Yet once more, darkness my old friend, I come
To pluck the harsh bud of December midnight,
To contemplate the year that slips away.
Fine Scotch once again in hand, I wish
I could forget, ignore, deny, dismiss
Some of the truths I came to know this time:
Ukraine now sunk in civil war like Syria;
Israel and Hamas blind in Gaza;
Isis and Boko Haram pitching battles
Of all against all, brother against brother;
Ebola running like a fire of blood
Through the poorest cities of the poor,
While sad Malaysian planes fly into nothing.
And let’s remember here, so close to home,
Our sorrow, our confusion and our shame
In Ferguson and Staten Island, where
Something, somehow surely is not right,
As something surely is not right when torture
Is called “enhancement,” as if it could be
Raised in esteem if we just change the words.
Hard to find good great enough to meet
Such challenges. And yet I know it’s there,
Straight out my door, across deep wilderness,
25 miles southwest across the forest,
Across Mt. Axtell and the Anthracites,
Enormous mountains rippling in the dark,
To Crawford, where, in his adopted home,
The greatest blue-eyed soul shouter ever
Died last week: Joe Cocker, R&B king,
The man Ray Charles declared his one disciple,
Comparing him to Marvin and Aretha.
I think of that vast wilderness between
Our homes, not unlike the wilderness
That runs within us and can come roaring
Forth, and then imagine fifty years
Of soul, rising from whatever ashes
He made burning his days down. And now
Where is it? Where did it go? Where now
That voice of doubling octaves that could sound
Like a shovelful of gravel thrown
Against a concrete wall, the overtones
Bent so hard at the edges they ignite,
That English muscle mixed with US blues,
Passion, passion that had to come forth
So purely that it gave him crazy dancing,
arms akimbo, twisted hips, face wrinkling
With the red hot energy of soul
That didn’t seem to make sense, but it did,
Saying: Do you need anybody?
Well do you? Well, my friend, yes you do,
You need someone to love. Then you’ll get by,
You will because you have a little help.
So bring on the bad news. There will be more.
And yet, in light of that fat, endless drought
Can’t we turn to it and say, well, look,
We can do this too, make one of these:
A guiding light that shines in the night, music
That can unchain our hearts and lift us up.
Bring it on. Let December come.
We’ll get by. Just remember, friends,
That this is Colorado and you need
To wear more than a hat. Go in peace –
And listen, Joe, as you haunt those mountains:
Few hearts survive, but ours are beating on.
We have everything we really need
Right now, it’s true, true in that music floating
In fact and memory from Mad Dog Ranch.
Night, and morning. A new year has come
As I sang this elegiac song.
Now let us rise and wander in that flood
Of music and of love in Colorado,
The resting place of love songs such as Joe’s.
The Colorado Independent‘s News-Stained Poetry Project features poems that are about the news, products of the news, responses to the news. “News stained” is meant as a badge of honor, a reference to the long tradition of the poet as witness. As Carolyn Forché wrote, politics can sometimes be seen as a “contaminant to serious literary work,” something to be avoided. But that way of thinking, she said, “gives the political realm too much and too little scope… It renders the personal too important and not important enough.” News developments, whether or not they are reported, shape our personal lives every day. We don’t often think in the moment about how that is happening and what it means. We should think more about it. Poets think about it. And we want to help encourage them to write more about it.
Please send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line “poem,” with a short bio and some mention of where and when the poem was written.
[Image by Marc Soller]