Thanx to a few who have commented on this blog, it has occurred to me that the identity of the author has been kept secret. Not that that was intentional. Not that there is much identity to reveal, but there are some dues. So we (using the editorial we since there’s only me and a cat named Cesare) have decided to share some Independence Day meditations with a couple of poems on the theme of freedom.
The idea of personal revelation is so strong that we offer a personal photo. I’ve aged since it was taken, but still a wreck. It was an exposure from the land of the prospectors whom I’ve always kind of admired. Only, my prospecting was more in the line of literary form, always trying a new dig at an old genre. One editor remarked (and I thought rightly) that Joe (yours truly) writes poetry like prose and prose like poetry. And over the years it’s gotten worse! I’m such a wreck these days I don’t really know what I’m writing. But it’s fun. And this from a guy whose college professors thought couldn’t write an essay. Shows that there might be life after college.
Preaching for the moment, I would offer at this point a piece of scripture. Not from the Bible, but related. It’s from Thomas Jefferson, a man who struggled with some large concepts all his life, wrangling with things like religion and slavery as much as any ordained minister might have. A crazy mixed up kid, as was said in the Fifties, but he was crystal clear on the idea of freedom. For example, he stated in classic eighteenth century style that it didn’t matter to him if a man believed in twenty gods or no god; it did not break his leg nor pick his pocket. Jefferson could have written, Mind your own business into the Constitution.
Though there are many who curtail our freedom by attempting to pick our pockets through agencies, or official and unofficial declarations, essential freedoms still remain large. And only gangsters break legs. Though much public censure seems to be aimed at what people believe or how much they make, folks watching over others like a horde of gossips, most of us are still able to believe or make or write with a measure of freedom— only having to avoid those who look for the “appropriate” in our behavior.
The first poem on offer celebrates one of those American Heroes often mentioned when reflecting on our independence. Frank Azevedo fought in the Pacific during the Big One, an uncle of mine, and more than an uncle, a model. His wife, Betty, is an aunt who might more justly be titled surrogate mom. They form the making of this piece:
Aunt Betty was so tired of dating soldiers.
Uncle Frank had had it for uniforms.
Handsome as a movie star, he was one
of the few in a suit at the Saturday dance.
Not long after, Mr. Azevedo drove out
to the Baggesi farm and informed Carmela,
busy picking tomatoes in the garden:
“My Frank, he gonna marry your Betty.”
Maybe the Big One’s last casualty, 1995—
soldier to husband, family, farmer— that amoeba,
hitching inside from the Pacific Solomons, 1945,
ate slowly into Frank’s core until his final gasps
echoed off hospital walls like exploding shells.
And this last piece is put down as simply a pledge of freedom:
IF THIS BE LIFE
If this be life, to deliver
what odd little deaths you must
at Duty’s door, then go
to market, find your place, but
kneel no more than you have to.
That might be a motto— so
those knees don’t dirty
to any sick fool’s call.
If this be life, to grow
with everything that stretches,
then blow those blues
for leaves you must let fall.
If this be life, to carry
whatever motion you must
to do your dance—
If that be your life, then sing.
Joe Cozzo, Editor