Tag Archives: mimicry

The Mockingbird

I have heard the mockingbird’s own personal song:
late at night when other fowl have found their nests,
the tune comes sweet and low, passed like a hot plate
between two diners at an all-night chop house,
whose whispers barely rise above the constant hum
of the deep freeze and yellow-red heat lamps
on the raised platform between greasy cook and rumpled girl,
whose chewing gum snaps like the second hand
of a battery-powered watch, keeping and doing time.

I have heard the mockingbird at other times, too:
echoing note for note an exercise of Paganini’s,
repeating sections time and time again, each trill
rehearsed like a second chair violinist aiming for first.

I have heard the mockingbird, disguised among the trees;
and though the other birds perhaps were fooled,
leaving their nests to search for some Caruso-throated Romeo,
as a musician and singer myself, I could tell it was him,
showing off, pretending like Jack Benny would, to be inept,
and only capable of the rough squawks and whistles
that comprise the repertoire of wrens and crows.

I have heard the mockingbird’s own secret verse:
for fellow mockingbirds alone, this song is loosed,
when haughty critics and ignorant crowds have gone away.
Then the Bird drops his subservient tone, and
with Dizzy and Monk, after hours, shows what he can do.

15 JUL 2005

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The last of the icons remaining to us
whose methods have become the norm,
whose portrait of rebellion created the fuss
that pushed us from the eye to the storm

and in just a few lines, or gestures, inspired
a lost generation to gather, and name
its enemies. He watched, and grew tired
of pale imitations, but never blamed

the audience, who were not born to follow,
but rather the great machine churning out trash;
recognized his own failing, too — that hollow
morality that could not refuse the cash.

The greatness of men is found in their flaws;
there is no perfection that can so inspire,
if only because how we deal with the raw
and festering wounds in our lives, and aim higher

than mere entertainment, or paychecks, or fame
and are willing to risk all of that, for some cause
(which although perhaps shallow or just some wild game,
is the crucible in which our apathetic ice thaws).

So ramble on, mumble on, show warts and all;
The goal is not merely to light up the screen,
but more than that, to illustrate that a fall
is a clear testament of an effort, unseen

to claim an authentic soul, one not for sale
at any price, and through the feral and wild lands
of our dreams, to be willing although sometimes frail
to grasp at a greatness with your own hands.

02 JUL 2004

One of the ways you could describe James Dean is as a figure standing with both arms outstretched, one side Marlon Brando saying, “Up yours,” and the other side, Montgomery Clift saying, “Help me.” — paraphrased from The Mutant King: A Biography of James Dean, by David Dalton

Kowalski was always right, and never afraid. He never wondered, he never doubted. His ego was very secure. And he had the kind of brutal aggressiveness that I hate. I’m afraid of it. I detest the character. — Marlon Brando on Stanley Kowalski

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