Our poem this month, The Unbroken Circle (’76), describes an experience I had during the Bicentennial year. It was late June, and we were on our way to Yellowstone National Park and had arrived in the city of Cody in the state of Wyoming, a place not known so much for its progressive ideas as for its conservativeness. I mean the last time they voted for a Democrat for president was 1964. I’m not a big fan of the Democrats or anything although they did have the only candidate in my lifetime on a major ticket I’d have unconditionally supported (George McGovern), who as fate would have it went down to unbelievable electoral defeat, and Tricky Dick was reelected:
It’s just the Republicans have gone so far right they’re well off the page and into the margins.
Anyway, we were picked up by a guy who I swear bore an uncanny resemblance to:
He told us of a concert and invited us to a party in the middle of nowhere where we were surrounded by young people whose appearance cast serious doubt on the notion they had campaigned four year earlier for Dick Nixon. My problem at first was simple: how to open up a can of Coors. Before you’re too hard on me, consider Wikipedia’s entry on the contraption:
“In the 1970s, Coors invented the pollution-free push tab can. However, consumers disliked the top and it was discontinued soon afterward.”
It sounds to me like a noble but doomed experiment – a little like introducing the metric system in the U.S.
For a few hours we soaked in the sun and the wide expanse of space. Then we went to see The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
We had a great time. The music was inspiring, and their encore was a stirring rendition of this song:
The highest court
in the land
not of flesh and blood
who bleed when cut
to pay off
A quarter of a century ago I spent time in Munich studying German and during my time there I was fortunate to see Willy Brandt speak on two occasions. The first was in a smoky beer hall where mugs were raised in cheers to him. The second was in Marienplatz where he spoke of the need for tolerance.
Here’s a poem I wrote about the second occasion:
With what force were words delivered
and with what fervor brought our hands to clap.
A man standing with dignity
into the early evening truths.
I first read of Noam Chomsky in my Introduction to Linguistics class in connection with his “colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” It is a semantically meaningless sentence that is nevertheless syntactically correct.
My professors, anthropological linguists with interests decidedly different from Chomksy’s, always spoke in awe of the man’s revolutionary contributions to the field.
What I read of his was never easy. There was a lot I didn’t understand. Although I was aware at the time of his political writings, assuming they would be written in a similar manner, I decided against even trying.
I could not have been more wrong. When I began to read him, I found him remarkably approachable.
For those interested, here is his website: