Saturday, November 5, 2016

Election Day

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Exquisite Candidate

Denise Duhamel, 1961

I can promise you this: food in the White House
will change! No more granola, only fried eggs
flipped the way we like them. And ham ham ham!
Americans need ham! Nothing airy like debate for me!
Pigs will become the new symbol of glee,
displacing smiley faces and “Have A Nice Day.”
Car bumpers are my billboards, billboards my movie screens.
Nothing I can say can be used against me.
My life flashes in front of my face daily.
Here’s a snapshot of me as a baby. Then
marrying. My kids drink all their milk which helps the dairy industry.
A vote for me is not only a pat on the back for America!
A vote for me, my fellow Americans, is a vote for everyone like me!
If I were the type who made promises
I’d probably begin by saying: America,
relax! Buy big cars and tease your hair
as high as the Empire State Building. 
Inch by inch, we’re buying the world’s sorrow.
Yeah, the world’s sorrow, that’s it!
The other side will have a lot to say about pork
but don’t believe it! Their graphs are sloppy coloring books.
We’re just fine—look at the way
everyone wants to speak English and live here!
Whatever you think of borders,
I am the only candidate to canoe over Niagara Falls
and live to photograph the Canadian side.
I’m the only Julliard graduate—
I will exhale beauty all across this great land
of pork rinds and gas stations and scientists working for cures,
of satellite dishes over Sparky’s Bar & Grill, the ease
of breakfast in the mornings, quiet peace of sleep at night. 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Burlesque (from "Music for the Theater") by Aaron Copland


My Mother Goes to Vote
by Judith Harris

We walked five blocks 
to the elementary school, 
my mother’s high heels 
crunching through playground gravel. 
We entered through a side door.

Down the long corridor, 
decorated with Halloween masks, 
health department safety posters— 
we followed the arrows 
to the third grade classroom.

My mother stepped alone 
into the booth, pulling the curtain behind her. 
I could see only the backs of her 
calves in crinkled nylons.

A partial vanishing, then reappearing 
pocketbook crooked on her elbow, 
our mayor’s button pinned to her lapel. 
Even then I could see—to choose
is to follow what has already 
been decided.

We marched back out 
finding a new way back down streets 
named for flowers 
and accomplished men. 
I said their names out loud, as we found

our way home, to the cramped house, 
the devoted porch light left on, 
the customary meatloaf.
I remember, in the classroom converted 
into a voting place— 
there were two mothers, conversing, 
squeezed into the children’s desk chairs.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Mad Rush, by Philip Glass





The Tragic Condition of the Statue of Liberty
by Bernadette Mayer

                                      A collaboration with Emma Lazarus


Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Give me your gentrificatees of the Lower East Side including all the well-heeled young Europeans who’ll take apartments without leases
Give me your landlords, give me your cooperators
Give me the guys who sell the food and the computers to the public schools in District One
Give me the IRS-FBI-CIA men who don’t take election day off
Give me the certain members of the school board & give me the district superintendent
Give me all the greedy members of both american & foreign capitalist religious sects
Give me the parents of the punk people
Give me the guy who puts those stickers in the Rice Krispies
Give me the doctor who thinks his time is more valuable than mine and my daughter’s & the time of all the other non-doctors in this world
Give me the mayor, his mansion, and the president & his white house
Give me the cops who laugh and sneer at meetings where they demonstrate the new uses of mace and robots instead of the old murder against people who are being evicted
Give me the landlord’s sleazy lawyers and the deal-making judges in housing court & give me the landlord’s arsonist
Give me the known & unknown big important rich guys who now bank on our quaint neighborhood
Give me, forgive me, the writers who have already or want to write bestsellers in this country
Together we will go to restore Ellis Island, ravaged for years by wind, weather and vandals
I was surprised and saddened when I heard that the Statue of Liberty was in such a serious state of disrepair & I want to help
This is the most generous contribution I can afford.

REFELCTIVE MUSIC: Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor by Irving Berlin
American Melting Pot by Henry Cowell





I Hear America Singing

Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
     and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off
     work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the
     deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
     as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the
     morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at
     work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
     fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Fanfare For the Common Man by Aaron Copland
 performed by Emerson, Lake & Palmer



Let America Be America Again

Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
 
(America never was America to me.)
 
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
 
(It never was America to me.)
 
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
 
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
 
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
 
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
 
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
 
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
 
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
 
The free?
 
Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
 
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
 
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!
 
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
 
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: New Day A-Comin' by Duke Ellington


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