The Old Men and the Young

July 25, 2015

If ghosts could speak, they would probably agree with what the old man said. Sitting on the lowered gate of his black pickup truck, Ramus was saying that old men make wars; but young men fight them.

Now while we understand there is some truth in such a statement,  we all know that it’s not really as simple as that. Nothing in this life is so easily explained, especially the thing called war.

Ramus blinked both his eyes at the same time. It was a habit he had. Some crows were making a ruckus in the nearby hickory, but he paid no attention to them.

“Consider Medgar Evers: he was a young man,” Ramus said. “He slogged his way across Europe, along with thousands of other Allied soldiers, to arrive triumphantly in Germany and then knock the hell out of the Nazi war machine. So he contributed to that great collective effort through which we won the big war. But then he came back to Mississippi and was told to go to the back of the bus.

“So, at the end of his homeward journey, Medgar entered, almost involuntarily, into another great war. It was an old war that had been started by old men. That is to say: men who we think of as old because they had lived and died long ago—men who, in centuries past, had embodied the fallacies and the limitations and atrocities of their own era. Those men had brought his ancestors to America in slave ships. It was a helluva an evil thing to do, but that’s what was happening at that time; there was shit just as bad going on over in Africa that enabled the slavetraders to do what they did, and that’s what started all this trouble we got now.

“Any trouble you find on the face of the earth is traceable to shit that happened a long time ago,” he said. “I don’t know if it ever ends. I hope one day. . .”

Behind Ramus and his truck, the morning sun was peeking up from behind distant pinetops. For whatever reason we know not what, the nearby troop of bothersome crows decided to vacate the hickory tree they’d been in, and get the hell out of dodge. Their sudden departure presented a scene of black wings flapping out against a cloudless summer sky. Ramus glanced at their disturbance, but gave it not a thought. In these mountains, their antics were as old as the hills.

The volume of Ramus’ speech, which had steadily increased in order to compete with the birds, now rescinded to a soft, summary tone. “The Mississippi man’s newfound battle—a great struggle into which he found himself caught up, by default—it eventually killed him. So he was a young man who never tasted the privilege of becoming an old man. Although he had marched with the victors in World War II, the battle that he found simmering back home was the one that put him in his grave.

“In 1963, only six months before Kennedy was killed, Medgar Evers was shot dead in his own front yard in Jackson Mississippi. He had just come from speaking to some brothers and sisters at the New Jerusalem church.”

That quiet following the crows’ departure was blissful.

“But I got to go now: places to go and people to see.” Ramus said. He slid off the tailgate, called to his old hound dog and prepared to leave. His talk about old men, young men, and old wars was put on the shelf of memory for a while.

Now in 1969, a new war, hot off the press, was being waged. But it was fast becoming an old one. Young men were dying by the thousands. Old men too, and women and children. What else is new?

VietMem2

The scene above is an excerpt from the new novel being written:

King of Soul

The Child’s Laughter

July 19, 2015

ChildLaugh

 

 

Why here’s a sudden torrent of joy

spouting from a toddler boy,

an eruption of laughter spontaneous

provoked by his cousin’s zaniness!

Where in heaven’s name could it come from?

 

 

It’s as if this untrained burst of mirth

hath bursted from some reservoir beneath the earth

maybe from some fountain of amusement so vast

that its flood comes sloshing so fast!

 

There must be some great ocean of mirth

that preceded the boy’s recent birth

a love from which his joy suddenly rises

like in a carnival of silly prizes.

 

Evidence it is, I think, of some vast wellbeing unseen,

as if it’s spurting from a divine dream!

This bright shower of silly serendipity

must be a substance of the happiness we hope will be,

and now we suddenly see.

Yes! now so joyously we hear

a perfect laughter that casts out all fear.

Tussling

The Wind

July 12, 2015

I don’t remember the first time

I ever felt it,

or saw or heard it, but

I know it is there.

I mean I know its here

or at least it was a minute ago.

And before that I saw a picture of it,

evidence that it was there

or here or somewhere.

It was in an art gallery where Mr. Wyeth had

done something or other that

moved me, really moved me although

I don’t know why.

This involved brushing paint on a canvas.

Wyeth

It was a wistful scene but then a few minutes later

I saw another work that some artist had left behind

about a shipwreck, and it looked pretty severe.

Shipwrk

So it works both ways.

Don’t know how or when

but I remember too, some poet or his

singing about it, and he said the answer was

blowing in it,

the answer to what I don’t know

maybe how many times must the cannonballs fly

or the winds of war blow or

the winds of change rearrange

everything that is or ever was or ever will be.

A few days ago I was in that windy city

HorsMnCity

where stuff had happened

long ago, back in the day,

and I remembered

part of what had happened

but I wasn’t sure if it had happened to me

or if I just remembered it from some

news report I saw or some

painting I viewed or collective memory from

my g-generation

HorsMnSky

and then I remembered that ye must be born

again. The wind blows where it wishes and you hear

the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from

and where it is going; so is everyone who is born

of the Spirit

and that’s enough for me.

You feel it?

I’m not making this up.

 

King of Soul

Allies in History

July 9, 2015

The Charger rides out upon a cusp of history’s advance

with zeal that flashes in his hand,

brandishing our great weapon of destiny

that had earlier been forged

upon the anvil of progress.

Logan1

He’s duty-bound on pushing the envelope of change

through yonder canyon of chaos, or mountain of

justice, whichever comes forth first.

His steed, chomping at the bit to yank upon the seams

of troublous times,

rips out the evil twins of lethargy and lies, and

by opposing ends them

for a while.

MarqJoliet

Yon Paxateer, on the other hand,

is methodical and principled.

He summons forth coalitions of belief,

taming methods of madness,

crossing rivers of patient sadness.

His armature has accumulated in the crucible of time

from the residue of our Charger’s blood,

and the aggregate left behind when women toil

and men do sweat

for all the progress mankind can get,

although we are not there

yet,

if ever shall we be.

 

Together, between them,

among them and in spite of them,

the wisdom of the ages settles in,

if there is such a thing.

For history is not yet written,

nor the evils that beset men smitten

until the sands of time

are deposited on this body of mine

and yours.

WavArt6u

King of Soul

A Woman’s Love makes Possible

July 7, 2015

Well my bride of 35 years hath done it again. Last week she took me to Washington, so we could escort nieces and nephews around our great national memorials.

This week we’re in Chicago, while she attends a Nurses’ conference.

While we were walking along Michigan Ave yesterday, I thought about Mama Cass.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OouK3QOzW6Q

because she had sung that song back in the day. . . Words of Love, which contains these lines:

“Worn out phrases and warning gazes won’t get you where you want to go;

if you love her, you must send her somewhere where she’s never been before.”

 

This love strategy is appropriate to my wife and me, but in a reverse kind of way, because she is the one who takes me places!

Sunday morning, I had awakened in our home and made some coffee, then sat in my usual comfy spot to begin a day of reading and writing (which I cannot generally do for five days out of every week because of work.)

My comfy home-working spot is a chair by the living room window, which affords me a quaint view of our back deck and back yard. It usually looks something like this:

BirdDeck

But yesterday, after we checked into the Burnham in Chicago, this was my window view:

Burnhmvw

What a difference! Talk about literary inspiration! Chicago! Carl Sandburg rattling in my brain.

So today, Tuesday she will be attending her professional confab, while I amble over to Grant Park and pursue some groundwork for the new novel. The story, as it appears now in my mind, begins in Grant Park. That’s where, on August 28, 1968, some events took place that made an indelible mark on my generation.  I’ll have more to say about that in three or four years after the book is finished.

Meanwhile, a couple of pics may indicate where this thing is headed, at least for its first part:

ChiHiltn

Logan1
 

King of Soul

My Washington Favorites

July 4, 2015

Here are my four favorite pics from our sojourn in Washington earlier this week:

VietMem1

BrikOldNew

StrbxWashj

And lastly, contributing her professional nursing presence to the “Nurses” statue at the Vietnam Memorial, my bride of 35 years:

PatNurss

Glass half-Full

Try to keep some perspective on this

July 1, 2015

It’s All About Your Perspective.

While wandering on the National Mall in Washington DC, I chanced upon the National Gallery of Art, so I went in there to have a look around.

What a beautiful place.

Especially interesting to me was the special exhibition on the work of the French artist, Gustave Caillebotte.

http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/exhibitions/2015/gustave-caillebotte.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Caillebotte

In the background of my unauthorized photograph, which you see here, is the canvas that Monsieur Caillebotte painted in 1877. The painting hangs upon a wall in the next room, beyond the room I was standing in while I snapped the pic:

 Caillebotte

Not visible to you is an explanatory placard that is fastened on the wall next to his famous artwork. Some art historian has explained therein that Gustave’s work reflected a new influence on the painterly art.  Photography, the emergent technology of that that day and time, latter-19th-century, had a profound effect on the artist’s composition, perspective and use of focus in certain areas of the painting while rendering foreground and background slightly out of focus.

Now in my iPhone photograph, the whole picture is out of focus. I did this on purpose, imitating, as it were, the French impressionists, all of whom had rendered their oil-on-canvas opuses slightly out of focus, as if they had forgotten to put on their glasses when they went out to labor at the easel that day in 1877.

I can relate to this, because I am nearsighted as a bat; my profound appreciation for turn-of–the-20thCentury is perhaps related to this dysfunction in my eyeballs. I’m like one of those less-than-perfect persons you see in the Latrec paintings that came later.

So you can see here that I myself have entered into the gallery of impressionist phone-artists of the early 21st Century. And in my opinion this photograph is an artistic extension of the work that was pioneered by Messers Caillebotte, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Matisse etcetera etcetera.

The gentleman on the left in my etoîle image here was doing his job well; so he was obliged to tell me that I couldn’t take pics in that room.

I did not know that (and I am telling the truth), I said to him.

“There’s a sign at the entrance to the room,” he said.

Oh.

Nevertheless, the image was already captured in my mobile device, so hey, what the heck, I thought I’d share my perspective with you.

Have a nice day. And remember. . .

As you travel through life, brother and sister, whatever be your goal, keep your eye on the detail, not on the whole.

Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Anyway, try to keep your highest priorities in focus. As for the artsy stuff, that focus element is not  necessarily essential.

Just please keep it in perspective, so that you know what you’re looking at while you’re looking at it, if that’s possible.

 

Glass Chimera 

You in America now!

June 29, 2015

While walking in our nation’s Capital yesterday, my somewhat aimless wandering intuition impelled me along a pavement path that provided, perhaps unexpectedly, a sudden purview of the Fed. That is to say, I was suddenly standing there in front of the Federal Reserve, where Federal Reserve Notes, better known as dollars, are generated.

Since I like to capture pics of places that are perceived as power penumbras, I prepared to snap a picture.

But before I took the picture, I wanted to make sure everything was hunky-dory, because there happened to be  a couple of federal police guys right there, where I had decided to pause and snap the pic. So I asked them if I could take this picture of the building:

TheFed

The reason I sought their permission is because, a few months ago when Pat and I were in Rome, we were passing by an entrance that appeared to be some kind of official building of the EU, European Union. (I knew this because of the two flags, Italian and EU, which were displayed above the main entry door). In order to get a larger perspective for my anticipated picture, I crossed the street and prepared to snap the pic.

But while I was snipping it, the guard began gesturing to me quite frantically, really quite aggressively, so that I got the message that I shouldn’t be snapping such a pic.

. . .although I did not know why. But I was nevertheless able to ascertain his prohibitory meaning, and so I immediately ceased and desisted from any further photographic presumptions. But that was after I had managed to snap one prohibited pic:

EURomeHdq

As a result of that experience I have been, from that day forward until now,  a little bit inhibited to snap a permissive pic of any public place without official permission.

But yesterday, on this particular occasion, in Washington, D.C. yesterday, there was no problem, because when I asked the policeman, after explaining that in Rome they had shut me down, he said no problem!. He laughed and said:

“Well this is America, and you can take all the pictures you want!”

Boy, was I relieved.

Then later, when I thought about it all, yesterday’s pic-snipping liberty seemed ironic, because the policeman’s statement reminded me, oddly enough, of what the old guy, Fiddler, had said to young Kunta Kinte, in the 1980’s miniseries Roots,  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075572/

written by Alex Haley. When Kunta Kinte was just off the boat, a slave-ship, and bound in chains, writhing in agony, having such a hard time adjusting to life as a slave in pre-Emancipation America. That’s when ole Fiddler had said to him:

“You in America now!”

Which is to say: You in slave-country now, boy, not like back in the old country where you was some kind of tribal prince or whatever you were there.

The very terrible news announced by Fiddler to Kunta Kinte was that now,  in the Land of so-called Opportunity,  the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, the black man was, sad to say, no free citizen, certainly no tribal cheiftain or son thereof, but rather a slave, a piece of property to be owned by some white-privileged slave-owner.

But when the federal police guy said to me yesterday You’re in America now, it was a much more liberating declaration than the one that Kunta Kinte  had gotten when he arrived here a few hundred years ago.

These days we have more freedom here, and less paranoia, than the Europeans. Take all the pics you want. And the great grandsons and great granddaughters of slaves also have more freedom than their enslaved ancestors did.

Viva Las Picturas!

Nevertheless, today I did wander, right here in the Capital of the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, into a situation that was photographically prohibitory. At the Art Museum, I was told not to snap pics in a certain room. But I had already, in my ignorant haste, snipped one contraban pic!:

ArtPhotoNo

So don’t tell anybody you’re seeing, in the gallery background above, this American photo of a famous French painting. That way we can continue to celebrate La Liberté, La Fraternité, L’Egalité.

Glass half-Full

A Scene at the Lincoln Memorial

June 28, 2015

Yesterday we drove up from Charlotte to Washington. After checking into the hotel, we had dinner in the room, then launched out for a nocturnal walk to the National Mall and Lincoln Memorial. By ‘n by, being doused by a rainstorm we found ourselves taking cover  under this unfamiliar rotunda which turned out to be something called the D.C. War Memorial. I snapped this pic:

DCWarMem

which turned out to be a much clearer photograph than the one I attempted a few minutes later in the drizzling D.C. night at the Korean War Memorial:

KoreaGhostly

This very dark image of ghostly soldier statues seems to reflect a dim commemoration of a war that was taking place on the other side of the world about the time I entered this world in 1951.

My photographic success brightened considerably when, a few tromping minutes later, we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial and caught this view in the dripping night.

LincMemNite

This luminescent sight reminded me of our arrival in Greece a few months ago when, having just stepped out of an Athens Metro station we caught a similarly eerie first sighting of the distant Acropolis, which seemed to hover at the apex of an ancient high-ground hallowed spot.

But that was then, and this was now, which is to say, last night:

We ascended the glistening steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and when we got up there this is what we saw:

LincolnStatu

Then, wandering over to the glyphed wall-inscription of our war-striven President’s message at Gettysburg battlefield. I was reminded of a scene from my 2007 novel, Glass half-Full. In chapter 6 of that book, we find Marcus and Bridget, a young couple who have recently met, gazing at the inscribed words of the President’s famous speech. Here’s the scene:

They came to an inner sanctum. Carved on the white marble wall in front of them were the words of the slain President’s Gettysburg address. Marcus stopped, taking in the enormity of it, both physically and philosophically. He was looking at the speech intently. Bridget was looking at him.

After a few moments: “Isn’t that amazing?”

“Yes.” She could see that he was thinking hard about something. The great chamber echoed a murmur of humankind.

“Supreme irony.” The longing of a nation’s soul reverberated through the memorial. . .in the soundings of children, the whisperings of passersby. Deep within Marcus’ soul, something sacred was stirring, and she could see it coming forth.

“The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here.” He was reading aloud Lincoln’s words on the white wall.

But for the echoes of a million people who had passed through this place, there was silence. After a moment, Bridget responded “. . .and yet, there it is, carved on the wall for all to see. ‘The world will little note what we say here. . .’ ”

“Right, Bridget. Isn’t it amazing?”

GettysbAddrs

Glass half-Full

Tribulation

June 21, 2015

The Climate Change fanatics are expecting a Climate Apocalypse.

The FreeMarket fanatics are expecting an Economic Apocalypse.

The Religious fanatics are expecting an Armaggedan Apocalypse.

The Islamist fanatics are expecting a Dabiq Apocalypse.

The Shiite Twelver fanatics are expecting a Twelfth Imam Apocalypse.

The Entertainment fanatics are expecting another Apocalypse blockbuster.

The Leftist fanatics are expecting a RightWing Apocalypse.

The Rightist fanatics are expecting a LeftWing Apocalypse.

The Racist fanatics are expecting a Race War Apocalypse.

For some groups of people, an apocalyptic tragedy has already begun, having changed their lives forever, in ways that we, the clueless online onlookers, can never comprehend.

For members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, life as they knew it has been torn asunder, as if a raging lion had attacked a grazing lamb.

Two days ago I heard people on a radio program arguing about whether the mass murder committed by a lone racist gunman in Charleston was a “hate crime” or a “crime against Christians.”

What we call it is really meaningless.

The truth is; it’s both–and. . . a serious multiple homicide perpetrated by a hateful, anti-Christian man who is worth of only thing, the death penalty.

This multiple murder did take place in a Christian church; Nine Christians were cruelly murdered.

In my Church this Sunday morning, our pastor lead us in a prayer for the families of these nine martyrs, who are now in the presence of Jesus Christ, who, like them, was murdered in his own innocence.

Our pastor reminded us of Paul’s counsel to the Christians of 1st-century Rome, who were later persecuted in the same murderous way as our brothers and sisters of Emanuel AME. Paul exhorted the believers in Rome to “weep with those weep.”

And so, while most of us did not weep for these deceased saints, we did pray for their families, and for their gathered believers, which is to say their church. We stand in solidarity with them, in what we call the Body of Christ.

CharlestonMartyrsSunday1

In such a time as this, we are reminded of the words Jesus spoke:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

In such a time as this, the collective prayers of the church will summon the Holy Spirit to comfort the families and saints of Emanuel AME Church.

And although murderous acts such as this may come, they will not defeat the purposes of God among his people.

Nor will any coming Apocalypse, imagined or otherwise, extinguish the love of Jesus that draws his people together in times of tribulation.

Glass half-Full


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 183 other followers