Tag Archives: interpretation

America is Still: an erasure exercise

America, as Whitman wrote,
is fading low;
her heartbeat, a sour note.
Her voice blows sadness,
and one can hear her weep.
Her voice
resonates inside the bones,
reminding of truth,
your own.
Her war machines
songs of might.
Her technologies
keep hope alive
of should or could.

Across the age
times are lean,
echo songs that
America still sings,
sadly led astray by fools
who sing as others do.
America, they cry,
’tis treason to
keep this deadly pace;
grey and die.

And a dirge
echoes in the
as hope sickens and
tune is fading.

The lifeforce beats strong
out in the wild;
but urban adult and child
recognize the rhythm is wrong.
The arteries swell
the weary head;
circulation is
sent off-course.
While doctors
sing of operations yet untried,
freedom varies;
avoiding blame,
they sew prejudice inside,
and her heartbeat is slow.

Who are the great?
What works?
The grand and strange,
is the rage.

Her story must be
in jokes
to be
the common folk,
America’s juke-box
hit parade, unsung,
memorized by rote;
her Music faded,
the piano
a frequent sour note
and her song of hope,
a new way
will join the fray,
and fight for dignity
but her
vulgar selfish lot
enter the ring
to entertain
yet she cheers,
hoping their valor will prevail,
the cause will win.

America sings a
song of travail;
Her voice shouting in the wind.
Out in the night
turn this great gold
and reap nature’s plight.
This diversity of
pay the cost.
She sings for
for the forlorn,
crying out in pain,
that still defy
the song that sells the future.
Where triumphs and ideals
spurned a nation to believe,
to grieve –
and turn the wheel.

With funeral songs
she celebrates
memory gone wrong,
the dregs of misery.
Those who listen
with deaf ears –
faces in the rain,
are called deranged,
and must abandon careers;
there is a sadness.

She cries out for the
sculptor and newsboy;
they pursue another dream,
and silence is the song.
In that chasm her dreams
heed and follow
in shadows,
with strength to give.
Before the dawn, some fools
grasp at them before
drink the mead that fills,
in spite of
others’ dreams, cheaply made
now and again.

26 APR 2013

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was creating an erasure, in essence a rewrite of a longer poem by eliminating words or even whole sentences from the original resulting in a new and potentially drastically different poem, in both form and meaning. While this kind of exercise is often done using a “famous” long poem, like “Howl” or “The Raven”, “Evangeline” or “Paradise Lost”, I decided to apply this idea to one of my own longer poems, an envelope sonnet inspired by Whitman and intended as a song of hope. The original can be found here: America is Still Singing: an envelope sonnet. The result, I think, is not so hopeful and slightly more dire in its outlook. Maybe.

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The hands that write these words tell lies

The hands that write these words tell lies;
their range of symbols does not jibe
with the instructions they receive
and must translate from eye and ear
through circuits fixed through years of use
to see and hear in certain ways.

When Henry Miller said the thought
that finds the paper is transformed
from its first impulse, pure and strong,
into mere shadow of itself
he was not wrong; and yet, not all
of thought’s initial pulse is lost.

Its shape is change and often blurred,
the leading edge may lose its keen;
a rock may evolve to a bird, almost,
or mutate somewhere in between.

The hands that write these words tell lies;
they cannot speak so clear and plain
without a whisper of complaint
against the mind that bids them work.

Perhaps they think to self-preserve,
in fear that should they speak the truth.
The frequencies they might proscribe
could be those suited to destroy
the mechanism’s source itself;
what good a printed manual then,
with no mechanic, or machine?

28 May 2005

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Two Poets Lament, Part I

for W.B. Yeats

Some silken strains of angst-encrusted verse
or mystic message wrapped in words to woo
designed to part the patron from their purse,
or charm one’s snakes…what can these small things do?

An audience that can be misdirected
by such a simple ruse, where is their strength
and will to fight against being neglected,
their pleasures sought but found beyond arm’s length,

kept quiet in their apathetic lives
with promises of wealth in thirty days
empowered by not thoughts, but things and dreams
of avarice beyond the arts of gods to grant?

What good is such a crowd in praise of art?
Their graces can be bought at no large price
and the default rate on their loans is high,
conditions changed by fickle tides of whim.

And other poets, what use will they serve?
Since Hemingway, the writer’s world is filled
by just observing without much discourse
immersed in life’s most raucous noise and swill

to find escape from the plane of the mind,
absorbing and reporting vibrantly
the commonness in everything you find
without exploring or a need to see

the symbolism in a glass of beer
or archetype in the mad dancing crowd –
a study for some lost cerebral mind,
now deafened, needing life both large and loud.

There is no solidarity among
these artists; they lead strange and lonely lives,
each wrapped inside themselves and their own song,
producing reams of work that won’t survive

beyond even their next insipid phase.
and past their lifetimes? But then, no one cares;
the history of this time lasts just days –
a photograph, and not a flight of stairs.

And patriotic or dissenting lines
(it doesn’t matter much which one you choose)
may strike a chord or seem to redefine
the culture where you’ve chanced to pay your dues,

but really, what are these few sparks
against the bonfire of bombarding news
that daily forces all who live to choose
and blurs the lines between the light and dark?

What source do you imagine could resist
the Siren’s song of culture, breathing low
and whispering false promise of a kiss
to ease a mind engrossed with need to know.

In which new forum do you think your words
against the bread and circus, could succeed,
when books are used to line cages for birds
and seldomly for any other need?

The days for words are dead; they are no more.
Against these odds, you write and think to change
more than the channel, opening the door
to revolution of the soul. Deranged,

that’s what you are to dream of goals like these.
A job, some mindless task, that’s what you lack;
some visions are not blessings, but disease,
whose quest to is to consume and not give back.

06 MAY 2004

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Thirteen O’Clock (and All’s Well)

Thirteen o’clock and all the world is well;
beyond the reach of the tempest makers,
where thought and reason still may sway the mind
and the conscience of a nation feeds not
on unfounded rumors of threat and fear,
but seeks for truth behind innuendo
and shadow agendas for armed conflict,
recognizing that in the doublespeak
asserting the need to take firm action,
to rail against an unseen enemy
is but a diversion to cloak from view
the clandestine interests of the few,
so that they may be pursued without pause
and bankrupt the soul of a proud country.

16 FEB 2003

Ok, so maybe it’s a VERY strange question…but does anyone but me think that a re-interpretation of George Orwell’s 1984, as a play written in entirely in iambic pentameter (much like Shakespeare’s retelling of the Tragedie of Hamlett King of Demarke) sounds REALLY cool? Any thoughts?

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