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Sport climber
Jun 28, 2013 - 11:25am PT
Strange Fruit

"I had always assumed that Billie Holiday composed the music and lyrics to "Strange Fruit". She did not. The song began life as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a schoolteacher who was living in the Bronx and teaching English at the De Witt Clinton High School. Meeropol was motivated to write the poem after seeing a photograph of two black teenagers, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, who had been lynched in Marion, Indiana on August 7 1930. Their bodies were hanging limply from a tree. The image greatly disturbed him, and his poem opens with the following lines:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Black body swinging in the Southern breeze

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Hoping to reach a wider audience, Meeropol set his poem to music, and the song "Strange Fruit" was first performed at a New York City Teachers Union meeting. It created an immediate stir.

According to figures kept by Alabama's Tuskegee Institute, between 1889 and 1940, 3,833 people were lynched in the US - the overwhelming majority of the victims being in the southern states, and black. The brutality of this mob "justice" invariably went unpunished, and when Meeropol was asked, in 1971, why he wrote the song, he replied: "Because I hate lynching and I hate injustice and I hate the people who perpetuate it." Those who heard "Strange Fruit" in the late 30s were shocked, for the true barbarity of southern violence was generally only discussed in black newspapers. To be introduced to such realities by a song was unprecedented, and was considered by many, including leftwing supporters of Meeropol, to be in poor taste.

At this time, 24-year-old Billie Holiday was headlining at a recently opened Greenwich Village nightclub called Cafe Society. It was the only integrated nightclub in New York City, and a place that advertised itself as "the wrong place for the Right people". The manager of the club, Barney Josephson, introduced Billie Holiday to Meeropol and his new song, which had an immediate impact on her. She decided to sing it at Cafe Society, where it was received with perfect, haunting silence. Soon she was closing her shows with the song. It was understood that only when the waiters had stopped serving, and the lights dimmed to a single spotlight, would she begin singing, with her eyes closed. Once she had finished, she would walk off stage and never return to take a bow.

The song was revolutionary - not only because of the explicit nature of the lyrics, but because it effectively reversed the black singer's relationship with a white audience. Traditionally, singers such as Billie Holiday were expected to entertain and to "serve" their audiences. With this song, however, Holiday found a means by which she could demand that the audience stop and listen to her, and she was able to force them to take on board something with which they were not comfortable. She often used the song as a hammer with which to beat what she perceived to be ignorant audiences, and her insistence on singing the song with such gravitas meant that she was not always safe while performing "Strange Fruit". Some members of her audience did not fully appreciate her treating them to this particular song when they had stepped out for the evening to hear "Fine and Mellow" and other cocktail-lounge ditties.

Holiday was keen to record "Strange Fruit" on her label, Columbia, but her producer, John Hammond, was concerned that the song was too political and he refused to allow her to go into the studio with it. But the singer would not back down. In April 1939, she recorded "Strange Fruit" for a specialty label, Commodore Records."
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jul 2, 2013 - 08:39pm PT
I look out my window watch her as she passes by
I say to myself I'm such a lucky guy
To have a girl like her is a dream come true
And of all the girls in New York she loves me true

It was just my imagination, once again
Running away with me
It was just my imagination
Running away with me

Soon we'll be married and raise a family
Two boys for you, what about two girls for me
I tell you I am just a fellow with a one track mind
Whatever it is I want baby I seek and I shall find

I'll tell ya
It was just my imagination, once again
Running away with me
It was just my imagination
Running away with me

Every night I hope and pray
"Dear lord, hear my plea
Don't ever let another take her love from me
Or I will surely die"

Her love is ecstasy
When her arms enfold me
I hear her tender rhapsody
But in reality, she doesn't even know... me
Credit: mouse from merced
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jul 10, 2013 - 01:39pm PT
Credit: mouse from merced
Old Friend

What he did for me Iíll never forget
What I did for him was simply a debt

His words rang true way back in the day
His guidance and care helped clear my way

That hard-to-tie knot that he taught me so well
Has saved me and others from going to hell

When I stepped on his rope he chewed me real good
Then he taught me to coil it just like I should

On rappel he looked up cuz he barely looked down
Nor on anyone---ranger, misfit or clown

Our friends were so cool and I was sorry to flee
The Camp 4 I knew back in seventy-three

His mellowness hardened and he soon grew so stern
Finished with climbing, it was carpentryís turn

He lives in the hills not very far away
Iíd stay up there gladly if he said OK

But the days we had then are different by far
We canít have them back by wishing a star

So Iím happy to have the memories I do
For soon thereíll be one where there used to be two

It's better to pay tribute to a live person anyday! We think too much of death. It doesn't think about us at all. Death has few friends, but it's not MY enemy. Fear is my friend, too.

mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jul 10, 2013 - 06:04pm PT

If poems were written subjunctively...


If a clown came out of the woods,

a standard-looking clown with oversized

polka-dot clothes, floppy shoes,

a red, bulbous nose, and you saw him

on the edge of your property,

thereíd be nothing funny about that,

would there? A bear might be preferable,

especially if black and berry-driven.

And if this clown began waving his hands

with those big white gloves

that clowns wear, and you realized

he wanted your attention, had something

apparently urgent to tell you,

would you pivot and run from him,

or stay put, as my friend did, who seemed

to understand here was a clown

who didnít know where he was,

a clown without a context?

What could be sadder, my friend thought,

than a clown in need of a context?

If then the clown said to you

that he was on his way to a kidís

birthday party, his car had broken down,

and he needed a ride, would you give

him one? Or would the connection

between the comic and the appalling,

as it pertained to clowns, be suddenly so clear

that youíd be paralyzed by it?

And if you were the clown, and my friend

hesitated, as he did, would you make

a sad face, and with an enormous finger

wipe away an imaginary tear? How far

would you trust your art? I can tell you

it worked. Most of the guests had gone

when my friend and the clown drove up,

and the family was angry. But the clown

twisted a balloon into the shape of a bird

and gave it to the kid, who smiled,

let it rise to the ceiling. If you were the kid,

the birthday boy, what from then on

would be your relationship with disappointment?

With joy? Whom would you blame or extoll?

--Stephen A. Dunn in New Yorker
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jul 14, 2013 - 04:55am PT
Credit: mouse from merced
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

Have a fine week, seekers!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jul 21, 2013 - 10:05pm PT
Rock 'n' moon, way past noon in late July.  June woulda been better, b...
Rock 'n' moon, way past noon in late July. June woulda been better, but...
Credit: mouse from merced
Little rock.
Big rock.
Both Earthbound,
their many parts been underground.
Now is the time
for each to shine.
They only live so long.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Aug 4, 2013 - 08:04am PT
Let us sink then, you and I, when evening is spread out against the sky.--Jim Donini

Posted in March, 2010, by OUR LEADER.

Take me to your leader please
I'm kneeling on my kneeling knees

I need to have his blessing for
This little project, it's 5.4

May I place a big-ass bolt
No long fall, no sudden jolt

Just raise your hand, I'll do my best
Once I have been Donini blessed

mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Aug 27, 2013 - 12:48am PT

Old yip-yipping coyote is saying to me how happy he is to be here

The smelly old tar weed sends me a message telling me I am home

The cobble-rocks rolling under my feet are each surprised by my tread

They will cover my body, perfume my grave, and serenade me later

Much later, I hope

Iíve not done with these up and down cone-shaped wonders

They are unique to themselves in their shapes

While sharing the same angle of repose

I shall repose among them myself when the time comes

Pushing up tumbleweed

Queen Selene will be in the sky half the time

I wonít be able to see her nor delight in her light

But the coyote will let me know she is passing in review

And greeting her cousin cobble-rocks with her silvery kiss

As they cover my worm chamber

Credit: mouse from merced

Trad climber
Aug 30, 2013 - 07:41am PT
My favorite living poet just died. RIP Seamus Heaney. Here's my favorite poem of his where The Troubles and his love for his mother collide.

Two Lorries by Seamus Heaney

It's raining on black coal and warm wet ashes.
There are tyre-marks in the yard, Agnew's old lorry
Has all its cribs down and Agnew the coalman
With his Belfast accent's sweet-talking my mother.
Would she ever go to a film in Magherafelt?
But it's raining and he still has half the load

To deliver farther on. This time the lode
Our coal came from was silk-black, so the ashes
Will be the silkiest white. The Magherafelt
(Via Toomebridge) bus goes by. The half-stripped lorry
With its emptied, folded coal-bags moves my mother:
The tasty ways of a leather-aproned coalman!

And films no less! The conceit of a coalman...
She goes back in and gets out the black lead
And emery paper, this nineteen-forties mother,
All business round her stove, half-wiping ashes
With a backhand from her cheek as the bolted lorry
Gets revved and turned and heads for Magherafelt

And the last delivery. Oh, Magherafelt!
Oh, dream of red plush and a city coalman
As time fastforwards and a different lorry
Groans into shot, up Broad Street, with a payload
That will blow the bus station to dust and ashes...
After that happened, I'd a vision of my mother,

A revenant on the bench where I would meet her
In that cold-floored waiting room in Magherafelt,
Her shopping bags full up with shovelled ashes.
Death walked out past her like a dust-faced coalman
Refolding body-bags, plying his load
Empty upon empty, in a flurry

Of motes and engine-revs, but which lorry
Was it now? Young Agnew's or that other,
Heavier, deadlier one, set to explode
In a time beyond her time in Magherafelt...
So tally bags and sweet-talk darkness, coalman,
Listen to the rain spit in new ashes

As you heft a load of dust that was Magherafelt,
Then reappear from your lorry as my mother's
Dreamboat coalman filmed in silk-white ashes.
The Lisa

Trad climber
Da Bronx, NY
Aug 30, 2013 - 07:48am PT
It is a sad loss for Ireland, and the world of poetry.
I love his translation of Beowulf.

Trad climber
Aug 30, 2013 - 08:55am PT
Here Heaney fashions himself as Orpheus with his new bride Eurydice in the London underground.

ďThe UndergroundĒ Ė Seamus Heaney

There we were in the vaulted tunnel running,
You in your going-away coat speeding ahead
And me, me then like a fleet god gaining
Upon you before you turned to a reed

Or some new white flower japped with crimson
As the coat flapped wild and button after button
Sprang off and fell in a trail
Between the Underground and the Albert Hall.

Honeymooning, moonlighting, late for the Proms,
Our echoes die in that corridor and now
I come as Hansel came on the moonlit stones
Retracing the path back, lifting the buttons

To end up in a draughty lamplit station
After the trains have gone, the wet track
Bared and tensed as I am, all attention
For your step following and damned if I look back.

Sport climber
Aug 30, 2013 - 10:08am PT

A glass to an old friend

"Everyone wants a piece of Ireland's first Nobel-winning poet since Yeats. When we arrive at our destination, an oyster bar overlooking St Stephen's Green, the ebb and flow of Irish pride in Seamus, as he is universally known, surges up in a succession of spontaneous greetings. Everyone recognises Heaney's professorial spectacles and silvery mop.

A frisson passes through the restaurant. This woman wants to tell him about her daughter, recovering from leukaemia, and to ask for an autograph. Two punters, checking the starting prices on a laptop, volunteer a tip about the 2.30 at Leopardstown. Another old chap wants to be remembered. And the maÓtre d' is beside himself with getting the best table ready.

I wonder how Heaney can stand it.

No need to worry. The object of this attention seems to move in a serene bubble of modesty and unconcern: he likes the attention, and it does not really trouble him. He's had it, in different ways, all his life, and he knows that, for an Irish poet, it comes with the territory.

There are many ways to be a famous writer in Dublin. You can be mad and grand, like Yeats; or mysterious, like Beckett; or drunk, like Flann O'Brien; or absent, like Joyce; or what? A long time ago, Clive James nailed Heaney with "Seamus Famous", but that's a gag, at best half true, spun off Heaney's brilliant self-presentation. There is rather more to the poet than his fame, dazzling though that can be.

For someone who has been so remorselessly scrutinised, Heaney is still something of an enigma. He works hard to make "famous" seem normal. Unfailingly courteous and attentive, he can also be grave, remote and occasionally stern, always watching himself, like the king of a vulnerable monarchy.

In keeping with that vigilance, and a well-defended uncertainty, Heaney is always asking himself the essential questions articulated in Preoccupations, his collected essays. "How should a poet properly live and write? What is his relationship to be to his own voice, his own place, his literary heritage and his contemporary world?"

I've known Seamus Heaney for about half of his writing life. The key to our friendship was always a third party: the mischievous, antic figure of the folk-singer, broadcaster and lord of misrule, David Hammond, from Belfast. Last summer, after a long illness, Hammond died. I was in America at the time, and unable to go to the funeral.

As part of my farewell to "Davey", I knew I had to see Seamus, pay my respects to the dead, and share the recollection of old times. Quite apart from my deep affection for Hammond, I'm conscious that Heaney is keen on the proper obsequies (he loves funerals) and will be only too glad to raise a glass to our old friend."

A glass to Seamus Heaney!

Sport climber
Sep 5, 2013 - 10:51am PT
Tae a Moose

"The lassie has great theatrical delivery but she could dae wi a few lessons in the mither tonge"

A Man's a Man for A' That


Sport climber
Sep 5, 2013 - 10:57am PT
Seamus Heaney: my travels with the great poet

Seamus Heaney was a great poet and friend, says Andrew O'Hagan, as he relives their travels in Scotland, Ireland and Wales Ė tucking into chowder and contemplating the afterlife"

"Memory was everything to Seamus. The memory of his father digging in the yard. The memory of peeling potatoes with his mother, or once noticing the glad eye of the coalman. He had a mind to Ireland's memory, the seasonal return of faith and possibility, the falling away and the coming back of things. He cared for this the way other people care about politics. He wanted to offer value to a notion of existence beyond the bounds of sense, and that is where his language led him, to the power of wonder and miracles in daily life. Great is the friend whose one small shove can put you on the upswing. Being with him, I always felt able to give everything its due. His was a steadiness that befriended the person you wanted to be."
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Sep 5, 2013 - 02:34pm PT

The above link addresses non-poetic prose and what to do with the bastard child, as I have in the past here-2/4.

As in

Sergeant Carter, I think ya oughter give us a cadence count. On account of three of four of us ain't up to speed yet.

Private Pyle, you better smile when you tell me that next time.

And try and make it rhyme!

Gimme twenny-nine! Hut!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Sep 5, 2013 - 02:57pm PT

Mice Ďní I

by eek-eek hummings-strollski

four years itís been just me

now itís me and mouse

mimicking mice

and playing the ice house blues

it is frozen in memory

the clear blue of the water flowing underground is not visible

underground there is no light

ask a blind mouse

there are three in this house

me mice and I

two of them and one of me

itís not Mycenae

thatís history

but mice Ďní I

we will get by

all four one

and not one of them there

Jebus H Bomz

Peavine Basecamp
Sep 6, 2013 - 10:41pm PT
If I didnít
then who would you
be talking to?
Would somebody else
fill the space
that began ignoring you?

Sport climber
Sep 8, 2013 - 01:23pm PT

"Here in the twilight the translucent hands
Of the Jew polishing the crystal glass.
The dying afternoon is cold with bands
Of fear. Each day the afternoons pass
The same. The hands and space of hyacinth
Paling in the confines of the ghetto walls
barely exists for the quiet man who stalls
There, dreaming up a brilliant labyrinth.
Fame doesn't trouble him (that reflection of
Dreams in the dream of another mirror), nor love,
The timid love women. Gone the bars,
He's free, from metaphor and myth, to sit
Polishing a stubborn lens: the infinite
Map of the One who now is all His stars."
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Sep 10, 2013 - 07:08am PT
I predict the sun will rise today
In a spectacular blaze of glory.
It will pop up in the age old way
Thatís all. Itís the end of this story.
--M.F. "It wouldn't be any better even if you paid me" Merced

Just another poetry brick in the wall.
Just another poetry brick in the wall.
Credit: mouse from merced

"But he knows so little of Spinozan th-theory, nor th-those of Leibnitz, neither..."--the C-//County Watchdog N-News, 10/14/13 (another prediction)

Spinoza's Joke about the bell-ringer of Notre Dame goes into the books as one of the most brilliant of his funniest jokes. He and Leibnitz invented "patter" and zBown and myself are merely followers of their routine. That should be under "Obvious" in Funk and Wagnall's.

In that bell-ringer joke, the brother? When he comes to apply for the job in the second half of the joke? Now THAT'S just the cat's meow!

"He's a dead ringer for his brother!" Cheese! Yer slayin' me!

I'm just a simple Gemini, searching for a twin.
I might just find me one, if I looked within.
If I only had a brain.--song

Meanwhile, in the other (which one was I on just now?) side of my brain, I might like to go to Spain: It's the place from where they broadcast the game show, Sephardy! hosted by Miguel "the Cat" Gato y Gato.

Who is Benito? Is he a Flame, a county, or a fictional mission near an actual town?

Just ask the Baptist John. He'll set ya straight, won't put you on.

Then, "San Juan Bautista is sure to become one of your most favored excursions."--the San Benito Blurb-Blog

Drivel, dravel, druzzle, Drone. Time for Whitey to come home.

You are expecting a real poem.

THE CAVE o La Cava

This cave smells of earthy shepherds and animal-breath
and there is a lingering scent of meadow-flowers
from the hay where a baby is laid.
Large and low, an unusually bright star peers down
from an angle of the cave-mouth
where the camel-hair drape hangs loose and Listen!
There is inexplicable singing from the hilltops!

Time, the scientist tells us, is a device
confined within a certain cosmological radius
upon which to hang our brief lives tick by tick.
The mind can tilt time back to sketch in
the inconsequential details of Luke's account.-
Shepherds in their sheepskins,
animals snuffling the newness of the baby.
Joseph pitting his glimmering oil lamp against the liquid starlight
and Mary bending over the child
who opens briefly the pansy-dark eyes
of the newly-born to search her amazed young face.

And still down the dusky centuries you and I and half the world
savour the raw simplicity of this makeshift mťnage
like salt on the morning tongue.
It is all here within the finger's touch,
and the small circle of the eye's reflection.

Yet it's significance lies well beyond the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
which will be received with exquisite courtesy,
far, far beyond the inexorable tick of our lives
and the immeasurable span of space.
This is a place to rest before we step once more into the time-held night.

--Patricia Bolton rsm
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Sep 10, 2013 - 07:51am PT
Stalking Poetry by Brad Yoder
Written June 2009

saw a girl on a train in a country I was leaving,
and she may have smiled at me, or that might be wishful thinking,

anyway, I wonít see her again,
and you canít call a stranger a friend

on a street, in a town where I speak the language well enough to know
that Iím not home, and laugh at half the jokes, so I can tell

that Iíve lived here before,
but that countryís not here anymore..

I was trying to be free, trying to be kind,
Iím just trying to be me, so I hope that you donít mind
if I sing here on your street, in a language you donít speak,
Iím stalking poetry again, again..

and every gray apartment buildingís just a giant concrete filing cabinet
for childhoods and family stories of people I donít know at all,
and at any given moment surely someone must be feeling
every kind of human feeling somewhere in between those walls..

thereís a church on the square that they finally rebuilt
after the war, using stones that they sorted from the rubble,

now the old stone is black from the smoke,
while the new stone is yellow as gold,

underneath theyíre both the same, pieced together, old and new,
in a town after the war everyone can see your wounds,
so I sing here on your street, in a language you donít speak,
Iím stalking poetry again, again.. (repeat CH:1)

A stranger crow has never been seen than the Dunny Bird.  In towns and...
A stranger crow has never been seen than the Dunny Bird. In towns and counties near you sometime in the future, he assures me. Stand, or fly, by.
Credit: mouse from merced
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