JANUARY 20, 2021

There was a time when I had a song to sing
When verse and music rang with order and rhythm in writing and play
And now all I know is disorder, dismay, this loser presidential insurrection thing
Or whatever is the loser presidential crisis of the day

This military presence surrounding the Mall and people’s house
Where Carol and I strolled summoned by all those loser presidential lies
His drunk lemming loser acolytes genuflecting this louse
Off the cliff of reason, sunk deep in unsubstantiated mires where truth dies

And I write a song.  A good performance song on a platform upstaged
By a raucous tragicomedy loser presidential reality gong show
And piano tones I play ring hollow in an echo chamber enraged—
The riot’s cacophonic muse strings discord, a noose played by insurrectionist bow

I play the blues but hear only angry death metal
Melodic changes gift joys deliciously—those same joys seditiously supplanted
And an hour of peace with keyboard tones that ring gentle
In my heartfelt art is all that I ever want and wanted

THE SALLY HEMINGS CONTROVERSY

Seems everyone was talking about Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson
When I arrived as a doctoral student in 1986 at Thomas Jefferson’s

University of Virginia

White Virginians could not abide the meaning if Thomas Jefferson
Had engaged in sexual relations with an African-American woman

Miscegenation horror

White Virginians could not abide the thought that living African-Americans’
Great-great grandfather is—Lordy!—the Founding Father Thomas Jefferson

Horror

Enslaved, Sally Hemings was incapable of consenting to Thomas Jefferson
Ordinarily, American law has language for sexual relations without consent

Monticello horror

I bristled when I heard our Monticello tour guide refer to enslaved persons,
The enslaved persons Jefferson owned, as “servants.”  Yet, I said nothing.

Expensive property

Our tour guide said further that owners treated their enslaved persons well
In order to protect their investment and to get a good return from their property

Country clubs

My African-American department head was barred from Virginia country clubs
Yet held two endowed chairs at the University of Virginia, he was that important

Historic restaurant

I gave my girlfriend a ring in the most expensive restaurant in Charlottesville
All the servers were African-American, liveried, standing backs against the wall

Waiting

I returned to Monticello in 2014, now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Language developments revised the experience of Monticello in a tour entitled

Slavery at Monticello

A Y-chromosome proved Jefferson’s paternity of Sally Hemings’ descendants
I don’t know if Virginians still talk about this, having relocated upon graduation

DNA evidence

I watched the Charlottesville Unite the Right riot with swastikas, KKK, volknuts 
Confederate flags and a white supremacist drove his car into the mob and killed

Heather Heyer

NEWSCASTERS VERSUS TRUMP’S MONKEY BOYS

I saw one of Trump’s monkey boys sit at the Presiding Officer’s Desk
in the US Senate Chamber
Another Trump monkey boy hung from a wall by one arm just like a monkey
in the US Senate Chamber
A Trump monkey boy stood in front of the chair of the Speaker of the House
in the US House Chamber

Desecration

What is desecration—de-consecration?  What is desecration in a time and age
An age that holds nothing sacred?

Sacred

Indifference

Trump’s monkey boys riot and think it a good time, indifferent
in drunk anarchic party orgy

Dignity

In affront to the dignity all around them
in drunk anarchic party orgy

Contempt

Contemptuous of law, due process
drunk in anarchic party orgy

Respect

Knowing no respect for the symbol the Capitol Building is
in drunk anarchic party orgy

Disgrace

Disgracing the suggestion of a temple the Capitol Building is
in drunk anarchic party orgy

Honor

Honoring no one, nothing
in drunk anarchic party orgy

And the TV newscasters said that they were embarrassed
Look—you’re embarrassed when you walk around with your zipper down—

Embarrassed?

And they worried about what the rest of the world would think
As if to worry what others think ever mattered
Treasonous rabble bursts the oldest living democratic republic
The coup led by a president who craves power as coups will
“What kind of message does it send to the rest of the world,” the journalists ask.
Marvin Gaye asked long ago the persistent question, “What’s going on?”
Liberty stands in New York Harbor and her torch beats in every American heart
Anarchy’s fangs salivate at the edges of liberty, slinking for a chance

C’EST LA VIE IN THE METAL BAR

I’d had enough of the Metal from the digital jukebox
Late at night, in the mostly empty bar
I walked over and put on Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s C’est la Vie
Lush, strings and flute trills, accordion, ringing picked acoustic guitar steel strings
Overwhelming choral background harmonies swell amid Greg Lake’s
Melodic clear voice and echoed cavernous in the bar and the waitress’ incredulity
Of kick-drum rolls thunder, growl and hollering stomp stark jarred shock
C’est la Vie’s lyrical echo labeled me through the subsequent months
Until COVID shut us down and there was no more bar or incredulous waitress
Funny, that the song bored me in the Detroit arena when I first heard it at 18
While Keith Emerson strolled in front of a set depicting lamplit French streets
Playing an accordion to a restless, chattering crowd, my last year of high school
And they got away with C’est la Vie and the Motor City packed Cobo Hall—
Home of Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper—in fact, had the crowd on their feet,
And a Billboard article called them Heavy Metal with Keith Emerson’s orchestral
Piano Concerto no. 1 on the vinyl album featuring C’est la Vie and Aaron Copeland.
I don’t know how they got away with it.  I couldn’t get away with it that evening
But there was Yes, then, and Ian Anderson invented rock flute and Death Metal
Hadn’t arrived yet like in the incredulous bar I played echoing C’est la Vie
Keith Emerson had enough of us that concert and played Nutrocker twice in a row
—A rocked-out version he didn’t write of Tchaikovsky’s March of the Toy Soldiers
“Did you like it?”  Keith taunted, “Would you like to hear it again?”
And played it again note for note and the crowd cheered a second time
I wondered if a girl in my high school named Marca liked Emerson, Lake & Palmer
I asked her and she said, “I like Nutrocker.”   Despite those packed concert arenas,
Keith Emerson never got the validation from Aaron Copeland that he wanted

VIVALDI’S FOUR SEASONS IN 1974

It’s not like I’ve seen it all before
When I was 20, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was all the rage and it was 1974
That was when I first discovered it and bought a vinyl album
I was discovering it all and everything was new to me
I was carrying it out of my suitcase, which would have warped it
In the Detroit Greyhound Station and was talking with a girl, a music student
On her way to Oberlin College in Ohio and a young black man came up,
He sang some notes, and asked, “Is that how The Four Seasons goes?”
Everything was all new to me, like how different Toledo, Ohio is from
Livonia, Michigan, I thought, gazing absently around in the cavernous
Toledo Amtrak Station, the winter wind moaning though cracks in the doors
As I waited to ride the train’s sway and rhythmic clacks across America
East to Boston, also different from Livonia and the family I grew up in,
Discovering the big city.  I’ve heard The Four Seasons in three movies.
In my mid-40’s, I discovered the Heiliger Dankgesang an die Gottheit
In Beethoven’s A-Minor String Quartet, which I also heard in a movie.
Way back I’d asked Jimmy, a jazz sax player, about Beethoven’s string quartets
When I didn’t know much about things, and was hungry to discover it all
And was figuring things out.  Jimmy and I disagreed about Mozart;
He said Mozart was a real entertainer, but to me Mozart was all tights,
Powdered wigs, silk slippers, gilt palaces and effeminate, effete nobles
I’ve since discovered Mozart’s startling harmonies and I’m with Jimmy, now
And bought a Compact Disk Recording box set of Mozart’s “Hayden Quartets”
And heard the orchestra play the Hayden Quartets at the exec’s party in Die Hard
Or was it The Four Seasons, or both—I haven’t seen Die Hard again for a while
In Thor, the orchestra played The Four Seasons at that Embassy ball Loki crashed
I wonder why no one else has noticed that John Williams’ Superman music sounds
Exactly like Strauss’ Tod und Verklärung or Bernstein’s “There’s a Time for Us”
In West Side Story is the Adagio movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 5
Which they both studied either in conservatories or in later professional life
My eyes welled up with tears which I blinked away in the public concert hall
That evening I heard the whole Messiah for the first time and I didn’t know why
Everybody stood up when the choir sang The Halleluiah Chorus to conclude
Part II of the whole Oratorio, not just the soundtrack to so many commercials
It’s not like I’ve seen it all before.  I poke around in Auden and Stevens, authors
I don’t know, and play The Rolling Stones on my keyboard and learn about rock,
Entertain myself with Thomas Wolfe and even Shakespeare, sometimes, and
Not really watch TV.  It isn’t that I keep learning, nor like I’ve seen it all before. 
More a matter of why it doesn’t feel like everything is new to me

BRONTOSAURUS HEAD

The head of the Brontosaurus erupted in debate spewing money
Sufficient to make some paleontologists’ living for a generation
Disputes between Diplodocus and Apatosaurus founded careers
Like echoing museums and marble floors endowed at great expense
By Foundation money dug up from trusts held of bones in marble mausoleums
Bequeathing Jurassic skeletons cast in plaster (priceless petrified bones coffered)
Camarasaurs and Albertasaurs petrified along with zooplankton and algae’s
Fossilized extract fueling the Canadian economy in that same province holding
The Tyrrell Museum’s complete Tyrannosaurus skeleton with its detached head
Heavy as unintelligible words detached from syntax and evacuated of the themes
Wallace Stevens faulted Robert Frost’s poetry for—poetry made neither a living—
Who spilled words on paper like colors on an abstract painting’s canvass evacuated
Of recognizable content, more art history than paleontology, also palaeontology—
Unrecognized by spellcheck as an extinct word dug up and displayed in a muse

A DIALOGUE OF UNITED STATES HISTORY

I told the French tourist I met in a bar that he had it all wrong
He said that the United States was founded by criminals kicked out of Europe
Later, I read about forced labor in Virginia imposed on British criminals
Deported British criminals condemned to indentured servitude in the United States
Who bought land and settled upon serving out their sentence

I told the French tourist that it was Pilgrims seeking freedom in the New World
He didn’t know that America was a Protestant colony
That began in the east and conquered the west
Despite all those Spanish Catholic city names already in the west when they got there
The settled land, missions, and mansions confiscated upon their arrival

Colonists defined the Indigenous Peoples in categories deported from European philosophy,
The Pilgrims’ descendants wrote peace contracts with fraudulent intent
Breach of contract, broken word, and the deported First Nations are defined as criminals
Forts, armies fighting to keep the broken peace treaties on the warpath
And yet each year we fondle the Thanksgiving story about Pilgrims and benevolent Indians

British Protestants founded the new colonies in the name of African blood
And enslaved African human beings laid the bricks of Jefferson’s Monticello
Who, in turn, wrote them out of his Declaration of Independence
While European criminals stole, sold, bought human lives and established these United States:
Conceived in slavery and dedicated to the proposition of disparity: of, by, and for criminals

PLOUGHMEN DIG NOT FOR ME

Businessmen do not drink my wine
The man in the suit has not bought a new car
From any profit he made off my dreams
Though dreams I have, have dreamed, dream

I’ve imbibed conventional wisdom’s grasp on the vitality of dreams
That dreams make a life out of otherwise existence
Aethereal dreams awaken into materiality, matter’s reality;–all real
Nobody can doubt the reality of a dream and live

One doesn’t dream in terms written by dollars and status
Defined in the lexicon legislated by ledger books
Businessmen withdraw from intangibles that weigh golden hopes
Dream reality resists materialism and yet materializes

Whole symphonies deconstruct as ones and zeros in a cloud somewhere
And Bach’s C-Moll Passacaglia is pulses of air
But digital scans and air differentials don’t explain to ears
The mystery that is a melody—even if construed through standing wave proportions

Sometimes my pen dreams in ink dots materializing on a musical staff
The keys on my piano reverberate beats my heart feels
Manifesting the immaterial into the physical world
While air waves question what they, themselves, are doing

At other times, words grow out of my consciousness
Planted in ink and tree pulp tending to a poem’s making
My pen glides across the blank, white sheet in dark lines
To become a dream of some distant reader in my mind: a virtual reality

Nobody pays me for my dreams.  No.
I grunt and sweat under a heavy timeclock on my back
No ploughman digs earth for me
I’ve dug my own footings on which the whole world is built for me

My grandmother told me I wasn’t very good at making money
When I was an impoverished grad student
Even now, I don’t make much money, nor have creditable prospects
Yet I’m good at making, dreaming, making dreams live

Making for me is as making money for businessmen
I’m good at living without much money, without much interest in making money
Dreams pay me more than dollars, when I have money
I lack really for nothing but dreams fulfill

THE MYSTICISM OF US

It’s a strange mysticism, about you
Sometimes it’s like you’re not another person
We’re so close, I’m you and you’re me, too
One current into which two streams run

There was a time before you, which was no time
Time began the time of our lives blending
The ordinary world became sublime
And moments, days, and years have no ending

That space in which the clock’s hands cease to move
Is when I’m with you; then time is our own
And we make heaven of our faith and love
In a kingdom bounded by our union

I got by before you, you before me
But time was meaningless; moments absent
Looking back, I see my life as empty
Successes seemed so unimportant

All that changed when you dawned like the sun
On the darkest morning of the year
And our two lives intertwined into one
Each in each other makes our heaven here

WINTER INDOORS

Outside, the snow witnesses the cold
Early on the clock, darkness falls
This, the Solstice, the year’s darkest day
When we anticipate the coming of Light

The light of a small candle flame
Set before a Sarasvati statuette, Goddess
For students, musicians, poets; for me
In my indoors, today, I contemplate poetry

Made not of special poetic language only
Or a language obfuscated out of meaning
Rather, rhetoric coalesced around meaning
Truth in perfect words

Musings shining in my small Christmas tree’s lights
Every cloth gnome, owl, snowman, and mouse on it a gift
A cup of tea on the end-table next me
A pad of paper, my favorite pen, and ink on the page

Settling into a season I’m reluctant to accept
Seeing it coming in the early autumn sunset
On an outdoor patio of a favorite coffee shop
Thinking, then, about the candle, cup of tea, Christmas lights

Just as well, I don’t have any money
And COVID has closed most businesses
Locked us down, mandated us homebound
I take refreshment in the piercing candle flame

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