Bob Dylan and the ghost of Leonard Cohen
Sitting shivah on short stools
Yarmulke pinned to gray curly hair
Mourning Yossef’s son,
Who got in trouble with the law
Challenging the establishment
Threatening the status quo.
Low murmured Hebrew and Yiddish,
Swaying like reeds on the sea,
Thoughts linger of sandle-less Socrates,
Served a hemlock cocktail
By the powerful men of Athens,
Condemned to die
For the high crime
Of corrupting the youth
By teaching them
To think for themselves.
The times are changing,
Time is nothing but change:
A rolling river that’s never
Leonard sits shivah
In the lotus position
Meditating mind breaths
And beneficent Buddha nature,
Serene smile thinking of
The high born privileged prince
Slowly discovering the three fold
Reality of the common world,
Informing the high born
Priests, warriors, and kings
That their stratified social system
Is a mind made illusion
Just like everything else they see.
Socratic Stoic Jews breaking bread
With Benedict Spinoza
Recalling the ship of Citium
Wrecked on the Grecian shore
Loitering in Hellenic bookstores
Discovering the wise words of Socrates
That hemlock couldn’t kill,
Following the dogs to the porch,
Writing philosophical prescriptions
To alleviate the suffering
Of ill flowing lives.
After seven days
Bob and Lenny
Return the cushions to the chairs,
And uncover the bathroom mirror
As sunlight bursts through
A beat-up Venetian blind.
My 12th poem for National Poetry Writing Month.
I wasn’t born with a club foot
I didn’t fight in Vietnam
I didn’t teach at Columbia
I wasn’t fooled by Nixon’s charms
My generation was as lost as Hemingway’s
And just as productive.
I didn’t escape Minnesota in a snowstorm,
I didn’t go mad at Arfderydd
I didn’t smash a guitar at Woodstock
I didn’t drown in Delacroix
My generation was just as angry as Townshend’s
And just as destructive.
Arfderydd is pronounced Arf-der-ith (“th” as in father)
The dreams return,
Can’t stop them from coming,
Dreams of the past,
Relived like a robot,
Unable to deviate from programming.
Dreams of things that never happened
–that never could–
But I that know to be true:
On stage alone,
Ukulele-playing Tangled Up In Blue,
Won’t Get Fooled Again,
Sharing a backstage drink with
Early ’80s Pete Townshend,
Toasting a fallen friend,
Fidgeting for a fix.
Dreams of the future,
Not flying-car Flash Gordon future,
No Starships or monoliths.
The real future, my future:
The coming darkness,
Depression and death.
Standing on the beach
Feeling old and tired,
Ready for the end.
But I’m wrong.
Adapted from Chapter II of Summer of a Doormouse.
They say, “Don’t confuse Hamlet with Shakespeare,”
Bill wasn’t an introspective indecisive Dane,
Byron wasn’t Byronic,
And Dylan never shot anyone named Grey.
But can you separate art from artist?
Could you enjoy the poetry of an unashamed
pederaster (not a pedophile!) member of NAMBLA,
Loving boys like a Greek philosopher?
Would you read a novelist you knew was a Nazi,
Even if none of his characters ever gassed a Jew?
Could you become lost in the mythic meters of
Primeval prose poems written by a serial adulterer?
What about Haiku written by a westerner who thinks
A $15 minimum wage just isn’t right?
You can’t give support to such horrible human beings,
But what if they’re too dead to profit from book sales?
Your favorite holocaust surviving Hollywood director
Turns out to be a pedophilic rapist,
Now his best made movies make you vomit
Just seeing his name on the screen.
Did Picasso’s paintings change
When you learned of his misogyny,
Or did you?
Poem #22 for National Poetry Writing Month (aka #NaPoWriMo)
When I started this blog my intention was to share prose as well as poetry (though poetry will likely always be my main focus), but I have neglected to post any prose pieces until now.
Summer of a Doormouse is an unfinished prose project that I haven’t done any signifigant work on in many years. I have hopes of finishing it in some form someday, but, until then, I want to share it here and mayb get some feedback.
The Summer of a Doormouse
by John W. Leys
“When one subtracts from life infancy (which is vegetation), –sleep, eating, and swilling – buttoning and unbuttoning—how much remains of downright existence? The summer of a doormouse.”
– George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron (1788-1824) Journal Entry, dated 7 December 1813 Continue reading
Straight outta Hibbing,
Guitar in hand, New York bound.
Think I’ll write some songs
Written on the occasion of Dylan being awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Could be sung to the tune of ‘Song for Woody‘ by Bob Dylan.
You’re out there traveling another mile down the road,
Listening for messages when the cold winds have blow’d,
Writin’ ’em down and sendin’ ’em out,
Trying to figure what this crazy world’s all about.
Gravelly voiced gentleman
With fuzzy brown hair
A singing dancing acrobat
With a steely eyed stare
Traveling down the midnight highway
Trusted guitar in hand
Weary feet walk all the way
From New York to the Rio Grande
Singing songs and telling tales
To earn his daily bread
Though even those who listen carefully
Aren’t sure exactly what he said.
Ask where he is going,
He’ll ask where you’ve been.
Does he care about the world’s problems?
Stare deep in his eyes; you won’t ask again.
Quick change escape artist
Moves to fast to be pinned down
They’ll keep trying, he’ll keep traveling
Until the day they plant him in the ground.
“All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name “ – Bob Dylan, 1965
It goes unspoken,
But sometimes it’s written
Delivered by an electric horseman
Riding a Siamese kitten
It’s always been understood
By those who’re in the know
The zombies don’t often believe it
‘Cuz it doesn’t often show
Their life is led by candlelight
They don’t know who to trust
As they spend the night in the tub
Watching their toy trains rust
Don Juan’s sitting next to Lola
Playing hard to get
Holding out for younger flesh
As he drinks himself to debt
Lola envies the Zulu princess
‘Cuz baby got more back than he do
But she don’t pay him no mind no how
As she paints the building blue
Byron and Shelley are arguing again
Over whose turn it is to speak
Lola’s about to come unglued
‘Cuz Juan’s been visiting the Superfreak
Byron’s writing Layla a letter
To explain why Shelley can’t play
While Shelley’s sending a postcard
To explain why Byron couldn’t stay
The zombies want our secret
So that they to can be like us
But if they don’t wise up soon
They’re liable to miss the Magic Bus
13 July 1995
I thought of you today, Allen Ginsberg,
As I often do when the howls from
Desolation Row enrapture my mind.
Rapid fired images stolen from
Dreams and nightmares of America.
Starving in the streets like
Hysterical angel headed hipsters
And raggedy vagabond doctors
Crouched in darkened doorways
Snarling, scratching at the
Constable’s carriage for
A scrap of bread.