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Long poem by T Wignesan | Details

Translation of Eric Mottram's Poem 33 in Interrogation Rooms 1980-82 by T Wignesan

 Translation of Eric Mottram’s Poem 33 in Interrogation Rooms by T. Wignesan

33.  on a vu un homme courir/ de la scène de crime un homme est maintenant en train d’aider/ la police avec leurs instruments/ devrais-je dire l’enquête criminelle/ intérrogations/ ceci fait partie d’une vieille bobine un homme en train de prendre la fuite/ de leur scène contribue/ à investir son sang/ après l’assassinat un homme/ courait depuis la vieille scène/ noir Irlandais poilu/ ne tentez pas/ de l’arrêter vous-même/ ceci n’est pas une vraie bobine c’est le déchet/ un morceau d’exposition/ vous payez pour voir la même scène/ de la même série/ ceux qui ne sont pas inclus sont des privilégiés/ l’homme qui coure est un remplaçant nu/ qu’on ramena/ êtes-vous celui qui rentre/ les déchets de n’importe quelle cité/ le Berlin de Grosz se chevauche/ ce que contrôle 
étroitement les réactions humaines/ mais quand Kokoschka demanda à tout le monde de s’entretuer sur la lande à l’extérieur de Dresde/ Grosz et ses malfrats lui menaçaient de faire pendre sur un lampadaire/ comme la Putain d’Art Kokoschka/ les manteaux-rouges pourchassent dans les comtés/ les nobles déversent/ le sang rouge des animaux/ ceux qui sont habillés en bleu détruisent les justes/  des prêtes prennent la fuite en compagnie des pandas/ à une proie faites collé n’importe quelle crime/ selon les règles des cannibales/ des cartes détaillent des fautes/ mais on réussit à effectuer l’assassinat
                                                                     *

Eric Mottram from/on the States as the American Learned Societies Awardee: 1965-66. Excerpts from the correspondence - shorn of personal matter - to T. Wignesan in London.
 
[Note: Eric Mottram was appointed in 1960 lecturer at King’s College, University of London; in 1973 Reader, and in 1983 Professor of English and American Literature; Professor Emeritus in 1990.]                                                            

March 4, 1966: « Dear Wignesan,
    
  Your peace news piece seems a breakthrough in many ways - style and propositions and at least making it with a magazine again. (Personally, Tom McGrath has my undying hatred for not returning my Burroughs article after repeated letters begging him to: it’s a dirty trick, if ever.) Re Ellison, his new essays in Shadow and Act are firstrate and recently he read part of a new novel on telly so he is thriving. It is difficult for him because he is attacked by his own people for not being militant - meaning he doesn’t march or physically show his protesting spirit - and he doesn’t make speeches or rants about this that and the other latest move on one side or the other. He simply generates intelligence. Liberator meanwhile deifies Malcolm - a long article in the anniversary number messianizing him, and references to He and Him and to ‘Audubon’ as if it were Golgotha. They disrecommended the Autobiography because it dwelt too much on his early life, which doesn’t actually yield to Christlike images.... The same magazine reflects black nationals’ opinion by putting down Leroi Jones as a recently-joined Village intellectual who does not yet speak to Us, the militant Muslim galvanizers of Harlem and other ghetto militants. I had dinner in Harlem with Arna Bontemps, Langston Hughes and the Sth African novelist, Richard Rive (have you read his novel? I’m afraid I hadn’t - rather embarrassing), the other night and regained my nerve a little from my last disastrous visit. But sitting waiting for the party to arrive (I was early) in a black Harlem restaurant is no pleasure, I may say. Rive seems a decent fellow and pretty shrewd about his country - he may be in England shortly - perhaps you could meet him through me (I am not suggesting you actually condescend to use my name.)
     [...2 lines omitted] I was sorry to hear of the eviction and can only hope the new place is working out. But you as a Negro does not impress me! We are all black, don’t forget.    My silence, by the way, was that I closed down recently in order to get the damned Pelican out of the way. It had been hanging over my head damoclesianly for two years. But now, after a gruelling period of sweats, it is more or less done and Malcolm Bradbury and I only have the dribs and drabs to think about, borderlines and all that. What a relief. But now I feel freer, with that and the Arthur Miller article for Stratford Studies behind me. I am now working on a BBC thing on McLuhan: and this I want to expand into a critique of him, Kahn, Wiener and Fuller - these men fascinate me, and will make an obverse side for my power thinkings. These latter shape up nicely, thank you. I delivered some to kids at a liberal arts college in Vermont the other day: they really dug what I was saying, really came on with good questions and additions and understood how I must have a subplot (as McLuhan told me) about love and passivity, as power forms.   As Allen embraced me through his black hairs last night, I remembered what he teaches and what I have used of his way of life to reconsider values of power. He had just arrived from Kansas and from a long tour lasting since last July, with Peter Orlovsky and the insane brother Julius. He had come to collect the mail from Ted Wilentz’s and I was there having dinner. Allen chanted a new song and showed us his bus, with fridge, oven, watertank and all mod cons in which he travels about these days, recording his poems into a maginficant [magnificent?] taperecorder - he’d just made one as he came into the city and now played it back to us: a magnificent improvisatory ode. The scene will now begin in earnest, I’m assured.
     Vermont I also enjoyed for the huge mountains and snows. The wilderness gave me antihuman feeling I had only once had before: in the jungles of central Malaya.   Which reminds me: I see from the New Statesman that Evans is leaving his chair at Kuala Lumpur - did you know where he is going now? I’d be most intrigued to know if he’s at last leaving that country. 
      Well, the rest is that it is March and I have just committed myself to the Queen Mary for September and the homeward voyage. It’s hardly credible that over five months of my time has rushed away. It seems yesterday I arrived in those ghastly tropical heats of September 1965, and today it is misty and springlike. Which means summer is nearing. I have worked all winter and now I want to get out into the country a little before I go up to Buffalo in July.
      All the best: I look forward to hearing from you.    Eric »
 
[From New York University.
Letter addressed to 33, Mimosa Street, S.W.6 and re-directed to 156, Gloucester Place, N.W.1]
 
(c) T. Wignesan - Paris,  2017

Copyright © T Wignesan | Year Posted 2017

Long poem by Charles Cingolani | Details

Visit to Antietam

Alone I arrive, walking from Frederick
over the gaps, across gentle hills
out onto a knoll
overlooking this burnished landscape.
Before me I see countless writhing rows
of indiscernible shapes gathered
in terrible rituals mid fire and smoke
darkening the sun.
From distant corners I hear
the rhythmic thud of cannon,
and from fields astir with figures converging
the eerie muffled rumble of drums.

From behind, hoofing sod aloft
couriers gallop past
straightway up to lines of men
where a ruffled slanted flag is held,
to a figure mounted, with sword drawn,
about to unleash his flexing array
to collide with columns coming on.

I watch them shift, align, then clash head-on
as distant volleys crackle in long orange ribbons
where smoke is rising—
after which shattered lines rejoin
like healed limbs, smaller now but whole,
to lunge once more
into spiraling bursts of yellowy orange.

Is that a cornfield on the distant plain
not far from where a white church stands?
I see stalks moving like men
advancing and falling back in wild infernal whirling,
while savage yelling rips through space.
Before my eyes a field of buff cornstalks
being reaped now by frenzied swathings
slashed now, then shredded,
ravaged in fiery geysers
spewing red and orange.

I see you, men in blue, your backs to me—
barrels and bayonets glistening in the sun
your lines plunging forward like waves,
cresting and curling to splash in smoky spume
onto a road that cuts the fields in two—
Facing you there in sunken trenches
long streaks of reddish gold
bursting in continuing ordered alternation
repelling your forward drive—
You fall where carnage itself piling high
staves off all further senseless slaughter.

And far off to my left a long snakelike movement
bloats at a bridge
behind which the hills with fire erupting
become hell's crucible
spurting its ghastly flow of fiery orange
from what seemed to be a thousand pores
down toward that stony arched crossing.
On this side amassed,
clotted lines surge and retract ramrod-like,
propelling one small bluish artery
over into that brimming inferno
to thrust its way forward, unscathed,
as if 'twere led through a red fiery sea
inside a slender shielding sheath.

As they advance random shooting stutters,
from farther distance fired. Then of a sudden
out of nowhere at my left,
one last yelping onslaught, one final vicious blitz.
What had advanced seeks refuge now
falling back to that bridge,
as if to protecting water.

As with the suddenness of their arrival,
the spirited gray chargers now quit the field,
scampering back up over their hill
to regroup and await the hour
of fiery retribution.

Then a quiet moaning can be heard
over the twitching fields
whilst nightfall settles in..

II

From what vision am I awakening?
These are but fields, hills.
There a church, a bridge.

I must linger here, listen to silence, hear it speak—
of homage, of gratitude, of loss.
Silence hovering over sacred soil,
its canopy spread over rituals once performed here
to form a sanctuary to enshrine that offering,
that atonement, that oblation
for a had-to-be war of our own making.

Forbid all levity here! Bar all distraction!
Ban every cloaked entrepreneur!
Granite, even marble disturb.
There is no enactment, no fitting into frames.

Silence alone befits this hallowed space—
. . . as does the hidden violet
that blooms for you in spring,
for you who left your life here
that dire September seventeen
eighteen hundred and sixty-two.
You, unknown, unsung brothers mine
from Georgia, Connecticut and Carolina.

. . . as does the windhover riding on air
on wingsbeats stalwart and soft
holding perfectly still above the plot where you fell,
a crest of valor, a living marker cross
emblazoned on high,
above you valiant brothers mine
from Maryland and Tennessee and Iowa.

. . . as does the lark climbing aloft
on eager wings as morning dawns
trilling scales of gratitude to you
for daring to die for convictions you held,
contrary, insoluble—that war alone could settle
for those before you, for those who followed,
determined brothers of mine
from Texas, Mississippi and Colorado.

. . . as does that ancient tree on the slope
still standing there on weary feet,
the agéd veteran, presenting arms,
saluting you whom it saw fall,
itself to fall, last of all,
but still rooted and abiding
where you fought and died
unforgotten brothers mine
from New Jersey, Rhode Island and Arkansas.

. . . as does the solitary girl
walking o'er the fields with grace,
her head erect, her feet treading light
on soil moistened with a spirit
soaked into it with blood you shed there.
From it she takes strength to live
despite her loss, her grief her pain.
'twas your gift for her, dear brothers mine
from Wisconsin, Alabama and Maine.

. . . as does the murmuring stream
that winds through these Maryland fields,
that living, pulsing emblem,
that watery banner unfurled,
Holocaust inscribed thereon but Antietam called,
that plaintive name for the deed you rendered:
the cleansing required,
the bloody fusing,
the burnt sacrifice,
consumated by you, cherished brothers mine,
from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia.

III

As I turn now to leave
mighty towers of white clouds rise
mid rumblings of distant thunder off to the west
beyond these silent fields.

On parting the pace quickens.
There is no laming.
Led by a knowing hand to this temple of silence
a fresh awareness of what here was wrought
has been instilled, awakened.
The bravery, honor, courage,
the horror, pain, the dying—
knowledge such as this waxes,
transforms, makes happen.

Farewell, holy fields. Farewell, brothers mine
whom I have found in the stillness
enshrining this hallowed ground.
Found you arisen, alive,
Heard your voices
begging, clamorous, pleading
that what was here begun
be completed, be done:

That finally we become one
in our thinking, our dealings,
in the living of our lives—
that the struggle find end
in the change required
of heart and mind
to make us worthy
of this our country, our land.

Copyright © Charles Cingolani | Year Posted 2017

Long poem by Gerald Dillenbeck | Details

The Flash Mob Application

I'd like to apply for a permit
for a protest march
on the Washington Mall.

Lovely idea.
But, we're only issuing Mall permits
for Song and Dance Events.

I think this might be a violation of my Rights
to Free Speech.

I see it more as a patriotic protection of your health care rights
for Free Song and Dance Improvement
instead.

So we can sing ballads
to Adolf Hitler
and Royal Elitist Head MucketyMucks
of the Only White Lives MightMatter Makes RightWing KKK,
we just can't say them.

That's right.
And you get extra points for at least four-part harmony
and full orchestration,
and professional choreography,
and community participation
regardless of age, gender, race, religion, etc.

Well, that feels a little prejudiced
and elitist.

How so?

What if you can't afford a choreographer,
much less an entire orchestra.

Then your budget narrative will note
your capacity to sing and dance is contingent
on receiving sufficient community volunteers
for your harmonic protest Event.

This Event
begins to resound
with echoes of a Happening.

Only if you are a TransMillennial.

No, I'm a RightWing reaction against anything Trans,
or Poly
or Multi.

Sorry, sir.
TransMillennials are those born prior to 2000
and who remain planning to die
in this current PostMillennial Event.
I'm merely saying
you appear to be older than 17,
which you would need to be
to apply to sponsor a Mall Song and Dance Event.

Well, is there an application fee?

No.
There is, however, a sliding-fee-scale permit fee,
should your application ever have a chance of being successful.
But I have to tell you,
these Washington Mall slots are very competitive,
especially if you want something more than an hour,
and not in the middle of the night.
Then your only real competition
are the other vampire and costume clubs
and the witches covens,
depending on the lunar cycle.
I mean,
you can forget about any FullMoon
or NewMoon
or Equinox
within the next decade.

Wow!
I was just trying to put together
a nice old fashioned good ol' boys
AltRight
armed to the teeth
militia march
while chanting a few really offensive fascist slogans.

Well, funny thing,
it was just that kind of protest march
that led all these churches
and synagogues
and Eastern temples
and even the StoryTellers group from the mosques
sponsoring these FlashMob Events.

When I was checking out the Mall
to see where to put the stage,
suddenly all these people I thought were tourists
and just pedestrians
and all the people in the cars and buses going by,
and the frisbee players,
and even some of the dogs,
all froze in place for a moment,
then began dancing,
then singing that annoying We Shall Overcome gospel anthem,
like I had just walked onto a movie set.
Although no lights and big cameras.

Yes.
Today's Event received extra points
for community participation.
The District of Columbia FlashMob Combined Gospel Choir
joined up with the local street dancers and choreographers,
and the drummers,
of various cultural backgrounds,
and usually books the Mall on weekends for full two day events.
Most of the time
they practice harmonies and choreography,
and encourage people gathering to watch
to join in,
whether they can stay until the final run through of the day,
or not,
when cameras are digitally ubiquitous.
In fact,
often cell phones are part of the dance,
for lights and multiple viewing perspectives on social media sites.

Then they do a final run through about four or five PM,
then everybody goes home
or maybe they'll have a picnic
if the band or orchestra or drummers
can stay into the evening.
They might even have an open stage night
for singers and dancers
and those Creation StoryTellers
from the mosques.

I'm having trouble seeing our RightWing message
in this Song and Dance frame.

There are less competitive venues
but most state capitols
are seeing this same cooperative community response
to these all day multicultural NonFlash Mobbing Events.
It's sort of like America's Got Talent
went RealTime coast to coast
in a capitol, or even a County Seat, near you.

Well, I need a permit for a counter-protest.

You will need to include your song and dance plan
and budget with your application,
and your plan has to be coordinated with any group already issued a permit
for the Mall
on the day
and time
you propose to counter.

Would that look like some kind of large-set talent contest?

It could.
But, when the District Multicultural Choir
and Drummers
and Street Performers
and Orchestra
respond to your challenge,
just know they usually turn out
somewhere up toward two million singers and dancers,
and it would be more
if we had the space and toilets.

Last year they accepted a challenge
from a national supremacist group ironically named
the RightWing Goliaths.
That was a big national media Song and Dance Event
in which the Goliaths moved and sounded...
well...
not very cooperative
seemed to be the national patriotic consensus,
while the District MultiCultural Singers and Dancers
were totally awesome!
In fact,
by the end of the Goliath's first song,
the MultiCulturals were adding in their four-part LaLaLa's
and OoohOoohOooh's,
then the African Drummers joined in
so the RightWing message was out-scaled
into an awkward hiccuping sound
very much in the background,
and I'm being generous.

Anyway, application forms are on-line.
You'll find our cooperative community inclusion guidelines,
budget requirements,
and forms you can use to invite community volunteers to join in.
Family friendly plans also receive extra points
so you might want to leave your firearms
and reckless drivers at home.

This still feels like a violation of my Right
to be a White Supremacist
or even just a somewhat paranoid Hater
and shout about my embarrassingly personal issues in public.

As long as you can sing and dance your message
you are welcome to apply for a Permit.
I'm merely letting you know
we have far more healthy and gifted and grace-filled applications
than space and time already.


Copyright © Gerald Dillenbeck | Year Posted 2017

Long poem by Robert Nehls | Details

PAUL AND SARAH - PART TWO

Conditions were harsh out in Kansas,
For the children and Sarah and Paul.
Neighbors and friends packed up and were gone;
Headed west they could hear fortune's call.
Never sure year to year of the harvest,
So their talents were traded and sold.
Sarah a seamstress, Paul made his knives,
And they spent them like silver and gold.

Fourteen years worth of lessons in Kansas. 
God had always provided their needs.
They trusted in him for direction,
And would willingly go where He leads.
They wanted the best for their children,
Where nature's a little more tame.
Destiney's hand reached out once again.
Opportunity shouted their name.

The Pacific Northwest urged them onward.
Where there's timber and culture and schools.
A talented blacksmith would thrive there.
Sarah had visions of fashions and spools.
They drifted through dreams for their children;
Better teachers and schools, books stacked high,
And a chance to pursue their own future.
Spreading their wings and learning to fly.

To strive and succeed is a blessing.
Fanning flames of creativity.
Possibility coupled with freedom.
Oh, this beautiful land of the free.
For all that have dreams to enlighten,
Where they'll find their true calling and grow.
Expanding on gifts God has given, 
And nothing to stifle the flow.

They sold what they could, packed up the rest,
And were headed out west on the train.
America opened her heart once again,
With her treasures and spirit to gain.
Not sure of the place they would settle.
God would show them the way, this they knew.
Seattle, Tacoma, Portland or where?
Each mile they traveled, hopes and dreams grew.

Mother nature poured out warmth and beauty,
And Oregon welcomed them home.
Overwhelmed with her glory and splendor.
No need to go further or roam.
Bought a place by the city of Portland.
Opportunity seemed to be there.
Some land, a few buildings, a cabin.
God had led them and answered their prayer.

Sarah enrolled the children in school.
They cleaned up the cabin and land.
Traded dresses and knives for things they would need.
And set about doing all they had planned.
Paul hung a big sign outside his shop.
"BLACKSMITH FOR HIRE, KNIVES CUSTOM MADE."
Didn't take long for his skill to known.
Inventor, an artist, they called him, "The Blade."

The loggers and miners would bring broken parts,
And request special tools to be made.
Paul met every challenge with passion and skill,
And a spirit that never would fade.
Each job had a lesson and Paul wrote them down.
And would think about ways to improve,
Hardening, friction, balance and wear,
Then built them to see what a field test would prove.

Neighbors and friends had repairs to be made,
On implements, wagon parts, hinges and tools.
Matthew, Paul's son, would work after school,
And learned that a blacksmith was no trade for fools.
But the fire and anvil, hammer and steel,
Brought a joy he would not be denied.
He made the repairs like a smith twice his age,
While observing his father who worked by his side.

They had to expand to meet the demand.
And they hired a couple more men.
Paul kept creating for customer's needs,
Hired some more and expanded again.
His blades weren't forgotten but set to the side,
Too busy to give them much thought.
His creative talents had never been lost.
He followed the rainbow in search of the pot.

Sarah rented a shop in the city,
Called it the, "Huckleberry Boutique."
Designing clothing beyond the normal;
Made for the boldest and for the meek.
She hired a clerk and three seamstresses.
Was a favorite with women and girls.
Her daughters would wear her creations,
With drapes, pleats, ruffles, flowers and pearls.

Paul raised up the flag every morning.
And the years just went trickling by.
They were grateful for all God had given.
Read from the Bible and didn't know why,
They'd been blessed with so many fortunes.
Their home and family, business and friends.
The children were now off to college.
The circle of life and love never ends.

Mary had hopes of being a writer,
Of people and places, worlds not what they seem.
Martha had worked with her mother for years,
A fashion designer was her greatest dream.
Matthew had learned his father's trade well,
And he wanted to be an engineer.
Invent and design for the loggers and mines.
A fine family business, a noble career.

In time the children were settled in life.
Mary wrote stories and sold quite a few.
"Huckleberry Fashions," was thriving;
Martha now at the helm, the company grew.
And Matthew returned to his father.
Engineering degree, his dues had been paid.
He took over the business and loved it,
And freed up some time for his father, "The Blade."

Paul and Sarah had time on their hands.
And they knew what they wanted to do.
There were poor, unfortunate souls reaching out,
To the churches for shelter and food.
With compassion and love for their neighbors,
They would share God's sweet bounty with them.
And help them to reach their goals and their dreams,
While freeing themselves from poverty's hem.

There were businesses all around Portland,
That would also be happy to share.
The churches united, a great common cause.
There was guidance, training, housing and prayer.
A scholarship fund was created,
And watched over by Sarah and Paul.
Volunteers vowed allegiance and honor.
"SPREAD YOUR WINGS SUPPORT GROUP," stood very tall.

The Board of Directors and all those involved,
Gave their smiles, compassion and heart.
No one expected a salary or wage.
Brushstrokes creating a fine work of art.
A foundation with nothing to gain,
But the blessings that God has to give.
Helping others to reach for abundance.
Then passing it on so others may live.

Paul made his knives when he had some free time.
Gave them as gifts to family and friends.
Sarah designed just for fun now and then,
And followed the industries fashions and trends.
They were thankful for all of God's blessings,
Independence and dear Liberty.
Where all have a chance to make dreams come true.
Oh, this beautiful land of the free.





Copyright © Robert Nehls | Year Posted 2016

Long poem by T Wignesan | Details

Translation of Eric Mottram's Courbet: Elegy 8 by T Wignesan

Translation of Eric Mottram’s Courbet: Elegy 8 by T. Wignesan

Blanches oeuvres ouvertes
résident dans les jours
la surface du banc de travail est noire
les géraniums-lierres
les fougères et les adragans
accumulent leurs oeuvres et jours:
La toile noire de Courbet
un endroit où la lumière
puisse-être enfoncée
avec un couteau
pour créer une crête
cassée figée

la crête s’alourdie:
la nature sans soleil
est aussi sombre et noire:
Je fais comme la lumière -
Illumine les endroits qui projette

en toute connaissance de la tradition
découvrir une raisonnée et indépendante
conscience de ma propre individualité

Je place un vase blanc sur une toile blanche
toutes les difficultés
blanc sur blanc et à la cinquantième fois
Je l’ai eu       regardes l’ombre sur la neige
comme elle est bleue
Je vois trop clairement 
Je dois éteindre mes yeux 

en ce siècle socialiste
les hommes voient sans apercevoir
leurs esprits occupés de commerce
vos mères ne vous cachaient pas 
sous la maison à l’abri des soldats

des cochons essayèrent de dévorer l’art démocratique
il les dévorera
en dépit des renégats des troupeaux déments  

afin que les muscles forcent la colonne vertébrale 
courber l’esprit peinant
glaner des écritures adroites
devant des niveaux de l’horizon

(from A Faithful Private, 1976, includes “Statements by the artist on his work.” This poem became Elegy 30 of ELEGIES, 1981) Pub. in The Journal of Comparative Poletics, Vol. I, n° 1 (Paris), p. 55. Edited by T. Wignesan

Note: In this and successive posts, I shall include extracts from Eric Mottram’s letters to me during 1965-66 when he was the invitee of the American Council of Learned Societies, for his perceptions and comments on the American literary and cultural scene reveal nooks and corners of his own make-up and make for much intelligent perspectivising of the “outre-Atlantic". The fact that some comments refer to our own relationship cannot be helped - I cannot defer to some detractors “outre-Channel". Eric had urged me to publish all our correspondence during his last two visits to Paris, but literary publishing being what it is and has been in the hands of a favoured few, I have no choice but to… 
October 31, 1965:  « Dear Wignesan,
[...12 lines suppressed]  I look forward to your NLR rebuttal but I have to admit I didn’t see the cause: must have missed it among all the other magazines piled up and left behind unread. I think of the empty base [15, Vicarage Gate, London W.8] basement and [sic] few regrets, except that I miss all my friends, students, even you, quite a lot, even though the combination of university people and local writers here is beginning to surge in on me. The main problem is to take it easy. I do not have lectures to give, so that is fine, but leisure is a curious burden at first: the routine has to be worked out again based on learning how to sit in the square in the sun, take in a movie without guilt in the afternoon, or go to an exhibition, or read something not remotely connected with any work in hand. And not to have the near future mapped out ready to move into. Choice is strange when you are not used to it so totally. So I too - and not because of your absence - am beginning to write poems again, weird things but decently done. Perhaps I’m no scholar after all - long suspected, and on good evidence. I am still working on the Negro piece; masses of materials only part of which will go into the TLS article - the rest will be ready for anything further, apart from sheer interest of the thing. My Tribune article attacking American assumed innocences appeared and they liked it. Future thing on Frost in Spectator, etc. etc. But once this is through I’m not going to bother about writing these bits for a while. There’s only one book I feel like recommending you, and that is not yet out in England - Ralph Ellison’s Shadow and Act, a highly literate and penetrating collection of essays by the author of Invisible Man ( you’ve read this novel? Penguin if not - it’s tremendous and no Negro novel has approached it yet, although Leroi Jones’s new The System of Dante’s Hell is interesting in another way. Most of the stuff I’ve been going through has been sociologically fascinating but artistically humdrum to downright bad. Kitschy stuff for the market only. Watch out for Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn (and my broadcast with him) - it is mostly brilliant if entirely disturbing. Calder have asked me to defend it if necessary, since they apparently anticipate a court case. It does deal with violence and brutal sexuality but with a cool analytical sympathy which is new and necessary.
         What else.... Oh yes: a good film called To Die in Madrid, compiled from the newreels[sic] etc. of the Spanish Civil war: the feeling I had of the futility of ideological warfare but its necessity was painful. Members of the audience openly cheered the Franco-RC priests combinations and there were one or two counter cheers but no fight. The film is generally too subduing. And the present context - the NY elections and the anti-war demonstrations too clearly part of a similar process of authoritarian government, backed by an ignorant and brutalized populace.   Incidentally, films here are a superb opportunity - this week, for instance, one nearby cinema is showing in one programme three major Renoir films. Double bills of important films are a commonplace. Slowly I’m catching up on what I have missed.  Have I been living wrongly these past ten years, all bound up in work rut and imaginary self-importance? Certainly, shifting here is perspectivizing.      Write more of you[r] good news. When you have a moment’s pause for breath.
                                                                        Yours,   Eric. »
 
 [ From Department of English, New York University, Washington Square, New York, New York 10003. Letter addressed to 28, Cheniston Gardens, London W. 8 and re-directed to c/o Howard Hotel, Friargate, Derby]
 

Copyright © T Wignesan | Year Posted 2017

Long poem by Gary Bateman | Details

The Pied Piper from New York City - Part One

The Pied Piper from New York City – Part One

Dare his name be said?
I say, of course, Yes! 

The Pied Piper, himself, is the man, the myth, the legend.
And they, the so-called incurious lot of the hoi polloi in
American society, are the ones who accept the:
bluster,
ignorance, 
lies,
rudeness,
and rank buffoonery of this Pied Piper.

They are the ones who blindly choose to follow around this 
Abject Charlatan and Bunco Artist without any question or 
Thought or any civilized degree of true human concern, whilst
HE “pipes” loudly and rudely with an endless supply of hot air, 
And with all due trickery and ferocity, his bombastic true-lies, 
And his merry tunes of deceit, stupidity, and just pure-plain
“Baloney” for those seeking the simplest of answers to the
Significant questions and real problems of the day in our
Society and in the greater world, that cry out for and demand
Intelligent thought, discussion, and consideration of realistic 
Solutions that directly affect people’s lives and their well-being,
And the essential stability of our country and of our allies in
This very complicated world of the twenty-first century.

Ah . . . yes, I wish this were only a dream in the deep-dark center
Of the subjunctive mood of my grammar, but not of my heart, and
My psyche—for it’s truly and unfortunately much more than this,
And it’s much more than one could ever imagine or ever venture
To say that this “Alternative Universe of the Pied Piper” is one
That’s a genuine “Nightmare,” a panoply, replete with:
a few truths,
so many more half-truths,
untruths,
insults,
and endless deceptions!
And even incompetence to boot!
 
But look at this way, it’s just more of the old fantasies just like
The people in the past who received a fake degree from his sham,
Real Estate program at good old “TU” in the Big Apple!  

Ah . . . yes, The Pied Piper is one who always takes great pride in the
Barnum-Fields' popular bon mot: “Never give suckers an even break!” 
He takes this zinger to heart as part of his dubious modus operandi, 
Whilst joyously snickering, and laughing behind the backs of those
Who are gullible enough and have the proclivity to believe anything
They hear him say— just as long as, “it sounds simple and good!”
When I unfortunately hear things like this, I roll my eyes and think . . . 
“Simple is as simple does, and stupid is as stupid does!”

Ah . . . yes, these children of misfortune and those full of anger and
Prejudice—including assorted Hatemongers and merry groups of
White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan, and those so-called
Righteous Apostles of the Alt-Right who now arrogantly march and 
Strut their ridiculous stuff in a true lock-step fashion to the beguiling  
And mesmerizing shrill voice of this supposed modern-day hero! 
This well-known, thin-skinned man with his pair of clay-feet and an
Overblown Reality TV persona is Our New York Flim-Flam Man!

All this, is clearly on display when the Pied Piper reprises his most 
Famous on-the-air gig in the Reality TV World as—The POTUS!
Horribile Dictu! Horribile Dictu! Oh yes, horrible to be told! And
Horrible it is to be told for sure! This is all I can say in response to
This troubling reality for America and for the greater world.
Let us all now pray! Let us all now pray! 

These poor people have no idea at all that they are being played
As fools, suckers, and willing and unwilling victims, duped by
The Pied Piper’s “Big Lie” mantra in the storied tradition of the 
Twentieth-Century by the clever propaganda machinations, that
Are truly reminiscent of past evil luminaries such as: Hitler, Hess,
Goebbels, Goering, Mussolini; and don’t forget the likes also of
Lenin, Stalin, Molotov, Beria, Brezhnev, Andropov, and so on,
All the way today to the likes of Putin, Assad, Duterte, and Maduro.
Just to name a few!

Say it ain’t true . . . Say it’s not possible . . . But it sadly is!
What a motley gallery of rogues and apostles of deception,
And out and out liars and frauds to be associated with!  

All the while the Pied Piper decries and bemoans the supposed
“Fake News,” and the cherished, historical role of the Free Press in
America, as protected, along with the rights of Freedom of Speech,
Religious Worship, and Peaceful Assembly as all are enshrined in the
First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.

All the Pied Piper’s crying and bemoaning are quite telling and nasty
For someone who sang his paeans and voiced his fulsome panegyric
In support of “WikiLeaks,” which took great pride in their role as a 
Conduit for Russian propaganda and fake news, with the obvious goals
Of spreading lies and fomenting trouble in the hope of disrupting the
U.S. Presidential Election and the general electoral process in 2016.

The Pied Piper’s despicable actions in this regard tear at the most sacred
Institutional fabric and foundation of our nation’s grand Union, whilst
Threatening the very heart and soul of our precious democracy, and the

Accepted tenets of:
Good governance,
Tolerance,
Fairness,
Good judgment,
Moral leadership, and
Expected professional conduct.

In this instance, 
His actions and those of his henchmen
Have been and truly are shameful!

The Pied Piper also chooses, at times, to defame and shame those who 
Would dare to disagree with him in both the public forum and in private. 
In exacting his revenge, one of the Pied Piper’s favorite ploys is to wrap
Himself in the patriotic aura of the great American Flag, the famous 
“Stars and Stripes,” which is most sacred to our American history.
This is quite rich for a man who has never served in the military, and 
For one who is certainly not a veteran! He lambasts his opponents in 
This fashion by calling them both “Unpatriotic” and “Un-American.”

***SEE PART TWO FOR CONTINUATION AND CONCLUSION OF POEM***

Gary Bateman, Copyright © All Rights Reserved
September 7, 2017 (Political Verse)

Copyright © Gary Bateman | Year Posted 2017

Long poem by Zachary Alvstad | Details

Xenophobia pt 1

TITLE:
       Xenophobia

Heed the warning
This isn't for the faint of heart
Verbalizing my deepest yearnings 
They're bound to be a bit tart...

Because where I'm from is called the Bible Belt
Where folks in queues to catch the garter belt
Where peoples dreams take constant pelts
And kids psyches be full of welts
From parents saying, "the sky's the limit!"
Then they grow up and only hear about limits...

Get real kid, this is how it's always been
You hear that? That's the worlds smallest violin
I swear sometimes I can feel the world spin
Like, if we don't change now... When?
Used to be paralyzed by the illusion of sin
Poked my comfort zone with a safety pin
Don't let 'em steal your heart like the man of tin
I made it out by the hair of my chin

Growing up, my favorite question was "Why?"
23 years later I can't quit asking "Why?"
Why? Why? Why? Whyyyyy?
Sigh... I just can't turn a blind eye
Imitation is suicide, rather die than comply
Curiosity'll make my brain pop, 1,000 p.s.i.
9,000 miles from home lookin' at the same blue sky,
Thinkin', It's crazy how one decision can change your life

Day to day nothing seems to change
Then looking back nothing seems the same
Where did all the time go?
You really do reap what you sew... 

***********************************************
Maybe I bite off more than I can chew
I'm just trying to broaden my view
I'm just trying to learn something new
In hope of reaching heights visited by few
Yeah, I definitely bite off more than I can chew
But someday I'll reach heights visited by few
So I'll keep musin' 'til I become the Muse 
************************************************

Let me share some thoughts from abroad
I'm currently chillin' in Asia on Cambodian sod
The way the world's been portrayed is 100% facade
The American Dream... Aka the American Fruad
Blindfold your brain, here comes the firing squad

Day by day, I feel my prejudices melt
I can't put a finger on some things I've felt 
But I'll always accept the cards I've been dealt
Cause I'm the dealer...

Hit me.

Only brought one bag, traveling light
Do I own things or do they own me?
Less is more, it's black & white 
That's old wisdom, Linear B
Who's to say what's wrong or right?
I guess in time we'll see...

Don't know if I'm lookin' for somethin'
Or if I'm runnin' from somethin'
Both, Either way the answer's within
I can't lie I miss home now & then
But Ima keep runnin' until who knows when

Been gone nearly 6 months, quite awhile
What's home? I haven't found it yet
Slidin' thru these countries like socks on the tile
Learning so many lessons from people I've met
Like, Did I really choose my lifestyle?
Or, was it chosen from a finite set? 
Single file, line's longer than the Nile
The world's a lot different than on the TV set...

Don't go there, someone might kidnap you
Or kill you, mindset courtesy of the news
Come take a walk in someone else's shoes
And see how the U.S. of A is viewed
I think you might be amused...
The bad guys... Who's who?
Your nationality, did you choose?
Your religion, did you choose?

We all have the same inherent desires 
To be loved, understood and cared for
To have food to eat and some attire 
a roof over our head, that's all that's at the core

Imagine one lives the exact same life as me 
But he was raised without Christianity
He's damned for eternity?
because of our incompetency
to realize & manifest universal equality...?

Other advocates believe their story's infallibly true
Same way you talk about yours 'til your cheeks turn blue
Older generations think we need to get a clue
The irony is, We inherited this world from you
You told us most of what we thought we knew
So don't be mad when we try to start anew
And we challenge everything you said was taboo
Because history seems like never ending déjà vu
Sit back, relax, and forget what you're used to
Because it's our turn to lead the coup
Honing my foresight on when my child will be two
I wanna be someone he'll be able to look up to
I wanna leave a world where he won't just make do
To fit in he won't need a pair of $100 shoes
And instead of war we'll use our words & peruse
You going to wake up or hit snooze?
What's your excuse?
Honestly, what do we have to lose?

***********************************************
Maybe I bite off more than I can chew
I'm just trying to broaden my view
I'm just trying to learn something new
In hope of reaching heights visited by few
Yeah, I definitely bite off more than I can chew
But someday I'll reach heights visited by few
So I'll keep musin' until I become the Muse
************************************************

Times are changing Mom & Dad
Global consciousness shift, this isn't just a fad
Growing up our world was much different than yours
Surf the Internet and check anythings source
We won't sit back and let things take their course
It's simple, you want me to code it in Morse? 

. . . _ _ _ . . . 

Boy, why's your writing gotta be so coarse?
Uhh... Why do half of marriages end in divorce?
It shouldn't be a chore
Neither side thinks their the source
Did you forget about all those scriptures you endorsed?
All those Sunday morning worships you enforced?

What if time was our currency?
and we fostered self-ésteem?
What if it was as easy to be nice
As it is to be mean?
What if the forest was church?
And the universe was our God?
What if our prayers were meditation?
And no one told you who to laud... 

Maybe we aren't content with kneeling to pray
Maybe we want to put our actions into play
Instead of asking "someone" to allay our dismay
Man, These days a lotta things seem like display
Ostentatious piety, I see thru that like an x-ray
Look, I'm just sayin' what y'all are scared to say
Let's stop all the bleeding... Vitamin K
And show love like it's always Valentine's Day...

Copyright © Zachary Alvstad | Year Posted 2015

Long poem by Justin Bordner | Details

Operation Money Jump

Thanksgiving, 1971,
a parachute pilgrim approaches Northwest Flight 305
as Dan Cooper, anonymous businessman,  anarchist airborne, 
black suit, black sunglasses, a black tie
and a black briefcase broaching black motives,
Portland to Seattle, prison or criminal pantheon, 
before he can be inducted into purgatory, or the Valhalla of antiheros
the unknown villain of a quiet cause
got buckled into the last row of the 727
stealth as painless sin
cold bluish clouds smearing the November sky during ascent
as though flying through the palette of a sad Cezanne
while low volume, buttery jazz tinkered on the plane's airwaves,
as the Stewardess handed him his bourbon soda
Mr. Cooper placed a neat note in her hand with polite moxie,
she took it with salted style, uninterested in a comeon,
moments later, struting to the rear with applepie aplomb
the quaint stranger, sunglasses removed, needed her to heel,
to him she came, ready to reject his appeal,
however, there would be no ripe rejection on this special day,
her eyes of professional pity were met with his slow burning stare
as he informed her with untroubled insistence
that he had a bomb, and that she needed to read the note
without visible alarm,
reading the demands made her feel excited
she instantly felt sweat in so many places,
she knew she'd give no resistance, 
she wanted to cooperate,  for everyone's safety, 
briefly speaking with another Stewardess
she entered the dark cockpit,  danger in her hands,
there was going to be no argument
the stipulations were going to be satisfied
in exchange for safe landing and undamaged life,
returning to this man she'd never understand
who had the power to spontaneously change lives, she sat by him,
the plush red seats made her feel so warm
while sitting next to his insanely calm authority, 
it seemed as though he owned them all
the passengers, the crew, and aircraft,
the skyjacker opened his briefcase as if it's contents were sacred
showing her the parts of his lunatic design
then quickly, carefully, closing the shock box,
his eyes went back to the window
the view giving him vignettes of what he knew as Vietnam, 
the mountains and divided greens, the mischievous mists,
she asked him, "Do you have a grudge against Northwest?",
to which Mr. Cooper replied with wry correction, 
"I don't have a grudge against your airline Miss,
I just have a grudge. "
Upon landing in Seattle at 5:PM
the innocent and uninformed travelers exited the plane
onto the slick tarmac, untarnished and untraumatized,
oblivious to the epic history that was being fuelled in part
from their supporting roles on this Thanksgiving flight,
the F.B.I. and airline owners were playing nice
like cats whom wanted the amusement and the ambush,
Cooper was given four, nonmilitary parachutes as requested, 
and $200,000 in twenty dollar bills
unmarked, random serial numbers, also as requested, 
although, to help make sure that the "House" would win
all the money came from the Reserve Bank of San Francisco
with every bill number begining with "L" , and issued in 1969,
a little trick for the devil himself,
less than two hours had elapsed since takeoff from Portland
yet the hijacker was well on his way to meeting his ultimate objective,
each of his goals fitting together with precision
like watch parts keeping time of a fragile freedom,
after receiving the 21 pounds of illicit cash
giddy with blushing banditry,
intoxicated by the scent of fresh money harvest
Cooper did a jumpy Irish jig
out of view of snipers and cameramen, 
nightfall was dimming the stage
as the abyance of audacity amplified everyone's anxiety
including Cooper, who for the first time
exhibited a snakey irritation
during the ponderous refuelling of the jet,
he could taste the escape,
only he and the flight crew remained aboard,
at 7:36 PM the plane was lifting into a lawless legend
and the law was left clueless on the land,
heading to Reno so to refuel for Mexico
taking the final puff of his last cigarette
like a fugitive at peace with fate
he told the Stewardess that she was sweet
and that it was time for her to go,
to go up front to the pilots and close the door,
a thousand fantasies flew through her mind,
she felt attached to him
as though he were a nightmare that she needed,
turning around to see him again
to see that face which witnessed her heart change
while securing the parachute to himself
his eyes spoke to her's with excited fear,
and then waved her goodbye as she closed the door,
shortly afterwards he instructed the pilots
through the intercom to maintain at 10, 000 feet,
release the cabin pressure,
adjust the wing flaps to 15 degrees
and to fly no faster than 200 MPH,
he left the black tie with Mother of Pearl tie pin
on the seat of his former self
and then proceeded to the plane's rear stairway
as a paratrooper prepared to meet perdition, 
the weight of his crime tight against his body,
in the cockpit
where speculation was spinning on their nerves
the pilots saw the red glow of emergency
from the panelboard indicating stairway open,
as D.B. Cooper stood braced to the lowered stairs
freezing wind icing his mouth and eyes
he thought about how his Uncle
15 years earlier inspired his curiosity for skydiving
and how the U.S. Military should be proud of his proficiency, 
he recognized the Lewis River through a cloud break
and then hurled himself like a hawk
into the dropzone of America's elite outlaws -

J.A.B.

This poem is based on the true story of "D.B. Cooper",
whom has never been caught for the 1971 skyjacking.
He escaped with $200,000. Other than $5,800 being discovered
along the Columbia River by a family camping in 1980
the F.B.I. has found no more of the money, nor his body,
parachute, clothing, etcetera. 
In 2016 the F.B.I. finally closed the investigation
on "Dan Cooper"...Justin A. Bordner

Copyright © Justin Bordner | Year Posted 2016

Long poem by T Wignesan | Details

Translation of Eric Mottram's 28th Legal: Letter Jan 2, 1966 by T Wignesan

Eric Mottram on the American literary and cultural scene during 1965-66 while he was the recipient of the American Learned Societies’ award for a year. (begun in the last post and to be continued)

January 2, 1966: Dear Wignesan,
        
 [...9 lines suppressed] One thing I can I’m afraid say for certain: it is highly unlikely that Laughlin will do Bunga Emas [An Anthology of Contemporary Malaysian Literature: 1930-1963]: he is blocked with reproducing his past books which turn out to be so excellently judged that reprints are needed. Can I see the Soyinka review? (Much as I hate Peace News’s guts at the moment): contrary to your thought, Tom McGrath did not send a copy, the b---d. He has not replied to my letters either and is hanging on to my Burroughs article when I want it back to try to find a home for it over here.  [...4 lines omitted] As for your comment on my own pitiful lack of confidence and hubris, you are not the first to say that, and someone over here said exactly the same thing last week. With which I am tired. But I do see that I am in danger of being left far behind by activating loafers.   Your choice of politics or university is so enviable I could weep. It’s probably that my birthday, just ‘celebrated’ makes life hateful. I must make decisions I can’t make about my future career. If only it were as easy as just accepting the jobs offered here. What happens is I don’t think about it and go on writing, thinkong[sic], reading, talking to people. The reception of my TLS piece was decent here - even among Negro writers who saw it. Which is a test. The response to the Stand piece on Williams has yet to come although Roy Fisher wrote me nicely about it. Now I have just finished another marathon on Arthur Miller for next year’s Stratford Theatre Studies. No more commissions now so I must get on with my books. Only a jazz piece to do, but it’s nearly done.   You seem to think I lecture etc here - not at all: my fellowship strictly says no lectures except one-shot occasions. So I turn down offers, although I am doing a summer course at Buffalo in July, when my grant technically ends: it’s a very lucrative affair and should be interesting working with postgraduates on American nineteenth century writers. I did one lecture recently on Auden as Ang[l]o-American poet for NYU. Mostly I listen to others, which is good for me. Already a third of my visit gone and I have to book my cabin home this week! Good old tempus. But at least the reading for the Negro article - masses of it which did not go into the final thing - will come in useful. I’ve just read Stepanchev’s American Poetry Since 1945 and it is one of the worst books of criticism I have every[sic]  read; fortunately it is short or I wouldn’t have bothered to finish it. It claims to be a survey and treats the poets like bits of literary history - and even then has nothing on Koch, O’Hara etc and their crowd (a little and useless on John Ashbery), nothing on McClure, Snyder, Ferlinghetti or Corso or Whalen, and inadequate on Duncan. And Ginsberg treated simply as a ‘popular poet’ who sells well for inexplicable reasons.  You’d never guess from this book that the poetry scene is rich and wildly varied: I have been to a number of good readings by a variety of poets and the younger men still come on, as Sandburg might say. The avant-garde theatre too: last night I saw a production of Gertrude Stein’s Play I Play II Play III and Ruth Krauss’s A Beautiful Day - at Judson ‘Poets’ Theatre: both were brilliantly done, with a flair and a certain vigour which I liked very much. The Columbia Contemporary Music Group puts on programmes which would make the Third blush for shameful conservatism and the experimental cinema has two regular theatres for its stuff, much of which is admittedly pretty awful but some of which is really new and realized: mostly in the field of combining film with stage and happening ideas. The new Tulane Drama Review will give you an idea. In painting and sculpture, the pop, op and abstract expressionists and hard edgers are still pouring stuff out. Recently, at the Jewish Museum, they had a show of  Tinguely’s mobile sculptures, and Kenneth Koch put on a play which used them - actors in the production included the painters Jane Freilicher, Larry Rivers, Joe Brainard etc. and the writers John Ashbery and Arnold Weinstein. I was lucky enough to get a seat - the performance was oversold many times.   So while establishment poetry, theatre, etc. is as businessman-bound as ever it was here, the new thrives as nowhere else. The trouble is that politically America is imperialistically nineteenth century and socially it lives in the past era of charity. As for the integration of Negros - what a joke! Nothing substantial really has happened at all. And yet jazz is greater than ever: the new names - Shepp, Ayler, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders - are unknown in England but soon will be. I heard Mingus the other night and it was just pitiful repetitions of old successes - he seems temporarily to have lost the gift. But at the New School they had the New York Art Quartet in a programme of advanced jazz (tiny audience) which was superb. Incidentally, you would be interested in the Free University over here, set up to counterattack the other universities as a Marxist and progressive evening affair, with lectures on subjects the universities don’t make available. There seems to be a strong case for such a thing in London. For instance, who gives a course there on Marxism and Existentialism - and after all it is here that the crucial enabling beliefs and actions lie, it seems to me too.
              Well, enough.    Best wishes for everything.  Yours sincerely,    Eric »
 
[From Dept. of English, New York University.Letter addressed to 28, Cheniston Gardens, London W.8 and re-directed to 33, Mimosa Street, London S.W.6]
 
(c) T. Wignesan - Paris, 1990/2017

Copyright © T Wignesan | Year Posted 2017

Long poem by Donal Mahoney | Details

America Wasn't So Bad Back Then

We have something in common, a fellow I talk to now and then. We’re about the same age and perhaps the only ones in the diner who think our past lives are interesting. So when the two of us shoot the bunk over coffee, it’s amazing that two men who sometimes can’t remember much about yesterday remember a lot about the past. But the past sometimes shines a light on the present and the lives we lead today. 

It’s no secret there’s a movement on by some to make America “great" again. My friend said when he was young, America, despite its problems, was not so bad. And despite its problems today, it’s still not so bad. Witness all the people who want to come here, he said. Who can blame them?

I told him I never thought about America being great until the recent election. I simply thought America was the only country in which I would want to live, both as a young man looking for work and as someone now retired because of the opportunity I found in America. 

There were problems along the way, at least three of them quite memorable, all of my own making. But no need to go into those. I think what my friend Duane had to say is more interesting. 

He still gets letters and notes from old high school classmates, class of ‘64. Some of them even use a computer and know how to send emails. He’s been their friend for 67 of his 71 years. Any note, letter or email, he said, makes life in a wheelchair easier. 

One of his first high school memories happened during the Korean War--collecting metal and bringing it to school. Mrs. Lydia Rayburn (all names changed to protect the innocent and guilty) would take the metal to Herman Ladd's junkyard and sell it. She’d use the money to buy gifts for wounded soldiers and their families. She herself was a war widow from World War II. 

It was a great day, Duane said, when the Korean War ended. And it was a war, he reminded me, not a conflict. I couldn't disagree but my war memories preceded his. I was in grammar school during WWII, too young to be drafted for Korea. I was one of the lucky ones as was my friend also too young for Korea. 

Duane remembered everyone in his school getting under their desks during nuclear drills....as if being under a desk would keep them safe from radiation. 

And he remembered being in Mr. Claybourn's class when Sputnik was launched and being in Mr. Taylor's class when Alan Shepherd took his flight. Everyone in class cheered when the trip went well. 

He recalled vividly a striking young president who stood bareheaded and read a speech that called the nation to greatness. It was a far different time than now and the call to greatness meant something different, Duane said, than what we hear today. The call seemed noble then, he said. We agreed that whatever the call to greatness is today the word noble doesn’t seem to fit. 

The civil rights struggle came to Duane's small hometown when his high school was integrated in the fall of 1962. He told me proudly there was not one fight, not one walkout, not one act of civil disobedience ruining that transition. In fact, he and his classmates learned something about dignity and patience from their Black classmates although no one mentioned it at the time. 

I was able to relate to that because in 1953 I was a sophomore in Chicago high school called to assembly a day before the semester started. It had been an all-white boys school and the principal told us there would be three Black freshmen joining us the next day. There were no gasps, not even when the principal issued a warning I will never forget. 

“Bother them,” he said, “and expulsion is immediate.” 

No one bothered those three young men who broke the color barrier in 1953 and the school today is thoroughly integrated and thriving. Most graduates move on to college and do well in life as the alumni newsletters attest. 

In high school the Cuban Missile Crisis also bothered Duane. His fellow students were upset, and many folks in his town thought the End of the World was near. There was a sigh of relief when the Russians backed down and removed their missiles from Cuba.   

But most of all, Duane was shaken by the death of that young president, John F. Kennedy, who had called the nation to greatness in his inauguration speech. 

Another student, Annabelle Jones, was in a car with her boyfriend the day President Kennedy was shot. It was after the lunch break when she told Duane President Kennedy was dead. 

Duane and his classmates were broken, for want of a better word, as was the nation. He doesn't remember Americans ever being as optimistic again. 

I told him his experience after the assassination was the same as mine in Chicago. I agreed as well that Americans alive at that time and still alive today have never been the same. Their lack of optimism may have trickled down to the generations that followed. Hard to tell. 

Duane said that despite the assassination, his graduation day was wonderful. The sad thing is he has never seen some of his classmates again. He cherishes the ones he does hear from, the ones who come to reunions, and the ones who visit him now and then. All the years roll away in spite of the wrinkles and infirmities. 

At every reunion they’re kids again talking as fast as they did back in high school. They’re still afraid that if they don't say it, it won't get said.  

He and his classmates turned out to be who they are because of who they were in that small school. Their teachers and their parents made certain of that. 

For many in his generation and mine, that seems to be true. We both wish we knew a way to pass the formula forward to the students of today. They are the ones who will have the most to say about how great America is in the future, far more, Duane and I agreed, than those doing all the talking about it today. 


Donal Mahoney

Copyright © Donal Mahoney | Year Posted 2017

Long Poems