Mulberry Hill

Mulberry Hill

1.
To
be
raised
on the Clark
family home place –
George Rodgers Clark Park –
my front yard – Mulberry Hill –
where Louisville’s first family settled.
I’m sure there is plenty to say about George.
I’m sure they were privileged. It was a blessing –
to play in the rich Grey Kentucky clay! Play war in our
grass forts, throwing walnuts at each other. My
Brother and Sister at my core – our undaunted childhood
discovery. We were privileged to be free to play.
To be told not
to come home
until the sun
was sinking low.
2.
I remember “no niggers” painted on the roof of the
lodge, in the park where we swam. We played basketball
together – they had big family picnics, family reunions.
I remember when they painted over the
wrong words with white paint. And then
the letters would eventually bleed through –
like some sort of cruel joke, like a stain.

I don’t remember seeing any “niggers” in the park!
My mother told me the word on the roof was
wrong. I remember “stop busing” painted on the
stop signs. I remember the two black kids in
my neighborhood catholic school. They stuck out
like a sore thumb. They didn’t stay long …

I remember the mean man who would run us off
when us kids would get too wild.
He ran the park from a little office in the lodge.
His name I don’t remember. He carried a five gallon
bucket and picked up trash.

I remember majestic grandfather cottonwood
trees blowing in the hot humid summer breeze –
sapping cherry trees and the flooded creek.
The tree that was surrounded by a large fence –
the story behind it. They said an Indian woman
sat there with her dead child in her arms.

Her tears watered the tree as it grew around her.
They said you can still hear her weeping if you put
your ear up to the tree. They also said it grew from
George Rodgers Clark’s sword.

Oh how I remember walking across that park …
to find my Dad. At the end of the bar at Tim Tams.

– I would stand under his shadow.
His work truck parked in the lot.
Oh how I remember the real cherry
cokes! Pickled bologna and crackers –
the men and their work conversations.
The wooden shuffle board game and
the heavy metal pucks.
Falls City beer in ten ounce glasses,
salt shakers on the bar –
the telephone that would ring –
the bartender telling the woman on the
other end – “ no, he is not here.” –

4.
Privilege is relative, not a good place to start
a conversation. Political correctness is relative too!
Triggers are pulled and buttons pushed! We can
only be so careful not to offend.

It was a privilege to be a free child –
before Anne Gottlieb was stolen –
before those Trinity boys were raped –
before they beat to death that gay man in
Cherokee Park with a Louisville Slugger.
Before media told us who we were supposed to be –
before AIDS became a household word.
Before cable T.V. terrorized our airwaves
with a constant droning.
5.
Times are a changing. Time has been known to do
that. Naturally. I act out in defiance of the norm. I rebel –
taught to question – raised by resilient men
and women. People who were trying to dream. In America.
The land where their fathers and mothers died.

It is a privilege to be alive –
it is work to tread water –
to keep your head above it all.
6.
May peace be with you.

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The Sabbatical of the Belle

They call me old man.

My crew. Nothing has really changed

in the over 100 years our lady has

made her way around.

They call her a tramp.

The boat. They use her to make a point,

of how things used to be built to last.

They say she is haunted.

By a deckhand, who walks the lower

deck whistling a mournful tune, and

by a captain who loved to gamble.

We are not a team.

For a team is out to win something.

Competes in game-playing.

We are a crew.

Wherein We, is the only way.

There is no, Them.

They call me old man.

My crew. Of young boys of summer.

Spirited like freedom, like

fireworks. Crass, salty and no different

than any other working men –

I have experienced.

They give me shit, and I give it back –

as they carry large bags of ice up a grand

staircase. I shirk that work, as they

miss the details, skip the corners –

walk around in circles,

day dreaming of

cute girls,

success

and

money.

There is something about her –

our Southern Belle. She breathes

with the ebb and flow of the river.

As her lines tighten and slack.

One little mistake could skin

a finger, pull a body into the water.

And that is our only goal, to keep

everyone out of harms way.

The river, our river –

much like how this boat

has been at times.

Trashed, dirty and rolling free,

like the murky blood

of a forgotten country.

And I walk the decks, a reincarnate

of Floyd the whistling deckhand.

Singing railroad hobo songs,

traditional blues. Making up

words to go with the troubles

I have seen, the struggles I feel.

A continuation of a body of

working songs, left in the air

like vibrations reverberating

in time with the clicking of

this massive machine.

They call me old man.

As I honestly greet every passenger

with a southern charm –

that is not a gimmick.

The rich, who shuffle on the

boat without making eye to eye.

The children, scared by the

grandness of our lady’s strength.

The old woman, who rides for free.

The Mayor, just making an appearance.

All the people, no matter

their lot, greeted in the language

of a native son.

Welcome to the Belle,

watch your step and then

Y’all have a gooden or,

take it easy now,

Y’all come back

and see us.

The Sabbatical of the Belle.

They call me old man.

A river man now.

Who once blew

that lonesome whistle,

all the live long day.

I am a stowaway most of

the time, laughing under my

breath.

They,

my crew,

if they only knew.

Old man river.

That old man river –

he must know something.

But he don’t say nothing.

He just keeps rolling –

He keeps rolling along.

John Paul



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Who?

1.

Who do you think

all this is for?

This careful talking,

pleading.

Who glances into the river

only to turn a blind eye?

Is it that something,

just beyond

the image,

deep surrounded

in murky

darkness?

2.

Quietly,

as so it seems!

There are angels

and demons at play.

Purposely serving

two masters.

Cutting underbrush

with blood dripping

down my ankles!

Sweat, running

down my brow.

Burning piles of

old growth

nothingness,

away.

Laughing nervously.

Crying out in vain!

Peacefully sleeping

in a work felt rest.

3.

Dying.

Yes, everyday as if

this death practice,

in the waking –

is for real.

Liken the thought

of your radiance,

life is the sweetness.

Reality comes

and goes.

I can’t stop the sun

from setting.

I can only turn

away for so long –

before succumbing

dark and soulless.

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A transcendentalists worst nightmare!

This morning and coffee, blind tightly shut.

Home away from home.

I try to embrace reality, in kind. Settle down,

breathe. Enjoy the cool fresh spring air.

A family waits for me at the other end of this L&N.

Thoughts have replaced song.

Worries soothed by experience.

Long stare, looking to nothing.

Thinking, mourning, dreaming.

Thinking about my father, step father, mother.

An upbringing, theirs.

An awesome task, responsibility to a son and wife.

Facts, equations, works.

Draw a solid line under all the fulfillment of life.

Like a prayer. A mandala of me like the last grain

of sand from a monk’s artful creation blown away.

Collected and thrown into today and tomorrows.

There is a new moment out there past closed hotel windows.

I have not seen it yet. This plastic room, nothing here

is real. I have no want to be exposed to foreign light.

Television, Mode of operation, Facebook, Twitter.

All this is for folly! The worried words of so called

friends. Their worry. I know just a drop of his story,

her want. Vanity glaring on pixel glass’ reflection.

An unreachable solidarity. Knowing of pain.

Of no relief or an outlet. Sharing a tremendous burden.

Like nothing we have never experienced.

I fancy that poets of old like us meet.

Dreamers of dreams. Scribes of time and place.

A mirror for some. The melody of life of

dissonance and harmony metaphorically tricking

an orchestra into laying down their instruments

and dancing with the audience.

This morning and coffee after a short rest.

These words are for anyone who has time.

I take time. Like that time, as a child I stole

some gum from the little mom and pop up the street.

I have reasoning and excuses

that afford me that sort of favor!

Mine! All this is ours anyway!

This. Some seem to be praying for an end.

I know how to make it all stop.

Power is a button I know how to push.

Revolt, revolution, revolving.

A love supreme in action and in thought.

A pursuance of Psalms, a wisdom of history.

Holding sympathetic breath screaming.

We do need each other. Duality.

A transcendentalists worst nightmare!

My Mother Was A Teacher! #120strong

My mother at a late age
decided to go back to college.
To become a teacher!
She was my Cub Scout den mother,
we saved stamps for Bangladesh.

And after we filled gallon ice cream buckets
with stamps, thousands of used stamps to
be matched face value, the Boy Scouts of
America put us on the front page of Boy’s Life!
They didn’t like our activism at first.

Bangladesh? Where is that? Many people
would ask, and us kids had just learned
ourselves, about poverty and working conditions.
We were doing something, just a little something
to help, my mother leading us by heart and action.

In college, she helped to fight Apartheid.
I learned to get up stand up, stand up for
your rights. I lived in fear my mom would be
arrested. I did my homework, with her new
college buddies at Denny’s – organizing.

After divestment, and graduation, she left
her activism to teach, “I took my activism to the
classroom” – she said many times. I remember
her first days, nervous and scared – the little
mixed girl from east Jefferson St. Mother of three.

Her first classroom was as small as a closet.
Her children labeled behavior problems.
She said frequently her kids were the poorest
of the poor white, and the poorest of the poor
black, Lake Dreamland and Cotterhomes.

Her children. She told stories of home visits
with kids who had dirt floors, and issues
because of where they were living.
She made a thousand excuses for them
because they were the ones left behind.

“Poverty knows no color”, I remember her saying.
I remember hours around the kitchen table
she worked at home grading papers.
Calls to parents, worrying about her kids.
Wondering if they would make it to school.

When the school system wanted to label me –
she let me quit school at the age of sixteen.
She knew i was special, her lessons deep
with moral, her life was lesson enough –
the youngest of many, an immigrants kid.

Raised in the Jim Crow south – her country
white Baptist mother and her accent –
her brown Lebanese father, afraid to teach his kids
their language because he didn’t want his
children to be made fun of. Singled out.

The underdog was who my teacher mother
fought for! Her kids, the ones who chemicals
had infected, music had exploited – parents
had abandoned, boys with no fathers, girls
with no roll models, families struggling to live.

If my mother could see what is going on now –
she would be another voice in the sea of red.
The teachers chanting “we’re not gonna take it!”
And it is a shame that these people who we all
have to thank, are having to take a day off.

Teaching is a calling, I saw it call my mother
to a life of struggle. Struggle like a mother
does when her children are sick. Or when her
classroom got too big for her to take care of
them individually. Or struggle with a Principal.

Who saw teaching like a business. Was more
worried about numbers than souls. Put their
politics before children. And it is sad that today
we are in this position. Our Teachers are begging
a government that has been raided by thieves –

for the right to do what they have been called
to do and for the pension and a retirement
that we all benefit from. This is a deep issue.
and if you think a bad teacher is hard to fire …
You really need to learn a serious life lesson.

Anyone can memorize talking points made
by the privitizers. The corporate lackies who
see children as products – say words like
productivity and profit. We as a people are
morally bankrupt, if we can’t stand up for teachers!

 

Schoolidarity Forever #120strong #kyunion


Schoolidarity Forever

When the union’s inspiration through the worker’s blood shall run.

There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun.

For what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one?

For the union makes us strong!

We are public educators and we’re here to take a stand!

This is not the lesson we asked for, this is a fight the politicians planned!

And we’ll stand up for our pensions and we’ll do it hand in hand!

For the union makes us strong!

Every school the board’s sabotage is ours and ours alone!

Every student, parent, worker every brick and every stone!

They are ours, not to languish in, but to thrive in and to own.

For the union makes us strong!

The politicians stole our pensions, and now they want our schools!

They tell us, “it’s just how things are,” and they play us for fools.

But we know that they rigged the game and we won’t obey their rules!

The union makes us strong!

They say “there’s no alternative,” they say it but they’re wrong!

There stealing from our children and they’ve done it for too long!

So join us in our picket lines and join us in our song,

For union makes us strong!

They have taken untold billions, that never toiled to earn!

But without our brains and muscles not a single kid can learn!

We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn!

That the union makes us strong!

In our homes and in our classrooms, in the banks and in the street,

our united people’s movement is a force that they can’t beat!

We are here to take back every Board of Education Seat!

And the union makes us strong!

In our hands is placed a power greater than their horded gold.

Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand fold!

We can bring to birth a new world, from the ashes of the old!

For the union makes us strong.

Solidarity Forever!

Schoolidarity Forever!

Solidarity Forever!

For the union makes us strong!

Re-write 2018 – John Paul Wright – www.railroadmusic.org

Chicago Teachers – 2016 – Ralph Chaplin 1915 – I.W.W