Here’s an appropriate first poem to start the New Year. It starts with a muzak-version of Dylan and ends on a Dear Abby letter, and in between gets at our present moment.
After I heard “It’s a Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”
played softly by an accordion quartet
through the ceiling speakers at the Springdale Shopping Mall,
I understood there’s nothing
we can’t pluck the stinger from,
nothing we can’t turn into a soft drink flavor or a t-shirt.
Even serenity can become something horrible
if you make a commercial about it
using smiling, white-haired people
quoting Thoreau to sell retirement homes
in the Everglades, where the swamp has been
drained and bulldozed into a nineteen-hole golf course
with electrified alligator barriers.
“You can’t keep beating yourself up, Billy,”
I heard the therapist say on television
to the teenage murderer,
“about all those people you killed—
you just have to be the best person you can be,
one day at a time”—
and everybody in the audience claps and weeps a little,
because the level of deep feeling has been touched,
and they want to believe that
the power of Forgiveness is greater
than the power of Consequence, or History.
My father is a businessman who travels.
Each time he returns from one of his trips,
his shoes and trousers
are covered with blood–
but he never forgets to bring me a nice present.
Should I say something?
I used to think I was not part of this,
that I could mind my own business and get along,
but that was just another song
that had been taught to me since birth—
whose words I was humming under my breath,
as I was walking through the Springdale Mall.