COMEDY, Canto 23

 

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CANTO 23

 

A silence fell over the room and I

Looked into the faces of the two Founders

That expressed such a profound sorrow that bled

 

Into the space between us and in my head

I was overwhelmed by a sense of dread.

Then my eye fell on Spinoza who could read

 

My state and quickly responded to my need.

“History leaves in its wake a trail of error

And those who make it become icons who bear

 

Into the present the force to make us care

Unless stone cold monuments imprison them

In fantasies of the national origin

 

That regulate the past and make forbidden

The sight of painful truths and contradictions.

You must harvest the essence their lives expressed

 

And in that way you will put their memory to rest.”

He turned to look at Jefferson at his side.

“This one wrote his declaration to be a guide

 

To the revolution in which he took some pride.

He knew the phrase, ‘All men are created equal,’

Approached a thought that must be universal

 

And that his own words were just a rehearsal

Of meanings other men would have to complete.

In time the words themselves may become obsolete,

 

But the truth they bear no age can ever deplete.

The suffering you see in their faces derives

From the recognition of how many lives

 

Were sacrificed so that what they began survives

Into a future that will realize

Better than they could what equality is.

 

Think of Lincoln’s face in which is traced his

Pain when confronted with so many slain

For decisions from which he could not refrain

 

And the balance of forces he had to maintain

In order to expand what it means to be free.”

With that word Catherine stood and came over to me.

 

“Come,” she said, “there’s someone I want you to see.”

I followed her out the door and then to the shore

That appeared not too distant from where we were,

 

And as we approached the beach I saw a figure

All in black standing at the foot of the waves,

Which seemed to have fully conquered her gaze,

 

While the gray sky mirrored the sadness of her days.

As we came closer, she turned toward me her face

In which I saw beauty and amazing grace.

 

Then Catherine said, “This woman knew the embrace

Of the man who made the demand for equality,

While she always remained his property.

 

For so long she had no voice in your history,

But as William wrote, nothing is lost in time—

All we do, say, or desire informs the sublime

 

Wonder from which beams of light shoot forth that shine

Through the ages and disclose the human form,

Long buried in darkness, only to be reborn

 

Through a process that requires us to perform

Our duty to those whose existences were erased

From the human family that had debased

 

Itself through mindless acts of laying waste

To its members as if to mutilate

Its own body, a strange form of self-hate.

 

None of this is ever a matter of fate

And redemption never comes to us too late.

Go to her, for she has something to say.”

 

I turned to the woman in black and felt the spray

Of the sea behind her that might have been tears,

For I felt the sorrow of two hundred years

 

Emanate from her face in which tenderness did appear.

Then she spoke, “My pain is not for myself alone,

But for generations of black folk who were owned

 

By men who refused to know what they had sown

Of hatred for their world but even worse

Of love that for us could only be a curse,

 

When the one you love is the one who would coerce

Your affection that your soul begs you to resist

While your heart longs for the comfort of kiss,

 

Which gives even to suffering the feeling of bliss.

That’s how I felt about Mister Jefferson.

He awoke in me the fire of tender passion

 

And made me love him without the satisfaction

Of seeing in his eye something reflected

Of my own essence, but instead dejected

 

He seemed, and the gift of my heart he rejected,

And the children of our union were neglected

When they looked to their father for recognition,

 

While he obeyed a social prohibition

And looked away until the day he died,

Which enabled them at last to have the pride

 

Of freedom, though still enchained by the need to hide

The truth about their inadmissible birthright,

Which they could do because their skins were light—

 

Oh, how could such evil not turn my days into nights?

And that would have been all there was for me,

But in death I was redeemed by the force of history,

 

For consciousness survives death through memory

And imagination that can resurrect

In other minds what my world kept in check—

 

That even slaves have the power to reflect,

That with our condition we were never content,

That our understanding went beyond resentment,

 

That freedom was our holy covenant

With God and the better angels Lincoln could see—

That one day would come the end of slavery,

 

Which begins the war on all human misery.

Now come with me and we will cross this sea

For there are souls we both need to witness,

 

Who will contribute to your mental fitness.”

With her finger she pointed toward a skiff

Without oar or sail as if we could just drift

 

Across the chasm, an idea I had to resist

By turning to see if Catherine could explain.

She said, “All this is the work of your own brain,

 

And it will define the physics of this domain.

Trust your vision.” To which I then replied,

“Can I go forward without those two at my side?

 

With Blake and Spinoza I would still abide.”

She answered, “There’s something in you that inspires

Her appearance and the goal of your quest requires

 

You to follow this sign of your true desire.”

The dark lady then took me by the hand

And led me to the boat which we pushed off the sand,

 

Then climbed in for the return to our own land,

And without effort we left behind the strand

As if the skiff followed our mental command

 

Through some means beyond my power to understand.

Almost instantly a dense fog consumed us

And I could hardly feel the skiff’s own thrust

 

Though I knew I simply had to place my trust

In forces that seemed to be working through me

And through this woman whose desire to be free

 

Awakened in me admiration of her esprit

That never lost hope or fell into despair.

Then she spoke, “Don’t think that I am unaware

 

Of generations of white folks who still don’t care

About the things we all have in common,

Though in death I have also met with someone

 

You know and who through her example won

You to a lifelong struggle for justice.

In the heaven in your head she remains restless

 

And over her children she keeps a jealous

Eye to protect you all from losing sight

Of what she taught you to see in the darkest night—

 

That no one should be excluded from the light.”

 

 

 

 

WORKING CLASS HERO 1926-2013

 

 

Working Class Hero 1926-2013

 

1.

 

Dad

Or Ded

We called you that

For years

Never Daddy

Our father

My father

Now that you don’t have the power

I have to tell you the truth

That even I don’t want to hear

Which is why speaking to you

Has been torture for both of us

For years

 

You cut a hole in me

The size of Lake Michigan

And poured into it black water

When you had all the power

And that hole was the engine

Whose bitter fuel drove me

To what I am today

 

There has never been a moment

When I was free of the shadow

You cast over me

And while I have known

Some makebelieve fathers

Minds sometimes famous or not

No one has surpassed your power

No one equals your tragic influence

The terrible gift of your monster

Which makes me wish you could share

In the light that always shined

In your darkness in me our bond

The only true link between us

 

So I ask you to forgive me

As I struggle to forgive you

For what you did to my mother

When you plunged your fingers

Into the hole in her soul

There long before you came

And stretched it out

For years

Until it swallowed you

And we both used it did we not

I hid there and so did you

Until we used her up

And threw her away

But the monster she became

Would not let go of us

Your monster became hers

And hers yours mine theirs

But you didn’t see the light

In her only the darkness

Or did you know something more

The darkness was the light

 

All your words the cruel knives

You cut us to the bone

She couldn’t cook

She couldn’t think

She couldn’t love

She couldn’t clean

She couldn’t serve

She wasn’t a good mother

A good wife

She was insane

The madwoman who raised

Your children on the words

That flowed out of you

For years

And they were for me too

Until I was nothing at all

The walking wound you carved

 

But I loved my coconspirator

Against your absolute rule

Until she left me in the desert

Until she deserted my cause

And became your secret service

 

But I have to forgive you now

If you could only forgive me

For not loving you the way

A son should love a father

And for knowing it wasn’t

Your fault any more than hers

 

You had a father too drunk to love

A mother too vain to see

The light that struggled to be

Born in you the infinity

That now lies buried in your hole

The stillbirth of your true existence

The man you could have been

And maybe sometimes were

 

I am what I am

Because of you

Because of her

Everything in me is you

And her

My sisters and my brother

Are you

And her

They all bear the wound

And struggle to forgive

The you and her in us

 

Forgive us father

For we only know

What you taught us

 

2.

 

There was a time

Once upon a—

Oh, what’s the point

 

I want to say something

About the love that bears

The name of the father

 

It’s such a burden

To be a father when

There was no father for

Me and you and her and them

 

James Joyce said that fathers

Are fictions while mothers are

All too real

 

Like any fiction you can

Revise a father but not a

Mother because mothers

Know the truth about us

Naked vulnerable beings

We all were in the dark

 

Mothers are infinite which means

Always incomplete and you can’t

Change the eternally unfinished

The way you can the written

Law that fathers come to be

 

So if you’re a fiction

With beginning middle and end

Why don’t we rearrange the parts

 

In the beginning your love

In the middle your suffering

In the end your strength

 

But there are more than three

And the multitude of parts

Get all mixed up in memory

 

You suffered and you punished

You loved and hated what you loved

 

How do you love the one

Who held you hostage for

A ransom you couldn’t pay

 

We went fishing once

And that was the first time

I saw the child in you

The sad lonely little boy

Who pretended to be tough

Who was more articulate with fists

Than with words though you learned

How to grind the edge of speech

Until each word like a razor sliced

A piece of my heart that you chewed

And spat out because the taste

Didn’t go with your favorite beer

But when you caught those bream

You should have known the weight

Was not enough to justify

The hook that dragged them

Out of their world and if they had

Words like yours they would have

Scaled your skin and filleted your flesh

But your heart they would have thrown back

And you knew it when the man told you

It was wrong to drag such slight

Harmless existence out of the lake

No bigger than your love for me

And still I saw it on your face

That sad lost look that didn’t mean

What your body so often said

Through the booze that made you

Drown the living parts of your true

Existence that human form Blake

Wrote about when he saw the angels

 

Yes even you or your little boy

Not me but the one in you

That you want to kill for

Being a weak little bastard

Who could never whip his way

Out of a paper bag so thin

It resembles the angelic

Light that once swallowed even you

And will again I promise old man

No matter how you curse us

And act out your rage against the light

The little boy who wants us to love

Him is you forever and I

Promise if we throw you back

Into the lake from where you came

Like those bream you murdered

Without malicious intent I know

You will wake up to the luminous

Boy of your forgotten dreams

 

3.

 

You were young

With your friends

On the beach

In the South

Pacific

Waiting for God

Knows what when

Something exploded

A human form

The guy who bummed

Smokes from you

Wiped off the world

While you go on

And think

Who loves me

Here in this heat

And blood and sand

And yes the fear

Possessed you

As it would anyone

Don’t you know

Did you imagine

The future already

The woman

My mother

With that funny look

Of unformed thought

And all those kids

You weren’t so sure

You would want

Did you know

You would break

All their hearts

Not what you wanted

But you were haunted

By the memory

Of blood and sand

And so much more

You can’t say

How your heart

Was broken

So many times

By the man

With hair like me

Each day thinner

And the bottle

Or the woman

Who kissed you

Off to war

And forgot

How your blood

Ached for something

You can’t name

Always waiting

Waiting for it

To come

But it never

Comes

The way you want

Like the woman

My mother

You wanted her

Until you saw

She wasn’t it

No one is

It

You see

And if someone

Had loved you

Then maybe

You would not

Have broken hearts

And left such a

Wake of destruction

Your children

The debris of

World War Two

But they love you

Old man and stand

Near you as

The hour approaches

When you may

Wash off the blood

And the sand

And become the man

My mother loved

No matter the times

You looked at her

Through sad dis-

Appointed eyes

She never saw

Beach or Blood

But surely

She deserves

A Purple Heart

Since she bled

For you and saw

In you the love

 

You had missed

 

4.

 

What’s left

After forgiveness

In the days to come

Those future worlds

Where nothing lasts

Forever except forever

 

But nothing is nothing

And something remains

Though not in the way

You may have thought

When you held me

In your hand with

A grip on my feet

There was no one

At that moment

In the world I

Trusted more than you

And I could see

The creation around us

Through your eyes

From your towering height

 

I couldn’t fall

From that vision

And I never will

Because your hand

Became your heart

And your blood flowed

Into mine with a thought

You could never express

In words or looks

Or gestures but

Only in that grip

That once enfolded

All that I

Would ever be

 

But nothing rhymed

For many years

Except my fears

 

I could never say

And you could never say

The things fathers and

Sons need to say

To one another

But years and tears

Wash away the pain

And what remains at

The delta of time

Are these among other

Words I’ve written down

In your name

Through your voice

And my mother’s

Because that dialogue

Is infinite

 

So after forgiveness

Only truth remains

 

Love is

Understanding

Your anger

And cruelty

And sorrow

The day you hit me

For no reason

And said it was because

I was what I was

And the night I found you

Drunk on the floor

In the form of Christ

 

I wanted to save you

My bold angel killer

 

You tried to kill

The angel in yourself

 

But everything you were

Has been translated

To truth and for all

Eternity

You will survive

Because you are singular

The irreplaceable piece

Of the infinite puzzle

 

Prince Hamlet has

Nothing on you

 

What’s left

After forgiveness is

 

The silence of space

The breathing of time

The days and nights

In which we hide

 

The memories that abide

 

5.

 

In the name of the father

And his daughters

My sisters

And his sons

My brother

And his wife

My mother

And his friends

Most of whom

Have met their ends

And all the others

In the genealogy

Of this common man

 

We loved you

Each in our own way

We forgave you

For what you could not say

We thanked you for

The food we ate

The air we breathed

The loves we shared

The hearts we broke

The books we read

The children we taught

The tears we shed

The falls we survived

The truths we defended

The lies we refused

The joys we felt

And the sadness beneath

The jokes we told

The heavenly laughter

That never grew old

The life you gave us

When you hardly knew

What life could be

The wine we drink

To your memory

 

Fathers are not gods

And we cannot worship

At the altar of your absence

Except to say this much

 

You were the creator

And everything we are

Expresses everything you were

You live in our thought

In our bodies

In our children

And their children

And when the memory of you

Has blown away

Like so much dust

You will still live

In all the atoms

Of this world

To which you once

Gave a human face

And in your last days

 

A beatific smile

 

6.

 

The day my father died

My sisters cried

My brother sighed

And I had a vision too

 

Behind the mask of the old man

Appeared the boy he must have been

The one I never knew

The one who had a dream

Like all boys do

 

And I wondered if life killed his dream

When he went to work

And went to war

Or began the slow sacrifice

Of his body for ours

 

He was not always kind

And hurt the ones he loved

Because he hurt in ways he could not understand

But thought it was just part of being a man

 

His life was a thought

That married the thought of my mother

And together they were a couple like no other

That produced a thought written in the flesh

Of me my sisters and my brother

 

Life may have killed his dream

But what life kills it can redeem

 

Though he didn’t know it

Dad’s life was a protest

Against the world as it was

That treated working men like trash

For nothing more than a little cash

 

When first I heard the pain

In my father’s voice

I kind of went insane

And without any remorse

Sought my vengeance on the world

 

I struck out at the pain

My father transferred to me

And maybe thought I could gain

His love by fighting for his liberty

 

But I didn’t know what freedom was

Who the hell does?

 

In time I had a better vision

When I saw in my father something true

Though I wasn’t sure he even knew

The thing he made into my condition

 

And when I heard his final sigh

I had no desire to cry

Since in that long awaited pause

I realized what had been the clause

The prelude in the sentence

That demands no repentance

For the main idea I’d be

For all eternity

 

He was a working class hero

Without a formal credo

Who loved as best he could

And did more than others would

 

Remember him at his best

And then discard the rest

 

 

Epilogue—For a Sister

 

Love is not private

Property

Love is not never

Having to say

You’re sorry

Love is not all

You need

 

Love is energy and

Matter as in Einstein’s

E equals MC squared

 

Love never ceases

But only transforms

Into other expressions

 

Sometimes cruel and bitter

Sometimes barren and frigid

Sometimes silent and indifferent

Sometimes mushy and phony

Sometimes misplaced or redirected

Sometimes mad and unwelcome

Sometimes violent and unforgivable

Sometimes desperate and needy

Sometimes tender and passionate

Sometimes boring and predictable

Sometimes wordless and pure

Sometimes forgotten and mourned

 

When you love someone

You are loved by someone

Even if they don’t know it

And even if you don’t know it

 

And if you love

You have been loved

Because love is one thing

And we are all in it

 

Love is its own cause

 

I love you my dear sister

And have always loved you

Even when I didn’t know you

Because I was loved by those

Who loved you

And I saw that love

 

But now that I know you

I can express the feelings

Of generations

 

Your mother loves you

Through me as you

Loved me through her

Because she had the gift

Even if she often

Betrayed it

 

We all betray the truth

Of who we are

Some of the time

 

And she was the banker

Of our father’s love

Which she lent out

With interest

But that’s okay because

He didn’t know how to make

Those transfers on his own

And if on occasion

He took over for her

And returned the interest

To us in her name

That’s only because

He was loved all his life

Even when he didn’t

Think he deserved it

And he didn’t know

That the love he thought

Was hers was really his

Own love of her

 

And the interest is

The feeling we couldn’t let

Go of on his last

Day on this earth

 

So please know my sister

That you are loved

And everything you thought

You didn’t have exists

In me and all those

Who know you

 

That may not be enough

Or all you need

But it is your inheritance

 

As the man said

You can only take

The love you make

 

 

 

 

REPUBLICANS 2016 AND THE AFTERMATH

Down in New Orleans at the Westin
I got to see the Republican brawl
And learn who was who besting
As the bullies tried to address their all

Trump went on the offensive
And as always became offensive
Singing out
I’m so strong
I’m so strong
I’m strong
I’m strong
I’m strong
And any fool could see
That he was wrong
But wrong doesn’t last long
And soon people will cheer
For what they imagine they hear

Bush the whatever almost cried
And you could see he might have died
At the hand of the smug dolt
But still he tried to revolt
Until his words got dumped
Money by more money always gets trumped

The queen of smug was Fiorina
The beloved corporate signorina
Who thinks she can knock Hillary down
With a contemptuous lie and a frown
But pretty quick she got mad
At reporters not thinking she’s so bad
Oh yes and she’s strong strong strong
So strong so strong so strong so strong
How long how long how long how long

Chris Christie announced World War 3
And soon had a lot of company
And Obama must be weak and feckless
That last word being rather wreckless
For those of us who read and think
That racist term has a long history
Stepin Fetchit surely wouldn’t blink
Over something heard repeatedly
And Chris is strong strong strong strong
And New Jersey proves he can’t be wrong
As Nixon taught in his second election
War is the politician’s best protection

Big Ben Carson had little to say
Just annihilate the enemy any old way
I’m not letting this guy into my head
Even if it means I’m going to be dead

Marco Rubio made his own blues
Trying to put a dent into Ted Cruz
He should’ve known that wouldn’t work
The teflon candidate is no ordinary jerk
And up against Marco’s constant lies
Cruz gave the baby boy a big surprise
He used something utterly unexpected
He told a truth and Marco ejected

Now don’t get the idea Ted’s okay
He just lies in a more bulletproof way
And after he carpetbombs Syria away
He’ll star in a movie by Michael Bay
Oh the day the day the day the day
The polar ice caps melt away
Ted won’t have much to say
Surely it would’ve happened anyway

Rand Paul shocked us all
When he didn’t want a war
But just to build a tall wall
And pay off debt some more
This guy is no whore
But he is kind of a bore

Lindsey Graham is a real man
Whose politics should go in a can
He hates hates hates hates hates hates
What Obama has done to our land
But don’t worry he knows how to kill
Your sons and daughters with his pill
War for all seasons makes us strong
Strong Strong Strong Strong Strong Strong
Would somebody please hit the gong?

Kasich Santorum and Huckabee
Let’s just forget these three
No one believes they’ll win
Though all three believe in sin
Too bad they won’t listen to the Pope
Which might provide us with hope
Okay so I have a weak point too
But whatever I’m still not through

The minority candidate won
And the new world had begun
On his inauguration day
Trump had to have his say
When he hallucinated a crowd
That made him so very proud
Which wasn’t the first clue
That nothing he said was true

His hero is Vladimir Putin
Who may bring about his ruin
But they have one thing in common
Indifference to the downtrodden
They sing one song in harmony
Money money money money
Is sweeter than honey
They both think they’re gods
But they’re just a couple of sods

Trump says his gang didn’t collude
But he’s generally more rude
To Americans like Obama
The guy who got rid of Osama
And Trump wants him on the rack
For the crime of being born black

He calls Hillary a crook
But if he took a good look
In the mirror maybe he’d see
What he’s done to the presidency
Sure he wants to make more rockets
But mostly he’s lining his own pockets

Boy does he hate Democrats
Who continue to drive him bats
Because he wants plutocracy
While they still think democracy
Is what this country is about
Trump just wants to shout
You better watch out
The Muslims are coming
And immigrants keep bumming
Off of your Uncle Sam
I heard it from Doctor Flimflam

Here’s the lesson you get from Trump
If you don’t want to be a chump
Understand where the truth lies
And see the world through Donald’s eyes
Only he can save us now
Because he’s smarter than Chairman Mao
Hell he’s smarter than everyone
And the guy with the biggest gun

Of all the presidents living and dead
He’s the one least well read
Which guarantees his special vision
That submits to no revision
Based on the pointless use of facts
Or anything else that detracts
From his superhuman
Political acumen
And people who throw rocks
Should spend more time watching Fox

Oh God what a gift
As we watch our country drift
Into authoritarian euphoria
To the greater glory of
The GOP which sells out our
Freedom by the hour

The Russians are coming it’s true
But there’s no reason to feel blue
What’s good for the rich is good for you
Except for one little hitch
If we end up in a financial ditch
As Trumpty Dumpty might have said
Even if some of us end up dead
It’s just God’s will and Trump’s delight
And you know Trump is always right

For Angelina Lozada about Her Mother

I wrote this poem, for what it’s worth, in memory of my former graduate student, Sylviane Finck Lozada. Her husband, someone I once thought of as a friend, fled the country with their daughter Angelina before anyone knew she was missing.

*******

 

To Angelina Daughter of Sylviane Who Disappeared around July 5, 2011

 

I see her faces on the digital screen in my head

Photo images captured in pixelated traces

And never expected her comforting voice and gaze to burn

My brain with the horror of inexplicable betrayal

Because no one was looking and we didn’t see the lie

 

Driving down the city street my eye is abruptly caught

Punctured by her image on the electronic billboard

And the long writing on trauma and the awful history

She now has made her own no longer a matter of words

But the brutal force that erases the vital thought from

 

Existence and yet we all know how palpably she is

How radically she stands her ground against our forgetting

Because she won’t leave us and the angelic projection

Of the love that should have been the guardian of her life

The little girl of her dreams whose happiness was the ethic

 

That would shape history outside the cruelty of corrupt hearts

And I was just the teacher reader adviser director

Behind a desk giving whatever I had and accepting

The gift of her thought pushing her on the lonely quest for

Truth always out of reach though not a joyless odyssey

 

But a passion that left its traces on the human record

The long story of resistance to everything that tears

Our world apart with rotten fantasies of cold revenge

But hers was the patient vision of militant love

That cannot be vanquished by the hand of craven fury

 

Only love can foil this murderer’s plot and so I blow

Into the air like bubbles these words to you Angelina

Wherever you are when they reach you maybe years from now

As you stand looking up into some fountain’s liquid arc

Bending the light to your gaze shocked by illumination

 

Unwinding the web of multiple languages your mother

Wove round you when you had eyes like black pools of innocence

And feel the strings that bind you to her voice and the presence

That will forever follow your steps on the path that leads to

Blessed blue skies and the face whose secret smile enraptures

 

The heart that won’t stop beating with the joy of her life

Since all you owe this apparition is time of remembrance

And forgiveness of the world that betrayed your childhood

And those of us who failed to see the treacherous shadow

Shutting out the light of something more infinite than heaven

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing to Nothing

NOTHING TO NOTHING

Empty space between lovers

Through which we separate

Abyss without boundary

No number can measure

No time can erase

What drags invisible being

Into existence through curves

Of flesh that know a truth

Words cannot touch or feel

***

I kiss your whole body

While your mind eludes

The desire for wholeness

No one owns anyone

The part becomes the all

And as we drift into

The void of our difference

You remain the imprint

Of love on time’s warp

***

Love conquers nothing

I return into myself

Only to find your thought

Already in my being

The thing appears as not

In the distance but close

My own self the true void

Crossing over to you

Where we meet again

***

As nothing to nothing

Without loss between us

Bound in unbinding dark

God if he existed

Could not possess me more

Could not stretch more infinite

Than the thought not you or me

In the space between being

And love’s permanent mark

Canto: Nashville (1975)

CANTO: NASHVILLE (1975)

Deeply involved with politics

Whether we know it

Whether we like it

Or not

***

America a desert

Dry devastation

Echoing sea of voices

Many of them telling the truth

You can barely hear

Through the orchestrated

Cacophony of lies

***

Oh, we must be doin’ somethin’ right

To last a microsecond of night

A drop in the bucket of time

***

History is nothing

And we are nothing

In its face

***

Patriotism is a pill

We drop to feel

Good for a few hours

To justify brutality

That makes us feel so free

***

I look at you

Sitting next to me

***

Who are you?

What do you know?

***

Everything on that screen

Speaks to you differently

From the way it speaks to me

***

You look so normal

But in your soul

You’re more alien

To this world

Than I am

***

We sit side by side

In this airconditioned

Cocoon and watch

The fantasy that makes

Aliens of us all

***

America the beautiful

All neatly divided

And compartmentalized

***

White country singer

For all us good ol’ boys

Black spiritual singers

Rocking in another studio

With this one white

Inscrutable face

***

(Did you know

There’s no black singer

No black voice like

The voice of somebody

White singing black

Like Al Jolson

Or Elvis from this town

Not a city they say

Where we are on this day?)

***

This movie isn’t about the South

But about us in the US

***

Wandering Shanes in the crowd

The young soldier from our

Vietnam spends the night

In the mad country singer’s

Hospital room and secretly

Watches and protects though

She will never know

This love that has no name

Walking wound her voice summons

***

The weird kid who looks like

A college student

But feels like

Travis Bickle Homer Simpson

Rebel without a cause

The Phantom of the Paradise

Even the kid who shoots

Jane Fonda in They Shoot Horses

Shoots the only innocent soul left

And you can’t quite

Get rid of the idea

No matter how sinister it feels

This kid is the angel of mercy

Even if he’s trying to kill

The supermother because

All innocence is lost

***

This time the man

Who knows too much

Is me because

I can see something

Terrible is going

To happen

No one can stop it

There’s no scream

Loud enough

Though I suspect

That inside a woman’s

Madness lies a scream

No one can hear

Like my crazy mother

Who couldn’t sing

But if you knew

How to listen to

Her soul you would hear

Something that changes

Everything but the

Innocence of Juliet

Without Romeo

Though for my mom

The real Romeo

Is the absent He

Who walks with me

Talks with me

Tells me I am his own

***

Everyone lives their life through

The fantasy of being someone else

While real lives are junkyards

Of dead dreams like wrecked cars

Or empty yellow school buses

***

The wannabe middle-

Aged starlet and her puffedup

Blond hair tight skirts stockings

With runs in them

Gets the last word

It don’t bother me

Because Jett Rinks

Do inherit the earth

***

Wouldbe Zhivagos want to write

Country songs about country Laras

The woman who strips is

Sally Bowles making it

Even though she can’t sing

The tenderhearted though pissedoff

Black man who loves her is the

Last glimmer of Spartacus

On the American landscape

The vagrant granddaughter

Is Bonnie Parker who

Looks for Clyde in every man

But can never find

The outlaw of her dreams

The hippie biker is one

Of her candidates the phantom of

Lawrence of Arabia

More than Brando’s wild child

***

Enigmatic heroes have no place

And silently hover in the margins

Waiting for some great transformation

Though until then they will perform the

Magic tricks they learned in the desert

***

The philanderer sings I’m Easy

While emotions flicker across

A woman’s mask of convention

Until she closes her eyes

And you feel a tidal wave

Of sadness driven by the desires

She will never let go of though she

Has no idea where they come from

***

I’m easy Yeah I’m easy

Words to hide behind

Even if the words you hide behind

Express the love you can’t hide

***

In the end she’s like you

The new Penelope

Whose music and life

Is the web she weaves

To hide who she really is

Waiting for someone who

May or may not come

Or may not even be

Maybe not even me

***

If I could sing to all the women

I’ve loved I would sing

In my life I’ve loved them all

Though the truth of my song would be

In my life I love you more

 ***

Love breaks the law of contradiction

When we sing the words that both express

And hide who we really are

Sitting in the dark against the wall

Unable to bridge the void that

Separates us or use the other’s

Words like a rope to pull us up

***

We can’t save each other

Only breathe in the air

Of the songs that express life

And open the horizon of being

Where we become at the edge

 ***

Deeply involved with politics

Whether we know it

Whether we like it

Or not

 

Ode to La La Land

 

ODE TO LA LA LAND

Here’s to all the loves you lost

And all the dreams that passed you by

Here’s to all the pain they cost

And that long lingering sigh

****

But Tennyson was right when he said

Better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved

At least until the moment you’re dead

****

And never be ashamed of the dream

Even if it led you astray

Because there is no right way

Something you have to mean

****

The image of every heart you broke

And the fragments of broken passion

Reside in the human brain

And never go out of fashion

****

You won’t get everything you want

Or even all the things you need

But the memory of a lover’s taunt

Won’t cause your thought to bleed

****

Not even what you could have been

The road not taken to the end

The thing you loved forever out of reach

Leaving you only the desire to teach

****

We lose people and lives to chance

But without those dreams and love

We would never make the least advance

We would never stumble into a world above

****

Not some kind of phony heaven

But the art of being on the edge of void

The place of infinite possibility

Where all you have to do is be

And even loneliness is overjoyed

By the dream you always believed in