It Doesn’t Matter Anymore – Part 2

The least interesting man in the world:

I don’t always write poetry, but when I do I am usually inspired by impressions and feelings, rather than incidents. I let my mind go soft in the face of overwhelming forces like love or nature, then search for words to capture the resultant swirling phantoms.

There is only one time that I wrote a poem inspired by a specific event. On June 12, 2016 a man opened fire in the Orlando nightclub Pulse. When the shooting and screaming stopped, 49 people were dead and 53 more were wounded. Beyond those victims, many times more people were sickened and scarred by the All-American phenomenon of gun violence and the cowardice of government officials at every level who allow it to fester.

I wrote this poem in reaction:

It doesn’t matter anymore
Why it was done, or how
Bright red splatter is everywhere
Mixed with chunks of flesh and booze
Eventually it goes down the drain
And gets washed out to sea

It doesn’t matter anymore
The deed cannot be undone
The memory cannot be forgotten
There’s only so much that tears can wash away

Angry voices yell and tell
Who to blame and who to punish
Terrorists
Gun nuts
Liberals
NRA
LGBTQIA
Muslims
Congress
Obama
Killary
Drumpf
It doesn’t matter anymore

We like to pretend that we want it to stop
We like to tweet #neveragain
We like to send our thoughts and prayers
We like to hold candlelight vigils
We like to weep together
But we don’t want it to stop
We don’t want it to stop
We don’t want it to stop
We don’t want it to stop
It doesn’t matter anymore

 

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It Doesn’t Matter Anymore – Part 1

There is a line in John Prine’s masterful Hello In There that has always haunted me:

We lost Davy in the Korean War
I still don’t know what for
It doesn’t matter anymore

That’s the way it goes in life. At one point there is something that means so much to us that we can barely breathe when thinking about it. At another point that same thing doesn’t matter anymore. Maybe time really does heal all wounds.

We had an apartment in the city
Me and Loretta liked living there
Well, it’d been years since the kids had grown
A life of their own
Left us alone

John and Linda live in Omaha
And Joe is somewhere on the road
We lost Davy in the Korean war
And I still don’t know what for,
Don’t matter anymore

You know that old trees just grow stronger
And old rivers grow wilder every day
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello”

Me and Loretta, we don’t talk much more
She sits and stares through the back door screen
And all the news just repeats itself
Like some forgotten dream
That we’ve both seen

Someday I’ll go and call up Rudy
We worked together at the factory
But what could I say if asks “What’s new?”
“Nothing, what’s with you?
Nothing much to do”

So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care,
Say, “Hello in there, hello”

The Difference Between Us (live)

…or maybe we should concentrate on what we have in common…

The difference between a lover and friend
is the difference between the start and the end
the difference between a crack and a bend
that’s the difference between us

The difference between your life’s longest day
and the one when you wake up, you’re running away
people who cry and people who pray
that’s the difference between us

The difference between alone and alive
is the difference between a push and a dive
difference between desire and design
that’s the difference between us

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Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe is not the star of the story that bears his name. Neither is Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, or Richard the Lionheart, who all have significant parts to play in the tale. The star is Rebecca, the “jewess.” That term, like “negress,” sounds not only old-fashioned to our 21st Century ears but racist, and there is plenty of anti-semitism in Ivanhoe, so much that I felt a little queasy in the early pages, afraid I had unwittingly begun reading a racist tract, until I remembered that it was recommended to me by a Jewish woman.

ivanhoe

The character called Ivanhoe is injured in an early scene and spends most of the novel bed-ridden and weak. So the heavy lifting of the story is left up to the character of Rebecca whose beauty, strength, humility, and grace form the backbone of the book.

Written in the 19th Century but set in the 12th, Ivanhoe is considered the world’s first historical novel. Sir Walter Scott’s devotion to accurate portrayal of the language, costumes, and customs of the age extends to the bigotries of the time.

In this scene, Ivanhoe wakes from the injuries of battle to find himself being tended by a beautiful doctor. Scott uses this scene to lay bare the ignorance of 12th Century prejudices which he must have seen reflected in his own time, and we can recognize in ours:

“Gentle maiden,” he began in the Arabian tongue, with which his Eastern travels had rendered him familiar, and which he thought most likely to be understood by the turbaned and caftaned damsel who stood before him – “I pray you, gentle maiden, of your courtesy – ”
But here he was interrupted by his fair physician, a smile which she could scarce suppress dimpling for an instant a face whose general expression was that of contemplative melancholy. “I am of England, sir Knight, and speak the English tongue, although my dress and my lineage belong to another climate.”
“Noble damsel – “ again the Knight of Ivanhoe began, and again Rebecca hastened to interrupt him.
“Bestow not on me, Sir Knight,” she said, “ the epithet of nobles. It is well you should speedily know that your handmaiden is a poor Jewess.”
I know not whether the fair Rowena would have been altogether satisfied with the species of emotion with which her devoted knight had hitherto gazed on the beautiful features, and fair form, and lustrous eyes of the lovely Rebecca – eyes whose brilliancy was shaded and, as it were, mellowed, by the fringe of her long silken eyelashes, and which a minstrel would have compared to the evening star darting its rays through a bower of jessamine. But Ivanhoe was too good a Catholic to retain the same class of feelings for a Jewess. This Rebecca had foreseen, and for this very purpose she had hastened to mention her father’s name and lineage; yet – for the fair and wise daughter of Isaac was not without a touch of female weakness – she could not but sigh internally when the glace of respectful admiration, not altogether unmixed with tenderness, with which Ivanhoe had hitherto regarded his unknown benefactress, was exchanged at once for a manner cold, composed, and collected, and fraught with no deeper feeling than that which expressed a grateful sense of courtesy received from and unexpected quarter, and from one of an inferior race. It was not devotional homage which youth always pays to beauty; yet it was mortifying that one word should operate as a spell to remove poor Rebecca, who could not be supposed altogether ignorant of her title to such homage, into a degraded class, to whom it could not be honourably rendered.

I don’t know why Sir Walter Scott devoted his masterpiece to an exposé of anti-semitism disguised as a swashbuckling adventure. Perhaps he fell in love with a jewess.

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Elizabeth Taylor as Rebecca in the 1952 film version of Ivanhoe