Tag Archive | poetry

Politically Incorrect

I’m fed up with politics. Everywhere I turn are people telling lies and half-truths. I have to check with PolitiFact.com before I can believe anything any politician says. One candidate says he didn’t mean anything he’s said for the past five years. One says if he can raise as much money as his opponent he can win. So, we buy public office now? I’m no innocent. I know you need money—lots of money—to win a campaign, but I’d like to see a few ideas thrown into the pot, too.

My father had no respect for politicians. He defined elections as the process by which we “take some rascals out and put some rascals in.” I always suspected he cleaned up that aphorism a bit for my benefit. He always told my brother he could be anything he set his mind to, except a politician. (We girls were to get married, learn to cook really well, and raise kids. It never entered his head that one of his daughters might go into politics.) My mother never said much about it, but I think she would have disapproved of my becoming a politician for the same reason she disapproved of a career in nursing: I would see naked people. She was inordinately concerned about that.

You know things are bad when you look back with nostalgia at the election of 1960. I was just a kid then, but I could understand the Kennedy-Nixon campaign. It made a lot of sense that some miner in Appalachia asked John Kennedy if, as president, he would obey instructions from the Pope even if he thought they were bad for the country. We were much less politically correct in those days. Today, only a barbarian would question a candidate’s religion, race, or birth certificate. Right? (The Birthers don’ t scare me much. They will, eventually, find out Hawaii is a state, too.)

Politics is inherently full of pitfalls. Nixon lost a lot of ground after his debates with Kennedy, because he looked like a crook on television, which, as it turned out, was type casting. George (Daddy) Bush lost points for what the media called “the wimp factor.” He came across on television as a milquetoast. Frankly, as a former head of the CIA, he certainly had backbone and was dangerous. If you go all the way back to the campaigns of Eisenhower and Stevenson, Adelai Stevenson lost the 1952 election because he came across as too smart, an “egghead.” Only in America are you denigrated for being too intelligent. (At least we seem to have put that issue behind us.) And considering Richard Nixon made the “egghead” comment, we should have been forewarned.

So, when I can’t stand another minute of today’s rhetoric, I’ll remember the good old days and a presidential campaign that was cogent, dignified, incisive, and even inspired memorable poetry:

Since Kennedy says “cawf,” then Johnson must agree,

That a Texas calf is now a “cawf,” as any fool can see.

So when you go to the market, do not snicker and “lawf.”

Just go in and say, to be quite genteel, “Please give me hawf a cawf.”

Moon, June, Tune

I’ve been writing a long time. I used to type up original scripts for “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” on my portable Royal typewriter. There are a number of giveaways in the previous sentence showing how long ago that was. Over the intervening years, I’ve written business letters, software user documentation, newspaper and magazine articles, short stories, and even a paean to Benbrook, Texas, that came close to qualifying as fiction. The one genre I’ve studiously avoided is poetry.

I am not a poet. (Picture Richard Nixon striking his pose before boarding the Marine One helicopter to oblivion.) It’s true. Whenever I’ve tried, forced by optimistic English teachers who until they ran into me thought there was a poet in everyone, I failed dismally. No Robert Frost nor Paul Simon am I, nor even the guy who composed the roadside Burma Shave ditties . My poetry most closely resembles limericks and the graffiti in the ladies’ restroom at the House of Pizza in Ft. Worth.

I always had a hard time understanding and interpreting poetry, too. It never said to me what it was supposed to say. A poem, supposedly a statement on the condition of humankind, to me was a commentary on fishing out of season in Bexar County. I dreaded each year when my teacher’s fancy turned to poetry. The poetry test always screwed up my average.

Therefore, it was with resignation I approached last week’s meeting of the San Gabriel Writers League. Our speaker, a poet. I had to be there to take the minutes, so I couldn’t plead a 24-hour case of bubonic plague. I went, determined to make the most of it and just wait for the bell to ring—er, I mean, wait for the meeting to be over.

Instead, I was blown away by Thom Woodruff, aka Spirit Thom, aka Thom World Poet, a somewhat less-than-sane Aussie who proceeded to tear down all my preconceptions about poetry and replace them with a new admiration for those who can put words together in that special way. Before I could hide behind my dignity, I was mimicking his gestures and repeating after him like a Moonie at a revival. It was fun, and more than that, I understood most of his poetry. It is cogent, clever, thought-provoking, and liberating.

Thom performs his poetry. In another time, he would be the storyteller, relating tales worth remembering by firelight, holding his audience in the palm of his hand. The lucky attendees at our meeting were just as rapt, sitting with eyes wide, mouths slightly agape, laughing, gasping, and applauding.  No wonder he’s also known as Thom the Circus.

This wasn’t exactly my first literary rodeo. Yet I was blown away, totally, by this one man’s poetry. If you get a chance to see and hear him, drop everything, put the hamburger meat back in the fridge, and get there as fast as your little feet will go. He’s a must-see, can’t-miss fandango.