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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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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.”

 

 

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Tempting as it is to designate ER as “Emergency Room” and AI as “Artificial Intelligence,” for this acrostic they are the actual words “er” and “ai,” both interjectory “words to express.” “Er” expresses hesitation, and may be found in any number of the 60s-era DC Superman comics, when Clark Kent says something like, “Er, Lois, I think I left something at my desk. Go on without me.” “Ai” expresses sorrow or fear, and is used by Tolkien at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm when Legolas says, “Ai! a Balrog!”

I have a friend who had a breakup/make-up cycle so persistent he would say things like, “So anyway, after the final final FINAL breakup, there we were…” poor him and poor her.

This is a page about breaking up. Hesitation, then sorrow, then resolution: Never again. Here are its words:

Note the couple lost at sea

Even lost their Golly G

Venom laces all the tea

Ektachrome records ennui

Roaring surf could be so mean/Raging like the winds that keen

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I’ve finally punched through my creative block (it took weeks) and completed and signed the above page, “Left/Lest/Fest/Felt,” an illustrated acrostic poem inspired by Marta, my new friend from Catalonia. I dedicate it to her.

Marta, I wish it were better. I tried too hard; wanted it to be good too much. I tried and failed to make the illustrations obviously relate to their categories. Perhaps I will return to its complexities after I fully re-establish my momentum, but most likely not. I hope the hard work shows.

Here are the words:

Loneliness lets fall the Shadows, fading light to half

Lingers with its lassitude–of Energy a thief

Elements of zesty ZEAL decant with a carafe

Evanescent, maybe; still, in Georgia there’s O’Keeffe

Follow BLISS subjunctively, so hoping you’ll kvell

FATE may spin things SINISTER, as with a grassy knoll

Threat of predatory harm may taint a hand that’s dealt

Therapeutic caution says: obtain a lock & bolt

In part 1, I described taking on a new art/poetry project, getting to the beginnings of the page design, and then hitting a block wall. The wall came up when I looked at what I’d done and found it foolish and amateurish. The acrostic lettering was floppy and scrawly. The end words I’d chosen seemed like seeds for verse idiocy. I got a hint of the worst F word there is in English: Failure.

So I put aside what I had done and tried to loosen up my drawing hand and build up some mojo. One thing I do to practice portraiture is watch a DVD and freeze the frame when I see something I want to draw.

 

 

So here are Karl Urban and Matthew Modine, from their movies BENT and FULL METAL JACKET. I was medium-happy with these, though I should have taken more time with them.

I also worked out  a set of words for the acrostic, thus:

Loneliness lets birds to feed on half

Effervescence gives us a giraffe

Finding a subjunctive scheme’s a goal

Tactile predators will touch a colt

The lines relate, though not sequentially, to Left/Lest/Fest/Felt. Loneliness relates to being Left. A giraffe seems intrinsically Festive. The word Lest is subjunctive, i.e. conditional. And tactility and predation relate to Felt.

The lines got tweaked when I calligraphed them, and became this:

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I also worked on the illustration some, but the results were so bad that I will not reproduce them here. Still, I gave that block wall some of my best punches, and cracks are developing in the masonry. For good or ill, part 3 of this multipost will include the final form of “Left/Lest/Fest/Felt.”

 

 

 

 

Friends, as of 8:27 PM, Mountain Standard Time, May 29, 2028, your humble host has been afflicted with a peculiar form of creative block for more than a week. It is not that I cannot draw or write. It is that when I turn these energies to a certain project, I choke up.

The project is a page that will include a quadruple acrostic. The pillars of the acrostic are the words Left, Lest, Fest, and Felt. The poem is inspired by a blog post of a new friend of mine, a poet named Marta whose blog is called MOMENTS. The magical, enigmatic post talked of sisters Left and Felt, and their influence on women named Laura, Selina and Maria. Here is a link: https://momentsbloc.wordpress.com/2018/02/04/left-and-felt-three-abnormal-women/

I was jazzed and energized by Marta’s post, and also could not but notice that the words Left and Felt, both of four letters, would lend themselves to a double acrostic poem. And then I realized that two additional words, Lest and Fest, if placed between Left and Felt, would imply a transformation from one to the other, one letter at a time.

Excited, I texted Marta for permission to use her post as a springboard for one of mine. She quickly and graciously granted permission. I thought I would have it done inside a week, and within a day or so had gotten this far:

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And then, my friends, I hit a block wall.

(End of part 1)