These posts and my blog are my second life as a poet/ playwright. Although I loved being a lawyer and starting the law firm, I have always wanted that second life.
Since March, I have grown increasingly despondent because the coronavirus has shut down the theaters and curtailed my evolving development. The quarantine made it darker, more claustrophobic and broke my heart. I stopped writing. I am too old now. I will never be what I had hoped to be.
But I have learned something beautiful. I returned to a sonnet cycle that a friend of mine suggested we write years ago. Both of us wanted an artistic life to be jumpstarted. Back in the mid-1990s, I didn’t have the courage to do it myself, so we began to exchange sonnets. This was the beginning. The Genesis.
The sonnets I have been posting these past few weeks are from that 1990s cycle. I went back to the beginning, and I want to say thank you to those that have given me a second life that I now better understand.
Although I love seeing my work performed, I have discovered that what I love most is creating, writing, and the discovery that entails. I delayed forever, but I owe a duty to Elizabeth Bishop (poet) and William Alfred (playwright, and my tutor), both my professors in college. They are gone now but the thank you is not too late.
From the start, they, along with Candace, my friend, taught me this real joy of discovery.
With two cords of hardwood stacked by the door
I’m ahead of winter again this fall.
All these years with no spark, no central core.
My art? To fortify’n avoid it all.
At Mount Auburn, my friend Candace and I,
Last winter, about this time, decided
To write a poem each week’n agreed to try
For e-mail delivery to the other by
Monday morning, coffee time. We would do
Fifty-two: Deadlines to keep us to it.
Miss Bishop and Professor Alfred too,
I hope these make you proud. Last night I lit
A new fire in an old fireplace
And dreamed I’d warmed your hands and touched your face.
Lust & Love
His object of affection (but not of mine),
A belly button, seductively displayed,
Below the shirt which hides nipple ring outlines,
That make both her breasts look like hand grenades.
He looks for the screwdriver he has lost.
His is the world of replaceable parts.
Unscrew her belly button, her ass falls off?
Still they both dress to win the other’s heart.
The city’s suburbs spread out around them both
As they skateboard the parking lots and clocks
Keep the time and administrate the oaths.
Is there no place left to think out side the box?
Is the message of the world we are part of
That we live so long as we lust and love?
Going deaf is like a blizzard in Summer
From a four o’clock sky the first snowflakes fall
To settle down on trafficked city streets.
Each snowflake falls separately, till all
Conspire to hide the city like a secret.
The last street lights go on, and the snow reflects
Upon the domiciliary landscape.
The more snow falls the less you really expect
The city to be what it’s supposed to be:
It becomes a beautiful blinking shape;
An image of slowing inactivity,
Slowing into snow drifts. It snows very late.
A pronouncement of peace subdues the city:
The drifting snow controls the city violence
With a voice made entirely of silence.
It is a blessing, of sorts.
We continue our study of theatrical forms about our present political culture in the form of a Marvel comic book with nine picture frames.
1) The opening frame contains the signers of the Declaration of Independence and Abraham Lincoln saying: “You can fool…” and Roger Ailes, Newt Gingrich, and a cast of grinning Fox News panelists universally agree: “The hell you can’t. Cut taxes for the rich, take away their healthcare, promise them lost jobs, and give every idiot a gun… Its the new GOP” (Grotesquely Opportunistic Policymakers).
2) Next: There are two little men in loincloths with little hands. In the bubble above the North Korean’s head: “I will launch heat-seeking suppositories is how I will trump you, Trump!” Behind him are millions of people cheering, in unison, in one bubble over their heads, their approval. The bubble above the orange comb-over: “I’m clenched and ready. It will unify my base.“Behind him stand millions of people (no immigrants) each holding millions of guns all aimed at liberals who point at them as they warn: “Fear the suppositories from all sides” and then do nothing which causes the millions holding guns predictably to unify the Comb-over’s base.
3) The next is a tweet which says: “Second amendment – No hunting license required – shoot people for free! “And “First Amendment is about disrespecting soldiers it’s not about Freedom of political speech.”
4) Next the Bolshevik United Republican Party (BURP) screams: “ You are Americans. You have ‘freedom of choice,“ and Lincoln on his knees says: “No, that’s Burger King.”
5) Next the Korean leader leads his millions in a chant: “We win War! We Win War!!”… death to Americans by suppository special sauce on your toasted bum.
6) Next BURP puts up banners which say: “Keep Liberals angry with ‘false news ‘and you stand for ‘freedom of choice!’ We understand for nothing! To gather we fall.” The Liberals continue to be astounded and do nothing.
7) The Fox commentators stand and slap high-fives and misquote Lincoln: ”Divide and conquer the House and Senate!“ The Comb-over tweets: ”Always been colorblind. The flag is not red, white and blue it is white — salute and retweet?
8) Next is of a hurricane building in the shape of a mushroom cloud as the Self-Anointed Televangelists About Nothing (SATAN) and BURP point at it and drop to their knees and confirm: “There you see the Bible told us so: There is no climate change change.”
9) Is blank in case there is an encore.
This is another entry in my series of plot studies. Click here to read the previous one.
In my previous posts, I published Plot Studies #1 as a comedy, and #2 as a musical, both based on our current politics. Is plot study number #3 a tragedy or a puppet show? You decide.
The time and place: Let’s see if our current political environment could be written as a Shakespeare tragedy, say like Julius Caesar (performed somewhere other than in Central Park)? Let’s say that the government of Rome has evolved from a republic to a democracy and on to an oligarchy and that Caesar’s friends and family are running the empire.
The Cast of Characters: A group of historians and law professors and their students and lots of well-meaning myopic liberals who want the republic back (The rule of law) but are too disorganized and apolitical to be effective in advocating for their position. Just for fun let’s call them the Democratic Party.
A Group of all the richest Romans, led by Julius Caesar, who is one of them, but is controlled by this group who want to always increase their power and pay less, or perhaps next to no taxes but receive all the benefits of being Romans (The oligarchy). Just for fun let’s call them Republicans.
And a huge mob, the “peanut crunching crowd,” that thinks with its stomach and votes in the bathroom (The democracy). They are fed by Caesar and his friends a form of pablum which includes facts, false facts, and huge amounts of fantasy, all mixed together and called “news.” They are, of course, constitutionally well armed so that they can kill us and each other. Just for fun let’s call them the advocates and lovers of our present democracy. (Isn’t this great, we start with a cast of millions.)
The plot: As the play starts, Caesar is being investigated by a special prosecutor which he can’t seem to figure out how to get rid of, so Caesar has decided to protect his control by creating constant conflict among the citizens of Rome to avoid unification against him and perhaps total power for him in the future in the event that the special prosecutor recommends his impeachment. (This is exciting – I’m already feeling tragic.)
The way to do this is to pit the well-meaning myopic liberals against the peanut crunching crowd on the issue of race and immigration and to build a wall all around the empire to keep immigrants out to make sure the myopic liberals keep his base polarized and well armed for him. (It’s getting great – it’s all starting to go to hell!) The well intended myopic liberals are so blind and morally correct that they can’t realize that they are playing perfectly into Caesar’s hands. (Yes! Yes! There is a lump in my throat and I’m starting to well up with tears.)
Caesar is building up his army by feeding his followers the pablum as fast as he can so that they will be as angry as possible and loaded down with weapons if the special prosecutor recommends impeachment. (Wow, this is so good! It feels authentic – it’s almost like real life! But how is it going to end? How is it going to end?)
So back to the question: Is this a tragedy or a puppet show? I think that is determined by how it ends. If Caesar prevails with his plans, he can cut Obamacare and reduce taxes because it can be produced with only two characters. Caesar with his right hand on the constitution and his left hand making a single string puppet (which is holding the eye glasses of the liberals as it trails peanut shells) dance! But if we follow the Shakespearean example of Julius Cesar, it is a tragedy of greater proportion because in the second half of the play the Roman empire is divided among the lesser oligarchs. Let’s call it forever polarized by ignorance.
Maybe if Cesar doesn’t divide us and we took action together, all of us, we could write a happier play and call it maybe: “All’s Well that Ends Well.” It’s not too late.
This is another entry in my series of plot studies. Here’s the previous one. And the next.