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1983-2015
tearing the rag off the bush again
Lines Not Written Wearing Mouse Ears PDF E-mail
"I'd be burned out too.   Disneyland
Is awesome but it's tiring."    I guess I'd hoped
Despite myself the Cal student slouching
Down Shattuck gassing on cell with his
Girlfriend (?) would be addressing the world
Going on, which they'll have to live in
After Tuesday.   But maybe they're Young
Republicans;  I never have a clue
Any more.   I was down with the New
Frontier.   Senior year wore my hair
Like Kennedy's.   Had never imitated
Ike's hairdo, skinheads weren't in, then.
Crusade in Europe however made
My Top 5 Books Read in the Forties
List, tied for fifth with Blood, Sweat and Tears.
One through four:   Navy Blue and Gold, Seventeenth
Summer, The Kid from Left Field, The Seven
Wonders of the World
.   I too dug Ghost Riders
In the Sky, though to my priest-trained ears it rang
With vivid personal Apocalypse
Associations.   At that time the Four
Horsemen of Notre Dame were still famous
In my Chicago Irish neighborhood and
In my mind; I could tell you their names today
And would, were there not a world going on.
Indeed I had an envied grade school chum,
Ed Collins, whose dad had been one of
The Seven Mules;  that, to me, was buzzworthy.
Have you ever seen that film, The Rapture?   She goes
Out in the wilderness to receive the light.
But it doesn't come.   Just cops.   Later arrive
The Apocalypse horses, however, and
Bust down the jailhouse walls.   You'll recall
Joshua's chart-topping ditty at
Jericho--down tumble the bricks.   We've fit
This battle before, to what end?   But then, it's
All good, you feel me?    End times can resemble
Starts (We've only just begun, as Karen C.,
Starving to death amid the fat of the land,
Once warbled in that bank commercial)
To fools like us.   It's like in The Master
And Margarita, in the Russian TV
Movie version, where Pontius Pilate
And Jesus walk off into the stars:  He walks
With me, He talks with me, He calls me his own
As the long day closes
.   Now it's deep night, rain,
I'm scribbling this with a borrowed pen, huddling
Beneath an arcade for shelter
In a public place, as occasional grey
Incurious strangers--lost souls like me?--
Drift past.   One nation, indivisible
Or was it invisible?  mere hours before
The polls open.   Annette Funicello
I liked in seventh grade, but mouse ears
I never wore, O Friend!   My top three
Songs of the pre-Korean War epoch
Were Rum and Coca-Cola, Perfidia,
Hernando's Hideaway;  honorable
Mention goes to that one about standing
On a corner by a pawnshop in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, watching all the girls
Go by
.    So, Where were the girls?   They were going
By that corner.   I remember that song
Swamping my pre-adolescent psyche
Through an entire Cub Scout den meeting
At Billy Beaver's house.   Billy had a weight
Problem; was good at tying knots, but on
Our frontiering expedition to the wild
Scrub margins of the West Side--this before
The suburbs extended all the way west
To Iowa--managed to fall off a branch-bridge
Over the world's puniest creek.   Wet buns
For Billy's campfire hot dogs, that sad day.
And where were the girls then, were they camping
Happily by their own fireside along
The  Allegheny, the Monongahela
Or the Ohio, laughing at us?   Before
Men are evil, one fears, boys are silly.
Is That All There Is?    Peggy Lee sounded
Justifiably disappointed.   Fever
Kindled in me such heats that, after hearing
It in the back of a convertible en
Route to a softball game in La Grange, or some
Such western outpost, my suppressed and
Unacknowledged passion for unsuspecting
Fourteen-year-old Jan D. so distracted
Me that, playing first base, I lost a popup
In the lights, dropped it, and still wince almost
As painfully at the memory as when
The event happened.    But where was I?

 

Somewhere around 1954?   From the subsequent
Early-adolescent period, Ebb
Tide, Stranger in Paradise, Volare
Probably topped my private charts.   This was
Mid-America, remember;  little
Freedom to choose,  definitely no
Alan Freed to guide one.   But to get back to your
Question, burning like a plutonium
Ingot in the pants of an action hero,
Where were the girls?     Dipping Volare
In my cut-price Proustian teacup, I get
Faint echoes of that then popular tune
Being played by the Chicago Cubs'
Ballpark organist.   I had an ushering job
As well as a crush on a girl from Wheaton
I'd met there at Wrigley, dusting off her box
Seat before a game.   She spilled popcorn
On the lap of her madras bermudas;
Trained by the book to be heroic
In my blue-and-gold uniform, I stepped
Into the breach and offered to help her
Clean things up down there.   Immense surprise!
She declined, and not even all that
Gratefully.   Girls see things another way,
There was no choice but to then conclude.
I rued my foolish move all the way home
On the Chicago & Northwestern.   What did
I know of girls' tragic magic, then?
Or of my own motives, for that matter?   Then
There came a quickening of the tempo:
Sh'Boom, Shake, Rattle & Roll.   Something like
Apprehension began to dawn:  Earth Angel,
Heard on a transistor in the basketball
Team bus, signalled an upheaval of sorts.   Next
Occurred The Awakening:  Kathy's
Clown--where were the girls I imagined
Clustering around Don and Phil?   Gone,
If one was to believe the song.   And then in time,
Peggy Sue--I loved that stutter of Buddy's,
Signature, as I thought, of an existential
Urgency I understood;  few songs could have
Gladdened me more than it did when, wind blowing
In our hair through the windows of my Olds,
I drove the girls to beaches by the Great
Lakes of my first real adventures
In biology with the opposite sex.
And in the dark western woods beyond
The city lights, there was that parking spot
Called Tail Light, because cops, stopping in on
Their rounds to peep into steamed-up car
Windows o'winter nights, never interfered
As long as you kept your tail-lights on.    Red
Evidence of a rich interior life
Wasted on impressionable children
Of the benighted prairie, as seen from
The eyes of voyeurs with badges.  O Friend!
Did you ever hear Zappa's song Catholic
Girls?   The phenomena Frank attested
Were less local-regional than ethnic-
Cultural, one suspects, as prevalent
In Chicago as in New York or Rome.
Catholic girls were like Disneyland,
Awesome.   Had I had strength to brave that
Daunting conflagration--think, if you will, O
Friend, of the lava storms of Mt. St. Helens;
Or better still, of Vesuvius, youthful me
Stranded in Pompeii, my toga wrapped
Ineffectually about my feeble
Loins to protect me from the fires
To come--I'd be burned out too, by now.
But though that boiling crater's long since
Banked its flames and cooled for good, still it's true:
There's a world going on, and I'm stuck in it;
The girls are old too;  now we're all in it--
Whatever it is, this weird world--together.

 
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