifications? My husband worked 60 hours a week, he couldn’t be there for playing ball with my son. It’s one of his deepest regrets. It took my son a while to see what a father is. Hardworking, worried, kind, intelligent, non-apologetic and still involved as much as possible. He sees that the times he thought his dad was ignoring his needs was only part of what his dad did. Both of my children took martial arts and ballet. It was easier for me to involve them in activities that took place at the same time. When it was time for a performance or level exam, the kids would look up and there in the very back was their Dad still dressed for work, grinning his support and never missing a moment. His dad was there. He taught my son patience, even though patience was hard for him. He taught my son to respect women. He taught my son commitment. I know he would have spent more time at home if he could, but like LaRoche, he put his family first and kept us safe and loved. Mr. LaRoche is lucky to have such a wonderful opportunity.

April Fool’s Day is such a silly day. I have trouble thinking of pranks these days. My favorite Fool’s Day was when I came into the family room to tell my kids TV OFF. They had put suction cups on their heads and string tied to the TV and had their tongues hanging out of their mouths sideways moaning like zombies. Heehee, they had been listening.

I loved being a mother of two intelligent kids. They came up with the wildest ideas. A cardboard box was a castle, another was a horse (a great steed), and a big dog became a Princess protecting the dragon while the knight on his steed tried to invade. They could make up anything with whatever items were on hand. Police training was in the front, with bicycle traffic having to follow the officer’s hand signals. If you ran the light, you served five minutes in their jail. Even mothers had to comply. Dinner was slightly delayed as we waited for the traffic of the neighborhood to pass by. Sand was marvelous. We had big trucks and little trucks, Matchbox cars and generic cars, blocks for roadways and buildings, and the kids drove their vehicles around and around. I gave them a sheet and we colored a neighborhood onto it. Now they had a new map,  and it was time for The Phantom Tollbooth, a lovely way to teach words and puns, to be read at bedtime. Bedtime followed bath time which had the kids learning to take showers with an umbrella until confidence was gained and they could shower without it. We sang dinosaur songs at bedtime. There was always a book at bedtime.

There wasn’t any data on the impact of language, although my parents had done the same thing for my brothers, sister and I. I grew up reading, my children did also. Now they say a child must hear 150,000 words before they turn 5. I’m sure I gave my children twice that. The future of the world will rest with children who have heard words and have hope, and children who have been ignored because the family was too poor, too tired, and had too few resources. Poverty clones itself. I watched that happen when I taught. Parents who didn’t have the education or opportunities that I had, who had to work two or three jobs to make things work, are facing an uphill battle. Their parents didn’t have time, the freedom from prejudice, or resources. Poverty weighs on your soul. There are strong community leaders out there. People who sit on their porches or in churches or school who help change hopelessness.  Families like my parents who believed in the power of books and knowledge. We could change our situation. My mother went to college when we arrived in high school. She worked hard and got her BS, MS and PHD in six years. That was my role model. My children had their father and me. I went back to school when my daughter was in kindergarten. I worked hard and took my children to class if I couldn’t find a babysitter. I earned my Masters. Now both of my children have Masters. Intelligent kids. They’ve outdone me in their aspirations.

Baseball, flowers, kids and random thoughts today. Men empowered. Women empowered. You have to put your best foot forward in life.  I like jumping in puddles and hopping. Does that count?

Politics 101 or for Grade 8

It’s funny, the power and sway politics have over our lives. It disillusions some, provokes others, causes outbreaks of rage and greed, and amps up the high blood pressure and loss of the ability to discuss and agree to disagree or even to agree to independently research issues and candidates. I taught Civics in the year that Clinton was running against Dole. I was accused by parents of being too liberal, too conservative, and just right. My principal called me in to discuss the letters she was getting. I was just doing my job. Teaching children how to think, define and refine what they know was one of my most important goals for myself during my teaching career.

I don’t like preachers of novelty. I dislike attacks on character or opponents when the questions are answered not by a candidates stance but by attacks on someone else’s stance. I went to a Bernie Debate watch last night. It was a diverse group of people. There was cake, the ability to order food, drinks, and door prizes. The coordinator of the Northern VA area turned up to make a 2 minute speech before the debate. I gave four of my prints as door prizes. I also talked about the issues that I am most concerned about. People actually applauded me during my five minutes of fame.

There are some things that I need to review with myself, and unfortunately, I’m going to do it here. Firstly, it’s important to understand that a debate is set up to rile people up, to change opinions, to cast aspersions, to cause emotional overloads. So, please don’t suddenly start cussing out a candidate you disagree with. You have to understand that profanity is not appropriate no matter what you feel in a moment’s anger. Also, little pitchers who come with their parents, who are trying to teach them the importance of voting, don’t need the exposure to profanity. Yes, some have heard bad words before, but that is no excuse when you are a role model for these young people. I watched a third of our group leave when a woman lost control of her emotions. Manners are still important.

Secondly, listening is hard to do if everyone is talking all at once. Shh, wait for the commercial or pass notes. This is one place where passing notes will not hurt you.

Thirdly, separate the feelings you have between contestants. One may be more likable. Another may be more intense and might do a better job. Which is more important? For me, it’s the issues and the outcomes. I look for issue statements, then I check out the background of those issues. I look for people who have ideas on how to pay for new services. I look for compassion with a sense of outcome results. I look for polish. I look for the ability to win hearts and minds. I look to see if there is a basic understanding of economics, science, history and literature. I read. I ask question. I research. I may like one opponent over another because of personality, but I have to stop and question whether or not that’s the issue. Issues and solutions are my primary interests.

Fourthly, democrats can’t count to three. LOL not one of the candidates on the stage had three issues to immediately implement. O’Malley was at least honest in setting three categories. Bernie had five. Hillary had more than a dozen. My fingers couldn’t keep up with her. We want things fixed. We want things fixed right now this minute, all of them. Life doesn’t work that way. The presidents who did face difficult times set priorities and committees to see what they could actually do. It makes life interesting.

Fifthly, one basic point of debating. Don’t use your opponents name, use instead “My opponent.” Why? Because every time you use their name, you reinforce them in the audience’s mind.

Sixthly, when the election is over, we are all going to have to find a way to get involved and stay involved in our government so that our voices are not silent and ignored. It doesn’t matter after the election whether you lost or won. What does matter is being a responsible citizen who stays involved so that the voices heard in congress and the White House are those of the people. Hubert Humphrey came to my middle school when he lost to Nixon. He told our school that the President of the US is our president whether we voted for him or her or not. He said to stay involved, don’t give up and don’t fall into name calling and hatred. Find a way to respect the office and those serving in it. Make sure they hear from you every time there is an issue. We have a system of checks and balances. Use it. I was honored a decade later to be called to duty in the Minnesota National Guard to be part of the security at Humphrey’s funeral.

Seventhly, don’t underestimate the American population. There are some things we all have in common. There are also somethings that need to be addressed to make our belief in our country one of pride and moving forward, not one of racism and hatred. Forward, a simple word that holds so much power.

You can see that the teacher gene is alive and kicking in my head. I went to the debates. I watched and listened. I saw an old guard candidate, a future JFK or RFK candidate when his name becomes more prominent, and I saw a passionate man who believes we all need to be a little more responsible about who we are and how we will be governed. I know who I liked. I know who I disliked. I also know that each and every one of us needs to be able to discuss the issues with people who are not judgmental. Socrates taught by teaching to listen and to think. I believe we are able to do that.

I have always been a Social Democrat. I grew up in the state of Minnesota and it had a sense of love thy neighbor and do something good for them even if it’s just shoveling a neighbor’s sidewalk. I was a member of the Democratic Farm and Labor party. Minnesota has changed a lot. I’ve grown.

Do vote, please. I won’t tell you how or who. In the state of Virginia, you must register to vote by Feb 1st if you want to vote in the primaries both Democratic and Republican. Make sure your voice is heard. The vote is on March 1st this year. I’ll stop preaching now.

I’ll just go wander off to my book I’m writing. Something happened in the last chapter that has caused me to have more to write about. Mother Nature has a deep belly laugh. Until next time, be safe, happy and content.

Ann

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