Love Sonnet

Orson Welles pitching Paul Masson wine

“We’ll Sell No Wine”

“We’ll sell no wine before its time,” we’re told.
The fat and famous spokesman made it clear,
Each vintage has its period of gold.
(You must assess the pressing and the year.)

So, likewise, for each vintage comes a time
The point past which there’s no return at all.
Decay and oxidation work their crime,
And turn your sweetest nectar into gall.

So come, my dear, what are we waiting for?
Our cellar holds a few more bottles still.
Pick one and brush away the dust before
Time turns its contents back to must — time will.
Cast off our caution and our clothes and pour,
And drink with joy until we’ve had our fill.


Notes:  The news lately has been filled with dreadful reports:  mass shootings in Las Vegas, bombings in far-away lands, vile behavior by the powerful of Hollywood.

Because I know that mankind is fallen, I have no confidence in “human nature.”  But my innate positive outlook this week has been shaken.

When the week began, I learned that the son of a friend and former colleague had been one of the wounded in the Las Vegas mass shooting.  He had been a law enforcement officer for over 20 years and had never been shot, nor shot anyone in the line of duty.

And then he was shot in the neck and shoulder while he was attending a country music concert.

Thankfully, he survived and is on the mend today, and should be okay.

Then, the news about the Hollywood sexual abuse scandal broke.  My Facebook feed has been filled not only lurid stories of the rich and famous, but heartbreaking firsthand accounts from women I know who have suffered in silence from heinous actions of abusers.

The sheer amount of #me too is overwhelming.

Evil is real and more common than we want to admit.

One particularly poignant series of posts has made me reassess my own hometown experience.

I’ve written glowingly about my childhood and my hometown and my education.

As I have processed the new information, I must admit that — depending on where you stood — my hometown could have been more Twin Peaks than Mayberry RFD.

There was stuff going on back there that I had no idea about.

So, in the face of horror and dread, I will resort to a place of solace and peace.

I will celebrate love, and marriage, and monogamy.

I will seek to find meaning and comfort in order and rhyme and meter.

When the society and the culture seems to be disintegrating, I will look to the good examples I have in my life and celebrate faithfulness and honor and love.

I really don’t know what else to do.

Historical note:

I’m old enough to remember when Orson Welles became a television pitchman for a sort-of-good American wine.

Welles had been the genius who panicked the nation in 1938 with his faux-documentary radio broadcast, “War of the Worlds.” In 1941, he directed and starred in “Citizen Kane,” considered to be among the best — if not the best film of all time.

By the late 1970s, Welles was making commercials. His Paul Masson spots are still classics.

“We will sell no wine before its time,” was a magnificent slogan.

Advertisements

Hometown haiku

Marshall High School cheerleaders, 1968.
Courtesy of Susumu Wakana

Unattainable,
cheerleaders stirred crowds and our
imaginations


NOTES:  Here’s another invaluable photograph from my friend, Susumu.  This must have been taken in the fall of 1968, amidst an exciting small town high school football season.

It most certainly was an away game.  The home games of the Marshall High School Owls were played at Missouri Valley College’s Gregg-Mitchell Field, and this setting does not look familiar.  I’m guessing it might have been the away game that year at the home field of our most hated rival, the Excelsior Springs Tigers.

Marshall had been playing second fiddle to the Tigers for several years, just unable to put together enough power to overcome dislodge them from the top of the Missouri River Valley Conference.

The year before, we had endured a humiliating defeat as the Tigers came into our stadium and beat us on a frigid night in Marshall.  Those old aluminum benches had never felt so cold.

This year turned out much better.  Coach Cecil Naylor had us worked into such a frenzy that we could have taken on a band of Viking berserkers.  We travelled into the Tigers’ home turf, took care of business, and vanquished them 20 to 0.

But I digress.

The topic is cheerleaders.  What is with their mystique?  And why couldn’t they get a date with their own classmates?

I could be misremembering, but it seemed that very few cheerleaders ever dated guys in their own class.  Older guys might work up the confidence to “date down” with a cheerleader from lower grade.  But mating between cheerleaders and a classmate was scare and rare.

One of life’s great mysteries.  The Cheerleader Paradox.

Mysterious even when you factor in the fact that in our little town, many of us had attended school together since first grade, and the rest of us had been together in the same building since 7th grade.

The long history and close familiarity meant that most of your classmates were like family.  That contributed to sense that the cute girl in chemistry class seemed more like your sister or your cousin than girlfriend material.

I mean, you’d grown up together!  You’d seen each other on good days and bad days.  Good hair days and bad.  You’d fought on the playground in grade school, and competed for teachers’ attention.  Not much mystery left.

But even that doesn’t explain the Cheerleader Paradox.

Dr. Freud, call your office.  I’m open to hypotheses.

Hometown sonnet

Arrow Street, leading into the square of Marshall, Missouri
Hometown Sonnet

The old hometown is aging, as am I,
The once wide streets grow narrow with the years,
As night descends, you all but hear a sigh,
For what once was has gone, and twilight nears.

Now friends and kinsmen number fewer, too,
And memories fade like the painted sign
Proclaiming that the city “Welcomes You!”
Strange how one’s soul and place so intertwine.

Life used to bustle round our stately square
‘Til commerce shifted to the edge of town.
The grand facades are now much worse for wear,
Some landmarks have been torn completely down.
The business of my life took me elsewhere,
Cracks grew in walkways of both man and town.


Notes:

Thomas Wolfe wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again,” but last year I made a couple of trips back to my childhood hometown. My high school class held a reunion, and there was the lingering matter of tidying up my late parents’ estate, which seemed like it would never get resolved.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my old classmates, and re-igniting long dormant memories. But, not all my classmates are doing well.  Not all of them made it back.  Not all are still alive.

The visits led to reflection, and that led to poetry.

 

Hippie haiku

Vintage college swimming pool
“Liberate the pool!”
We presumed naked meant free.
We didn’t know jack.


Notes

The year: 1970.

Location:  A liberal arts college with a reputation for being a little “out there” situated in the upper Midwest.

A delegation of hometown friends make a long journey up to pay a fall break visit to a group of their high school friends who inexplicably all had happened to enroll in the same Liberal Arts College with a Reputation for Being a Little “Out There.”

It’s great to see old friends.  Partying ensues.  Someone (remembering with fondness the skinny-dipping escapades back home in the bucolic farm ponds and rock quarries of west central Missouri) suggests that a group be formed to go “liberate the pool” on campus.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

The word goes forth through the hallways of the dormitories of the liberal arts college with a reputation for being a little out there.

A party is formed, and the pool is “liberated.”

The campus police are called, and the liberators are duly cited for their violations of civility.

I’m not saying who was, and who wasn’t actually there.  Or who was a participant, and who was just an observer.  Perhaps, you were not available, but you would have gone had you been available.  Perhaps, you were horrified at the mere suggestion.  Memories get fuzzy when seen through the gauzy veil of so many years.

But, I’ll let the following people explain to their families and descendants just what role they actually played that evening in the notorious Macalester College Skinny-Dipping Affair of 1970:

  • David DuBois
  • John Swisher
  • Marty Swisher
  • Rob Greenslade
  • Robert Lee Van Arsdale
  • Ann Heinzler
  • Sheri Fritz
  • Paul Thompson
  • Alison Williams Coulson
  • George Cossette
  • Becky Roberts Kabella
  • Alan Ballew

John Marquand, I’m pretty sure you were not along on that trip.  But if you had been, I’m also pretty sure you would have been right there with the other liberators.  This is your chance to set the record  straight.

 

Hometown sonnet

Hometown
Life used to bustle round our stately square …

Hometown Sonnet

The old hometown is aging, as am I.
The once wide streets grow narrow with the years.
As night descends, you all but hear a sigh,
For what once was has gone, and twilight nears.
 
Now, friends and kinsmen number fewer too,
And memories fade like the painted sign
Proclaiming that the city “welcomes you!”
Strange how one’s soul and place so intertwine.
 
Life used to bustle round our stately square
’Til commerce shifted to the edge of town.
The grand facades are now much worse for wear.
Some landmarks have been torn completely down.
The business of my life took me elsewhere.
Cracks grew in walkways of both man and town.