Harbingers

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, POETRY FORMAT, 25 Mar 2019

Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

22 Mar 2019 – This poem was first written on June 6, 2013, revised many times, until the present version in 2019.  It is, of course, a “play” on words from “Waiting for Godot,” the imaginative 1953 play by Samuel Beckett, in which two characters – Vladimir and Estragon – wait for Godot.   The original play emerged amidst the “beat generation,” in which the absurdities of the time, the sheer contradictions, were captured in ironies, cynicism, despair, and ambivalence. 

I felt a need to express my feelings about current times.  Finding in them, parallels, the same absurdities, of the past. Does it ever change?

**********************************

 I.

“End your poetry volume on a positive note,” she said!

“Not with regret, doubt, despair!

Offer love!”

“This, I was told, by someone in need of love!’

“But cannot love arise from regret, doubt, despair?” I asked.

“Are these not seeds waiting to blossom?

Are these to be ignored,

In favor of romantic pretense?

Are we to turn from grief? 

Favor illusion?

Discard, deny, refute, avoid

Restorative powers of pain, shame, guilt? 

 

II.

“No,” I protested:

“I will end my volume with GODOT!”

Life’s absurdities!

Delusions, aberrations!

Mirages, designed to placate,

Images, visions, . . . whimsey!

Anthem of an era!

 

Struggles recalled:

Identity, meaning, purpose!

Conform, submit, obey!

Passivity, obedience, surrender!

Choose!

Some chose!

Most did not!

 

I am a child of the Fifties and Sixties . . .  Kennedy-Era Kid!

Shattered idealistic hopes!

“Ask not what your country . . .”

 

Demons waiting!

Warren Report!

Secrets!

Secret State!

“If they knew, there would chaos . . .”

Bullets, lies, white milk!

“Forward: For god, country, flag!”

Whose god, whose country, whose flag?

 

Mass-culture prisoners:

Schools, media, churches, family:

Government victims,

Corporate gadgets,

Church acolytes,

Military puppets,

Wall street drones,

DC assassins!

 

We accepted rewards!

Protest? Why?

Bowling alleys, drive-ins, slow-dancing,

Amusement parks, chartreuse socks,

Ice cream, donuts, YMCA,

“Hey, what more can you ask for?”

 

Beatniks:

Contemptuous:

Plastic,

Synthetic,

Colors,

Homogenization,

Similarity!

 

Resist!

Wear black!

Model death!

Lazarus?

 

Harbingers:

“I honor you, too late.”

“And they all lived in little boxes, . . . “

Suits, ties, tasseled-polished loafers,

Badges flashed,

Acronymic agencies.

Moles, plants, informants awaiting approval!

Promotion! Medals!

Three-Week vacations!

 

Obvious:

Censorship!

En loco parentis!

Ostracism!

Racism, sexism, ism “isms!”

 

Conform: College:

Hazing, blackballs, student-courts,

Look alike: V-necks, flannel, tan bucks!

Fraternities, sororities, rituals!

Fast foods, milk shakes, fries.

Sex: Yes, No, Maybe, Ok, but . . .

“Will you still love me, tomorrow. . . .”

 

Indulge! Trust Ike!

Racism, sexism, moralism!

Sunday religions, contradictions, flaws.

Forms, rules, records, surveillance,

Agencies, institutions, parents, priests!

Drunk with control,

Insane with power.

 

I applaud, too late, voices of counter-cultures!

Choices were clear:

Ozzie & Harriet, Leave It to Beaver, Donna Reed,

White Knight! (Why no Black Knight?)

Linoleum, Formica, plastics, air freshers!

Inhale Camels, Lucky Strike, Micronite filters!

Lighters! Inhale!

“See the USA, in your . . .”

Cancer!

 

Herd comfort!

Suburbs, separation, similarity;

Look alike, be alike, like alike!

Escape from freedom!

Tell me what to do . . .

 

III.

 Beatniks!

Black-bearded, rumpled, unkempt!

Shadows, resisting, mocking,

Taunting by presence!

Anomalies,

Ruining perfection!

 

“Beatniks:” Greenwich Village!

Artists protesting times,

In words, poems, drama, paintings, dress, action.

Scornful, daring, provoking,

Rejecting Eisenhower-era comforts,

Seeking more from life . . .

Than transistors . . .

 

Uprisings!

Blacks, women, youth, confused men!

Defiant!

Hungering for more than Betty Crocker,

Insulting symbols, rules, regulations,

Cherishing nothing,

Rejecting sterility,

Myths,

Purity!

 

Generational Escape:

Protesting choices,

Cutting puppet-master strings,

Irreverence in each glance,

Disdain in each step,

Delight in condemnation.

Beatniks:

Very presence . . .

Insult to society!

 

IV.

I did not join this protest . . .

This counter-culture,

This prescient harbinger,

This prophetic, artistic, intuitive impulse,

Rejecting mass control, abuse, habits!

 

I ignored message . . .  

 Missed warning:

“Avoid comfort,

Beware familiar,

Accept uncertainty,

Extremes contain opposites,

Post-modernism coming!”

I Read,

I Fled!

Watching, forgetting,

Knowing, denying,

Yielding, lying,

Trying . . . Complying!

 

I did not join them in squalid slums . . .

 Infested apartments,

Street-corner begging,

Black-shrouded clothing,

Zombies,

Walking close to walls,

Tangled hair!

Panhandling, garbage cans, scavenging!

 

I failed to carry their message:

“Life is art!

Unfolding impulses,

Yearning,

Freedom,

Struggle against uniformity!

Experience!

Create!

Be!

 

Beatniks knew:

“Times are father to child.”

You become what you do!

“Be careful what you ask for  . . .

You may get it!”

I did not heed!

Mea culpa!

Forgive me father, for I have sinned . . .

So have you!

 

Convention:

 Covenants across wealth, power, position,

Trapping, snaring, seducing,

Apollonian pursuits amidst suffering.

Bugles blowing charge . . . win!

Football fields, baseball diamonds, basketball courts!

 

War!

Rice fields, paddies, hills, jungles, valleys,

Tunnels, bars, hooches, dope,

Suckee, fuckee . . .

Half-breeds.

Body counts!

Good morning Vietnammmmmm!

Orange rain!

 

Come out!

Fight . . .  like a man!

B-29s

Carpet bombing

Napalm,

Copters,

M-16s

 

AK-47s,

Traps,

Flares,

“I don’t get no . . .”

“No one gets out of here . . . .”

Relentless human toll:

Government, corporation, nation, media ascendancy:

Bilderburgers, Davos, Illuminati:

Privileged people, families, roles!

Infatuation! Uniforms! Pledges! Hymns!

Order!

Orders!

 

Amidst white sacred-marble buildings,

Monuments,

Engraved carvings,

Portraits,

Shadows,

Secret State!

Five-sided buildings!

Yes Sir! No Sir!

“My arm hurts from . . . .!

 

Victims again!

 We chose seduction:

Materialism, consumerism, celebrities.

Mind intrusions,

Dulled reason,

Saturated senses.

Colonization!

“What’s good for General Bullmoose, is good for . . .”

Violence! War! Destruction!

“Don’t cha jest love it!”

 

Eisenhower’s gnawing guilt:

“We must be alert to a growing Military-Industrial Complex.”

How inadequate!

Complex built under his watch,

Funded by his signatures,

Cancerous proliferation,

Sealing humanity’s fate:

Guns, bombs, tanks, planes,

Corporate murderers!

 

Empire . . . Sucking life:  

Monolith!

Nurtured by greed,

Sustained by fear,

Loyal to smiling faces:

Privileged families,

Lobbyists,

“New Sheriffs in town!”

USURY!

 

Military-Industrial-Congressional-Educational-Media Complex:

Wealthy, powerful, positioned, anointed …

Cronyism,

Nepotism,

Thieves,

Indifferent to suffering.

         

Too late I celebrate the Dionysian song,

 Anthems of generations past.

Too late!

Memories linger,

Images faint!

Well-springs for today.

 

A toast to “Beatniks,” past and present:

 Harbingers!

Igniting conscience,

Folk songs,

“Where have all the flowers gone . . .”

Mateus wine,

Coffee houses,

Intimacy,

Guitars!

Rock n Roll!

 

I sing praises:

Luigi Pirandello, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac, Samuel Beckett,

Alan Ginsberg, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Eugene Ionesco . . .

 

Seeds planted!

Protest!

Some followed, some understood,

Some seized the moment:

Berkeley!

Hippies followed!

Long hair, color, drugs,

Psychedelics!

 

Carpe diem!

Revolutionaries!

New heroes!

Angela Davis, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Malcolm X, Che Guevara, John Lennon,

James Morrison, James Dean,

Rebels with a cause!

 

I Close My Volume . . .

Not with illusions of security,

Not with pretenses of love:

Denying,

Forbidding,

Distancing,

Touch!

***********************

I close my volume with a poem to — GODOT.  

Harbingers, is part of a volume of collected poems I wrote about my life journey. The closing poem in my volume is entitled: GODOT.

GODOT is not an optimistic, upbeat poem, filled with hopeful visions and positive thoughts. It is a wake-up call, capturing the absurdities of our times, alerting us to creeping controls, domination: ascendance of wealth, power, position. Some rejected the allure, choosing instead to model ridicule.

I wrote Harbingers to remind myself and others, of the 1950s and 1960s, years of our youth, there were people who warned us of the costs of silence and passivity. Sometimes, courage comes late in life. I did not want to waste another chance. We squander time!

___________________________________________

Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Emeritus Professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus in Honolulu, Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu.  He is known internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 21 books and more than 300 articles, tech reports, and popular commentaries. His TMS articles may be accessed HERE and he can be reached at marsella@hawaii.edu.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 25 Mar 2019.

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