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Monthly Archives: July 2018

(First published in slightly altered form in the Poets All Call group on Facebook)

this place is like a room

this place is like a room in which to place furniture of notions, fixtures of beliefs, knickknacks of fantasies, urns of old griefs.

there is the centerpiece of your remembered face. in the corner window, shifting with its lace, the curtain-shadow stripes and dazzles the porcelain of the sink

where the grime of old grudges and antique embarrassments may be thrillingly, refreshingly washed away and dried with a towel of quintessential fluffiness while a breeze riffles pages of a small sacred yet secular

belovéd book.

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America’s President and Commander In Chief of its armed forces is now in Helsinki, misrepresenting his country with abandon. My deeply spiritual friend Suzy Jacobson Cherry is viewing this latest development with such alarm that she posted on Facebook this message: “Everybody. Start writing down your memories of the America that has been. Just in case it isn’t again.”

Suzy’s message reminds me of the end of the play CAMELOT, and Arthur’s admonitory instruction to a stripling in hopes of somehow keeping the memory of Camelot alive.

I love Suzy, and though I think our beloved country will be reunited and healed, I thought it would be valuable to do as she says, as thoroughly as I could.

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And here is the transcript:

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America: Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. The Melting Pot. “I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.” Leader-by- example via the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. “One giant leap for mankind.” Civil Rights Act. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.” The Miracle On Ice of the 1980 Winter Olympics. Rosie the Riveter. Norman Rockwell. The Summer of Love. Ray Charles singing “O Beautiful For heroes proved…” at the 2001 World Series. The freedom that allows Billie Joe Armstrong to sing “American Idiot.” The Tonight Show, starring Johnny Carson–Johnny’s guest host George Carlin. Eleanor Roosevelt. Harper Lee. Spike Lee and his magnificent collaborator Denzel Washington. Angels In America on Broadway, featuring Tony-Award-winning Stephen Spinella.

And George Washington, who refused to be King. And my family and friends.

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America has survived many crises. We can survive this one as well, if we get back on the track of E Pluribus Unum, and Liberty and Justice for All.

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The Valley of the Sun, where I live, is in Monsoon mode now. There was an intense dust storm about a week ago, and high humidity alternating and sometimes coinciding with high heat. The air quality is not good, especially for allergy sufferers. That’s my problem now. I’ve been to Urgent Care and am taking their prescribed medicine, but nothing is working well.

In the movie MONA LISA SMILE, Julia Roberts teaches Art History at the women’s college Wellesley during the 1953-1954 academic year.  She struggles with the school administration, her students, a man who wants to marry her, and a man who seems to love her but is untrustworthy.

I did this portrait of Ms. Roberts at the tail-end of a breakup scene with her would-be fiancé. She is plain and unsmiling, which is uncharacteristic. I had a crusher of a headache as I drew her, which seemed to fit.

How this blog post came to be may be summed up, though it is one LONG summation, by this Facebook post I wrote on the 28th of June, between the sets of asterisks:

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Spooky coincidences…I just found out via a post by my friend Anthony Ortega, son of my fellow GHS grad and good friend Joy Riner Taylor, that Harlan Ellison has died. Tony said that it was ironic because he’s just been going over Ellison’s work.

Oddly enough, I’d been thinking about Harlan Ellison too. About a week or two ago I looked him up on Wikipedia to see if he were still alive (he was born in 1934).

Spookier still is the last 24 hours. I was thinking with sadness about the suicides of two good friends of mine, one in 1986 and one just this year. And there had been something in the news about suicide being a trending thing. And then the thought popped into my head: “We have got to watch ourselves.” Then the acrostic poet in me realized that the words WATCHING and YOURSELF both have eight letters in it, and I could do a double-acrostic poem about self-preservation using those words. And probably should: it could be much more meaningful than the hooey I usually crank out. (Just kidding, Folks.) (With a little grain of truth.)

Why is this SUCH a spooky coincidence? Well, Harlan Ellison was for the most part the opposite of a suicide–he once demanded open-heart surgery pronto, feeling time was of the essence. The phrase “DO ME” was in his demand to the doc, according to his own account. And they Did Him, and he lasted another 20 years. And in his career he wrote dozens of books. Two, during the Nixon era, were about television. They were THE GLASS TEAT and THE OTHER GLASS TEAT. And there were sequelae of those, of sorts, with a column in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, later put into book form, and later yet extended with a series of YouTube videos. And here the spookiness hits home. My acrostic poem, conceived before I learned of Harlan’s death, will be WATCHING YOURSELF. Harlan’s series was called HARLAN ELLISON’S WATCHING.

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Since the post I’ve attempted the acrostic three times. Here’s the first try:

We do not tend to put our dirty laundry on display

And when our feelings darken, they may travel incognito

The hope is that the mood will lift if it is left in situ

Concealment is unwise but it so hurts to peel a layer

How desperately vulnerable modern times have made us

In fact the woe and pain make ending it almost attractive

New hope arises when we offer gentle love for all

Gained wisdom comes when mindfulness puts guardrail by the cliff

That was a brainbuster. I almost went with it but felt it missed the mark. On to Try #2:

When purpose yields duality

And makes for an imbroglio

Then Life sneers, Yeah? The Same To You

Canasta, craps, chemin de fer

Hold Doom just like a blunderbuss

If action is evocative

Now we may wax Neandertal

Glyphs mark our bets, no call, no bluff

That try suffered from loss of comprehensibility, straitjacketed as it was by the acrostic. Good try though it was, it was necessary to try, try again.

That led to this final version:

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Here are those final-draft words:

Well, I fear we’re going Ka-Blooey

And if you can argue, please do

This school is called Letspreserve U

Commitment & Shame make a pair

How fell is Depression, whose heirs

Inflict themselves Harm, unaware

Now, please–one more round for us all

Good mindfulness works–let’s be off

One last little spookiness. I went to Goodreads to look at the book jacket for HARLAN ELLISON’S WATCHING. The intro paragraph is Ellison’s style. If he didn’t write it, some damn good pasticher did. Whichever, the last two sentences address friendlessness (first sentence) and self-preservation, which is the theme of this page. Word for word, here they are: “As an essayist, he has no equal; as a film critic he has no friends. Take care.”