When I was a child…

White children and children of color
Went to different schools
Kenya was Rhodesia
South Africa was apartheid
Germans gassed 6 million Jews
But not those who weren’t allowed to own homes in California

Dictators ruled in Spain, Italy and Chile
Blacks didn’t play on major league teams
Or wear the uniforms of officers or leaders
Or teach white children how to read
Or get into California universities
Or fly commercial airplanes or be firemen

Nor could women compete with men
Homosexual people were mentally ill
Japanese citizens were incarcerated
Their property taken by their neighbors
Young men were pressed into military service
On penalty of imprisonment

Children recited their pledge of allegiance
Under God in secular public schools
There wasn’t treatment nor prevention
For polio, heart disease, influenza, malaria,
Mental illness was abhorrent
Sex workers punished with imprisonment
Hospitals and doctors wouldn’t serve the poor
Jobless people were called, indigent

In 1997, I fell unconscious into the sea
After heart surgery
My ambitions were irrelevant
I felt I was as good as dead
Material surrounded me,
An accumulation of ironies
That I watched disappear as
Scavengers celebrated their luck

Ten years passed, while I,
Miraculously still walking,
Went off to seek an answer
I wandered, a kindly dull misanthrope,
Taking no joy in the company of men
Ignoring the comfort of women

Fascinated by nature’s extravagant variations
I stopped in sleepy coastal towns and inland villages
In the company of deep-throated ravens
Chuckling at me in detaché observations
From branch to branch,
Perched, rocking in the wind
Of follies and ambitions
Frets and cares of those below,
Living on the fringe of bourgeois desire

I awakened in a redwood forest
To Offenbach’s Can-Can in my ears
Looking for a source, the music was within
Waking me with the dawn,
Drowning in the silence of each night.
To escape the constant Can-Can, I returned
To the place I thought I’d never see, to find…

Nothing much had changed
A few more lanes of concrete on I-5
Poor are poorer; rich richer
Those of color now celebrate the short end of their shtick
Young men still pressed into military service
By lack of other opportunity
Property taken now by Department of Transportation
People powerless in the service of Technology
They speak about as if they owned
Subservient in a social agreement
That dooms them to irrelevance at 65.

And then…I heard the Can-Can
And scales fell from my eyes
I saw concrete crack into powder
Dancing in the dust, I saw that
Orwell’s vision missed the algorithm:
The fallacy of a heart’s design;
Love has no reason and it doesn’t rhyme.

Pt. Loma, August 2015

(For my brother, Jan Charles Myrow, on his birthday)

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