Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Cats Herded Me Today

The cats herded me today,
no easy task either.
I'm not resistant
but am a good bit aimless,
and by a bit I mean reluctant
to pick a direction
and head into it.

All things told,
I'm on indefinite hold
on a phantom call with my past
trying to connect to my future
if it's not been sold
and split the difference
if I may be that bold.

I could leave a message
but don't know what to say.
I could hold all day.
So, cats, show me the way.
Is there
a place we can stay?
I will get out of the way
and follow today.

Indian Cove
Austin, Texas
August 20, 2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Between Something
and Nothing

Is Everything

Do you ever,
when in the middle
of doing something
or doing nothing,
engrossed or apathetic,
distracted or daydreaming,
gently and resoundingly
suddenly wake up
come to
shed just enough
precious old skin
to realize what skin
you might have been living in
and tremble
almost imperceptibly
maybe gasp a bit
at glimpse or intimation
in anticipation
for the promise
of the new
and different

Who I am.  What this is.
Where I am.  Why not
is answer not question.
The purge and urge
to diverge and emerge.
re.  Now.  Wow.

Meow, says Tsavo
under his breath tonight
as he sits the Sphinx
and I crosslegged
on old asphalt that
nature is turning
back to nature
taking its time
under beaming moon
its shadow fingers
of intertwining oak
probing around us,
through us,
tethered branches
overhead swaying
slowly forward and back,
silhouettes reenacting
the rathers and
whethers of lives,
waving to and fro
a shadow show
of dark and glow
back and forth
between particulars
exploring the limits
of true north
of stay and go,
fast or slow
this is your show,
you know.

You feel movement
in your soul
a filled hole
not a role
real for now
you take your bow
you are gifted
and lifted
and a little sifted.

We live thanks to physical
and sublimer forces
beyond our comprehension.
And time is beyond even that.
Though the mind trumps time.
Yet time wins in the end
for now.

What we know
is what we remember.
What we remember
is what we've let go of
to get where we are
in the center.
Larry Piltz
Indian Cove
Austin, Texas

Where Scapegoats Grow on Trees

Follow the flower wherever it goes
be it a zinnia, aster, or rose

I can't do this
I'm not a flower
I just can't go there
I can't stand in one place
I move
I sneeze
I stand without wavering
in a breeze
I accidentally rhyme
can a flower do this
all a flower can do
is be perfect as it is
I can't do it because I'm not a flower
make major mistakes by the hour
but flowers don't live long
I am worth a thousand flowers
if you measure life in human years
which I do

also I move
my mind moves
my feet moves
my tongue moves
every part of me moves
all a flower moves is mountains
I have to go over mountains
or around them
the long way
where is the justice in that

where are the scapegoats
flowers make terrible scapegoats
they're beautiful
they hurt no one
not even the rose
that's the thorns
there's nothing wrong with flowers
they are blameless
but they can't move
which is why they're perfect scapegoats
pollen may get away
but the flowers can't
I can't be a flower
I move
or can I
since it's not up to me

Larry Piltz
Flower Cove
Austin, Texas

Monday, August 4, 2014

[Auditorium at Mississippi's Hinds County Junior College in 1968 on a different occasion.]

This Is For Bobby

Just after sunrise the morning Robert F. Kennedy was killed overnight in Los Angeles, I was standing in line outdoors with a few hundred other 16- to 17-year-old boys at Magnolia Boys State.  I was one of many from across the state selected as a future leader of Mississippi that year attending the annual leadership camp sponsored by the American Legion.

The camp  was held on the campus of Hinds County Junior College near Jackson, an overgrown plantation of a town of the Old Confederacy that was still to that day, and remains, the center of gravity of a violent hate and seething resentment, perhaps to forever proudly carry the contagious germ of evil from which issue the original sins of  slavery, war, and genocide.

We were hearing the usual instructions for the day, the last day of Boys State, when one of the adults in charge announced that RFK had been assassinated only hours earlier.  There were at most one and a half seconds of silence, the calm before the storm, before a spontaneous combustion of gathered hate ignited a cacophony of screamings for joy and delirious cheering, raucous, loud, and utterly unrestrained, punctuated by whooping rebel yells, that lasted a minute or two, though seemed much longer.

Not a single adult in attendance tried to quell the sad mad disturbance by the handpicked future leaders of the state, nor said anything about it once it had subsided nor anytime afterward.  For me, it felt like being a not-yet identified potential next victim among a mob of savage slavering jackals rolling with snarling abandon in the bloody corpse of its kill, a scrum of dumb and scum.

It was mortifying, dismaying, and distressing, a vivid moment I will always remember clearly.  I so wanted to say or do something but was taken aback by shock and alarm.

Right after the morning instructions were over, I sought out one of the college-age camp counselors, not one I knew but someone I hoped might could be sympathetic.  I asked him for help, and this is what he managed to accomplish at my urging, which seemed would have been next to impossible on such short order.

1) He procured a spot for me in that night's Magnolia Boys State closing ceremonies to take place in the campus auditorium, a few moments onstage to myself.  2) He located and bought the sheet music for a specific song.  3) He found a fellow counselor to play the song on piano.  4) He located a piano, likely in the auditorium complex, and had it brought onstage.

Then without an introduction and with the accompanist seated at the piano in that darkened auditorium, I walked to the center front of the stage to the microphone stand, still burning if not seething against the tawdry spectacle of early morning, and without any comment myself sang "The Impossible Dream" to a captive audience of by far mostly misbegotten racist hateful youth.

It wasn't enough.  I didn't say, "This is for Bobby".  I didn't 'say' anything about what had happened.  I just did what I could and was too afraid, angry, or both to do more.  It's probably the most heroic thing I'll ever do, which if anything may point out that I could have done a lot more or better with my life, but I'm glad somebody did something.

nd, yes, it was for Bobby.

And it was for Medgar Evers, killed five years earlier at his home, also in Jackson.

And it was for the three civil rights workers, James Andrew Cheney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael "Mickey" Schwerner, killed four years earlier 80 miles northeast of Jackson outside Philadelphia.

And it was for the four Birmingham girls killed five years earlier in the Sunday bombing of their 16th Street Baptist Church, for God's sake,
Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins, because they happened to live their innocent young lives in Birmingham, a city that was not a city, because a city is supposed to be civilized, and instead was a colonial outpost of hate and vile murder, slavery and Jim Crow's self-entitled legacy; and 238 miles from Jackson.

And it was for Martin Luther King, Jr. killed only two months earlier just across the Tennessee state line in Memphis, a distance of 210 miles from Jackson.

And it was for
Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, a college junior, and James Earl Green, 17, a high school senior, who were gunned down by Jackson police on the Jackson State College campus two years later, in 1970, for demonstrating against war with hundreds of others, all unarmed.

And it was for Bud Strong of Biloxi, a sweet and harmless mentally retarded African-American man, and another victim of a Jim Crow death squad, who was kidnapped and murdered in 1960, and whose body was left in front of an historical Biloxi tourist site named "Beauvoir", which was Confederacy President Jefferson Davis' estate across from the beach, a beautiful site covered with huge oaks and over which a huge Confederate battle flag is flown.

This hate crime occurred in the direct aftermath of a terrifying nighttime white race riot of shootings, firebombing, and other violent attacks against "Back-of-Town", Biloxi's black community, in retaliation for a Wade-In demonstration earlier that day to desegregate the beach.  Biloxi is 167 miles from Jackson.

And it was for Malcolm Jackson, another young African-American man from Biloxi, who was beaten to death in 1960 in the Wade-In riot's aftermath also, by Pascagoula, Mississippi police.  Pascagoula is 20 miles from Biloxi and 165 miles from Jackson.

nd it was for Dr. Gilbert R. Mason, a Biloxi physician who as an indefatigably courageous physician, healer, leader, local NAACP president, former Boy Scout and Boy Scout troop leader, and upright activist who did so much for so long to help right the ungodly wrongs in my hometown, state, and country.  Dr. Mason, against all odds and attempts, was able to live a long full life, and I wish to God I'd known him.

T R U E   H O M E L A N D Larry Piltz Why is this sweet world we live in so torn between chaos and Zen with extremes at either end lik...