Sometimes I wonder if an edit to a poem should “count” as a new post; this poem, for example, has a much better ending now.
…yet again, another good title for a poem, but you’re not getting a poem! No, it’s just, in my absence I’ve been learning a few things. I present this generational Rosetta Stone: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hey_Hey,_My_My_(Into_the_Black). Due to copyright issues yada yada, I’ll leave you to look up a YouTube recording on your own.
Why this song? Well, I don’t really agree with Joseph Massey about a lot of things, but I do have him in my blog-roll for a reason: he brings relevant points and observations to the table, ones that relate directly to the condition of being a poet—or any kind of author or creator—in this increasingly-no-longer-post-modern world. And, as he quotes to assert, Kurt Cobain’s suicide was more than just a mental health issue. While the actual act may have been a result of heroin addiction, depression, mental illness, etc.—the underlying crisis that fueled Cobain’s angst grew out of complex social realities and, on one level, an existential crisis about the nature of art, popularity, commodity, and sincerity all wrapped into one. And Neil Young touched on this issue, in part through his own personal crisis as a “rock’n'roller” at the time, when he wrote the song in 1979.
And, in a sad epilogue, it’s said that Young now emphasizes the line “once you’re gone/you can’t come back”…
And being is heavy, thick
Like a plank or log underwater
sunken ships on the ocean deep
And we are all every one of us
always again underwater
hidden and perfect in the perfect stillness
And the separateness between us
feels more substantial than just air
The chill in the bones during true solitude confirms
The current of everything that passes in front of us
deep water flows, now and now and now again
And why should they haunt us, those apparitions
lost to time and chance; the characters
float away from our personal margins, unreal
Except as an echo of motion within the water
And in the end, we do not end with our own end
Nor with an end comprehensible in time
Because, to the degree that we are each blessed
If still mortal, we can only know the end to our story
while the full tapestry remains submerged to time
mysterious to all but those too dead to know,
and mystery, like the weight of the ocean, is heavy, thick…
Yes… yes, I did. “Me And The Devil” was fun but, ultimately, flawed…
Quick question: what “counts” as writing new material, but doesn’t require actually producing new material? Why, edited material, of course! And since “California 2012″ is too big—both in size and scope—for me to rewrite in one sitting, I am just posting the first part. As you might note from previous versions, this go around is much tighter. Hell, I may eventually even fashion a good poem out of it. I’m getting rid of the rhyming section, for now… well, that’s “Part Two” anyway, so we’ll just wait and see. Anyway…
To all those of us who grew up post-modern
—we never had the privilege of being absurd—
To those who managed to find their own God
in the desert sun, a morning’s wave, or beat-up quarter pipe
To the plastic Tiki deities and technicolor demons
fixed to the walls of a Sunset Boulevard bar
Realities absurd only to outsiders
Shibboleths of time and space, like the way
you merge onto a freeway or
greet each endless Summer night
Finally, also, to everyone who had a dream
that ran out of space, that expanded
until it hit the ocean, then stopped…
Here, where the freeways run like rivers
deeper than the Mississippi
and the seasons fade and bleed into an Eternal Season
To every one of us—the actual and living inhabitants
of the second-cousin to the American Dream
—the California Myth—
We are all, somehow, both real and unreal, living and abstract
we are the sinew, bone and muscle of all of America’s dreaming.
Yeah, I’m going there. I realize I’m a white-bread sub-urban college educated person—hardly an authentic Compton gangsta. But then again, that’s the point, isn’t it? If we’re going to grant that gangsta culture is something more than just adolescent posturing and talking fast—if we recognize it as a valid art form—then we must also grant that very, very “white” people can, ultimately, appreciate it.
This subject also touches on the fact that I believe white people should be allowed to say the word “nigga” without potential embarrassment when quoting classic literature. See, because if we’re going to admit hip hop stars to the “canon” then we must make their work freely accessible to everyone. This means, no more racial hipster posturing—you don’t have to be a certain shade of skin or darker just to appreciate good lyrics.
Now, I realize, sometimes certain white people take things a bit too far. But you know what? Just like there are a lot of unfair stereotypes about African Americans, most white people who appreciate hip hop do not belong in “Malibu’s Most Wanted.” And on the other end, I’ve seen people from all races make ham-fisted efforts at quoting Shakespeare—part of having culture means some people won’t “get it.” And, as a white person, I realize that I won’t ever “get it” totally, which is part of why I feel comfortable saying I “get it” artistically.
Enough babbling, though. Mark my words—100 years from now, bored English major freshmen will be glancing up from their textbooks, begging the professor to know if the lyrics to “Still A Nigga” will be on the test.
Oh yeah, and for a recommendation? Most everything by Eazy E is good, but the later stuff is best (most all of “187 um Killa”). The feud between him and Dr. Dre is legendary—seriously, when I hear young hip hop artists “beef” with each other these days, I think to myself, “man, Dre was LUCKY to be part of such a skilled, witty exchange.” But then again, that just goes to show that I understand Eazy E, NWA, et al on a level that today’s African American youth never can: as a Generation X’er.
…but at the same time, I’m glad poetry is still this important.
For the record, I do believe that Palestinians should not be treated as second-class citizens. For the record, I do not believe Israel has the “right” of first strike (I also believe the United States doesn’t have that “right,” but that’s another topic). If that makes me an anti-Semite—in much the same way that hating Obama for continuing Bush’s policies somehow makes me racist—great! I love intensely-charged labels mis-applied by random jackasses.
I saw “it” once, in person, myself. At a poetry reading, no less. Here everyone was reading poems about lost loves and daily life and so on, and then all of a sudden, like a giant dump taken on the podium, this guy unloads a “poetic” essay-diatribe about how Palestinians are all evil, and how by demanding civil rights they hate all Jews everywhere. Now, I realize this person is in no way representative of “all Jews everywhere,” in much the same way that the handful of bigoted African American pastors that supported California’s Proposition 8 (which passed largely due to the support of the mostly-white Mormon church) don’t represent “all African Americans everywhere.” Being neither black nor Jewish, I recognize that I am probably not the first “go-to” person to speak about racial issues. At the same time, I believe the truth is the truth. I also believe that being from an oppressed minority does not give one license to bigotry. Against gays or Palestinians or whomever. Sorry.
It’s kind of ironic; I swore off ‘The Atlantic’ (to the extent that I ever read it) after it published that vile, nakedly partisan Harris-Perry nonsense. Someone somewhere at that publication apparently has balls beyond just white-washing Obama’s fascist policies with charges of racism. So, kudos to them. It was, indeed, something that must be said.
After the roadside flow dwindles
to a trickle of midnight travelers,
After all the gates close up
leaving only late night gas stations,
After the evening wind darkens and cools
the night’s tentative beads of sweat,
The wordless stories ripen in the
alleyways, bedrooms, and living rooms
that second double meaning that underlines
all our daylight actions—
It begins with the discourse between
night and street, between solitude and clarity.
Thought travels at a different speed
at night, behaves like an animal
more familiar, but untamed;
Desire condenses to the spaces in between
the quiet hum of thoughts repeating
through the vast silence.
Yes, there is no real truth here, except
—perhaps—in the glow of the traffic lights, or
the murmur of a television as you finally manage
So nothing last week. I guess work in my “regular” life necessarily means a vacation from my poetry. In addition, I’ve been learning Chinese brush painting, which is supposedly in some metaphysical way a visual poetry, or something, but whatever. The point is, there just was no time last week. While I know missing an update is a dangerous thing—who wants to visit a stale blog?—I figured it would have been worse to dash off a bad/facile poem and vomit it up.
Thankfully, this week, I’ve had time to write something a bit more thoughtful, if ponderous and vague in my usual style.