“Church Clothes” by Lecrae

September 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Church Clothes

R.I.P. to Medgar Evers, R.I.P. to Dr. King

I ain’t tryna’ hate on my own kind

But Al and Jesse don’t speak for me

I’m probably gon’ catch some flack mayne

But I’mma swallow this pill like Pacman

Some of these folks won’t tell the truth

Too busy tryna’ get them racks mayne

Church tryna’ rob my paychecks

Choir members probably having gay sex

Pastor manipulatin’ hurtin’ women

I wonder which he’s gon slay next

Bookstore pimpin’ them hope books

Like God don’t know how broke looks

And telling me that I’m gon reap a meal

If I sow into these low crooks

Plus I know ol’ girl a freak

And how she singin’ a solo

I walked in the church wit a snapback

And they tellin’ me that that’s a “nono”?

That’s backwards, and I lack words

For these actors called pastors

All these folks is hypocrites

And that’s why I ain’t at church

Truthfully I’m just doin’ me

And I don’t wanna face no scrutiny

As long as the church keep wildin’ out

I can justify all my foolish deeds

Smoking weed, pourin’ up

Keep that lean up in my cup

Maybe I could change the world

But this porn on my laptop got me stuck

Yeah I know whats right from wrong

But that there ain’t gon sell a song

I rather sell my soul then save it

If that’s what make my money long

It better not be no real God

With real hope, that heals hearts

That shows me that I ain’t livin’ up

To all the things that He put me here for

It better not be no real church

Real saints, who pray hard

And let me rock my snapback

With the 501s and the J’s on

It better not be no real folk

Who don’t think that they better than you

Straight or gay, drunk and high

They walk through the cold and weather wit chu

Nah we don’t wanna see that

Cause that might mean “life change”

That might mean I’m worth more than money, cars, sex, and pipe dreams

Better not be no real Jesus, real forgiveness, for hurt folks

If God gon’ take me as I am I guess I already got on my church clothes

I love these lyrics by Lecrae.  “Church Clothes” satirizes the arguments of those who don’t go to church, who use faulty logic to justify their non-participation.
Here’s the music video
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September 24, 2012 “In September for a While” by Maurice Sendak

September 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

In September for a while,

I will ride a crocodile

Down the chicken-soupy Nile,

paddle once, paddle twice

paddle chicken soup with rice

Maurice Sendak, 1991

 

 

The first poem I read on the first day of school in first grade, September 1996. The poetry standard was set.

Poem of the Every Couple of Days

September 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Ok, so I’m not doing a good job managing my blog…

Three days without a poem? “I thought you loved poetry,” I can hear the chorus that is my audience.

Sorry guys. My only excuse is that my life has been really topsy turvy the past few days. Sparing the details, let’s just say it’s pretty amazing given the circumstances that I am even publishing at all these days.
But it’s what keeps me going. When I have time, I post and do some explication. But I need to do a better job of at least putting up a poem a day, even if it’s just the poem.

 

So, to make up for lost time, let’s post some of my favorites for the 17th, 18th and 19th:

 

September 17, 2012- “The Wound-Dresser” by Walt Whitman, which you can find here

September 18, 2012- How about “Epistle 2” from Alexander Pope’s “Essay on Man”? You remember this one from high school, right? It has my favorite couplet ever: “presume not God to scan/ the proper study of mankind is man”

and for September 19, 2012- “The Sparrow” by Ivan Turgenev, my favorite poem about love:

 

THE SPARROW
I was returning from hunting, and walking along an avenue of the garden, my
dog running in front of me.

Suddenly he took shorter steps, and began to steal along as though tracking
game.

I looked along the avenue, and saw a young sparrow, with yellow about its
beak and down on its head. It had fallen out of the nest (the wind was
violently shaking the birch-trees in the avenue) and sat unable to move,
helplessly flapping its half-grown wings.

My dog was slowly approaching it, when, suddenly darting down from a tree
close by, an old dark-throated sparrow fell like a stone right before his
nose, and all ruffled up, terrified, with despairing and pitiful cheeps, it
flung itself twice towards the open jaws of shining teeth.

It sprang to save; it cast itself before its nestling … but all its tiny
body was shaking with terror; its note was harsh and strange. Swooning with
fear, it offered itself up!

What a huge monster must the dog have seemed to it! And yet it could not
stay on its high branch out of danger…. A force stronger than its will
flung it down.

My Trésor stood still, drew back…. Clearly he too recognised this force.

I hastened to call off the disconcerted dog, and went away, full of
reverence.

Yes; do not laugh. I felt reverence for that tiny heroic bird, for its
impulse of love.

Love, I thought, is stronger than death or the fear of death. Only by it,
by love, life holds together and advances.

Ivan Turgenev, 1878

September 20, 2012- “All Kinds of Time” by Fountains of Wayne

September 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

All Kinds of Time

The clock’s running down
The team’s losing ground
To the opposing defense
The young quarterback
Waits for the snap
When suddenly it all starts to make sense

He’s got all kinds of time
He’s got all kinds of time
All kinds of time
He’s got all kinds of time
All kinds of time

He takes a step back
He’s under attack
But he knows that no one can touch him now
He seems so at ease
A strange inner peace
Is all that he’s feeling somehow

He’s got all kinds of time
He’s got all kinds of time
All kinds of time
He’s got all kinds of time
All kinds of time

[Bridge]
He thinks of his mother
He thinks of his bride-to-be
He thinks of his father
His two younger brothers
Gathered around the widescreen TV

He looks to the left
He looks to the right
And there in a golden ray of light
Is his open man
Just as he planned
The whole world is his tonight

Yes, these are song lyrics. About football. By the random aughts band “Fountains of Wayne.”
But that doesn’t mean these lyrics aren’t poetry.

I chose this poem set to music because, firstly, it’s fall, which means for every American, football is everywhere. It’s the national pastime. I don’t know when football replaced baseball as the national pastime, but this change was well-established by the 2000’s, when this clever ditty was written.

“All Kinds of Time” comes to us from the album Welcome Interstate Managers, which I would consider to be a concept album that perfectly satirizes mainstream American society.

So of course, one song needed to be devoted to the American obsession with football.

The poem is completely tongue in cheek. It plays off of the classic football commentator phrase “all kinds of time,” said when a quarterback can sit in the pocket during a pass play and is not hurried by the defense.

But it’s a silly phrase when you think about it. What would it mean outside of the context of a football game? And what’s really going on in the mind of the quarterback when he has all of this time?

Fountains of Wayne imagines the quarterback thinking of his fiance and his family and finding an inner peace in that moment.

Football is a sport so concerned with time. The game is allotted a certain amount of time, and not only is there a clock marking the scope of the game’s time, but there is a play clock as well, giving the offense a mere 30 seconds for each play. Football is rooted in time.

Another phrase commentators like to attribute to quarterbacks is that a good quarterback has “control of the clock,” meaning he can speed up the offense or slow it down. But again, outside of football, what would it mean to “control the clock?” To own time? Do we worship quarterbacks because they “control the clock,” linear time, that we are so obsessed with in American society? Wouldn’t the ultimate American hero be able to “control the clock?”

There is something majestic and magical about when a quarterback can sit in the pocket for what seems to be an eternity and wait for the perfect pass. He is surrounded by people looking to pulverize him, outside of his peripheral vision, and yet all he is concerned with is letting a perfect spiral sail across the sky into the arms of one of his teammates. We see poetry in our quarterbacks.

There are so many metaphors in sports that, when applied to life, can be kind of silly. It’s funny to think that announcers, who are doing their job of simply describing the action on a football field, can produce something that becomes somewhat poetic, and then the phrase takes on a life of its own and, because of its transcendent nature, becomes part of common usage. Somewhere along the line, some announcer said “he’s got all kinds of time,” rather than “the quarterback has been sitting in the pocket for seven full seconds, which have seemed like an eternity.” The poetic phrase, unintentionally, stuck.

Each play in football has a carefully designed role for each player- often down to the number of steps certain players must take. There is an intricate choreography to each and every football play. When a play is successful, it is often because the choreography was executed perfectly. As an audience, we triumph in the ballet of football and love to see perfection in action- when something goes exactly according to plan. Football is a relief from real life, when most often things don’t go according to plan.

We have a tendency in American culture to worship our sports heroes, particularly our quarterbacks. If anything can touch that ancient hero worship nature of old, you can find it within the realm of football. All of the phrases of football have permeated our everyday language. But what would having “all kinds of time” be like in real life- to capture that moment of perfect harmony with the football universe. Do we have a real instance of “transcending time” in something as simple as football? Can something so transcendent be found in something so quotidian?

Either way, the fact that Fountains of Wayne jumped on this phrase and ran with it is so clever. Welcome Interstate Managers should be required listening for every American. Here’s the poem set to music:

September 15, 2012- “Somebody Has To” by Shel Silverstein

September 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

 

Somebody Has To

 

Somebody has to go polish the stars,

They’re looking a little bit dull.

Somebody has to go polish the stars,

For the eagles and starlings and gulls

Have all been complaining they’re tarnished and worn,

They say they want new ones we cannot afford.

So please get your rags

And your polishing jars,

Somebody has to go polish the stars.

 

 

Shel Silverstein, 1981

 

What do you think the meaning of this poem is?

September 13, 2012 “In Beauty May I Walk”- Navajo Prayer

September 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

In Beauty May I Walk

In beauty may I walk;
All day long may I walk;
Through the returning seasons may I walk.

Beautifully will I possess again
Beautifully birds
Beautifully butterflies…

On the trail marked with pollen may I walk;
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk;
With dew around my feet may I walk.

With beauty before me may I walk
With beauty behind me may I walk
With beauty above me may I walk
With beauty all around me,
may I walk.

In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, lively;
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, living again…
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.

Navajo Prayer

“In Beauty May I Walk” is a Navajo prayer that I have come to love. It is simply asking to do all things in life with beauty, illustrated through the metaphor of walking.

Walking is a powerful image despite being a commonplace verb. This prayer is actually a chant, and the act of chanting mimics the repetition of walking- each chanted line is like one step on the poem’s walk, and the word “walk” repeated over and over again at the end of each line starts to sound onomatopoeic, like the heavy thud of a foot on a dirt path. The imagery of walking and the action of chanting sentences that end in “walk” fit comfortably together.

I wish I could find the Navajo word for “beauty” because the word is so crucial here. “Beauty” is such a complex word, and it would be interesting to see a more detailed translation of the original Navajo term.

I love the repetitious sentence structure as well. It reminds me of Whitman.

No hidden meaning here. Just let the eternal message of the desire for beauty in one’s life envelop you, and chant it out loud for full effect.

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