Santayana said, “Only the dead have seen the end of the war.” We have grown adept at wars, no longer global in scope, but ubiquitous in frequency.
Mine was fought in the rice paddies of Vietnam, and on the campus where we struggled valiantly and vainly to protest, and when that failed, in the heat of Texas, marching about, going thankfully nowhere, shipped to Niagara Falls when the Air Force could think of nothing better to do with the likes of me.
I didn’t die, know several who did and sadly know Santayana was right for Bierce said it best, “In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.”
The problem, or one of them, is the lack of music today. We have all manner of what people call music, but not the music of the sort we need, needed once and found, as we stormed the bastions and bastards who mired us in war, who shunned darker brothers and sisters, who made alienable basic rights to half of us without rhyme or reason, save greed and fear of loss of status, power.
Where are the songs now, calling us, you, to regain the victories, no matter how small that we won with our sweat and often our blood, eroded or taken over time by those who live in the shadows, who crawl out in the dark, who dread the light we would so willingly shine on them again.
Like the Anasazi’s sudden departure from his cliff dwelling I too snuck away, with hardly any trace from a life no longer in clear recollection, only faint images survive, of hours in the City Lights Bookstore reading Corso, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg, then buying the slim volume “Gasoline” not because it was my greatest desire, but its price. Now the worn volume sits nestled between Wilbur and Amichai, a fond memory, like an afternoon in the park in Salt Lake City the tarot spread out before me whispering their secrets for the slip of blotter, the small blue stain bringing an evening of color and touch and that momentary fear that nothing would again be as I knew it to be. The Anasazi knew the arrow of time had flown, had passed the four corners where I lay in the street another senseless victim of a senseless war, while Karl held the placard demanding peace, until the police urged us to move along, and offered the assistance we were sworn to reject. Now the corners seem older, more tired of the life that treads on them daily, on my path to the Federal Courthouse to argue a motion where once we spilled the red paint the blood of our generation. Now there is a wall with their names, a permanent monument while we, like our Anasazi brethren, are but faint memories.
First Appeared in Ellipsis Literature and Art, Issue 35, 1999.
Now then, he says, and at once he is again victim of the confusion that he spreads in his wake. She takes him to task again, but he protests that what was now is clearly then, now, and this now, too, is now then, for each now is gone in the time it takes to recognize it as now. Now is always then, he says, as he quickly walks off in each of the ten directions.