Welcome Back, May Day

The First of May

Welcome home
 May Day!

It’s so good to see you.

You’ve been gone a long, long time.

Marx knows, we tried to carry on

while you were away.

But it was always the same old people.

It became a reunion for tired old lefties.

We mourned you, May,

thought Joe McCarthy’s thugs

had run you off for good.

Now you’re back in all your power and glory.

A million people marched in L.A.

Hundreds of thousands gathering

at the most unlikely cities.

Even Chicago, where it all began.

I’d say you are definitely back.

And who is turning out on May 1st?

It’s workers, nearly every last one.

Just like in 1890 when we celebrated

the fight for the 8 hour work day

right here in the USA.

Back then, lots of us were immigrants

come to seek a better life,

but finding out we had to fight for it.

Some things never change.

¿Que No?

Not only that,

we’re still fighting for an 8 hour day!

-Jim Smith

In Honor of International Women’s Day, March 8

The Women of Venice

Venice is a feminine town.
Here, we take time to talk and walk
and admire the beauty that surrounds us.

Women of Venice paint the murals.
Women of Venice help the homeless.
Women of Venice stand up to free Venice.

Venice is a matriarchy.
It is The Lady, not The Man,
who inspires our poets.

Women of Venice sing our songs.
Women of Venice help women in need.
Women of Venice sustain the Beachhead.

And it is the women who hear
Mother Earth telling us
we must balance our city with nature.

Women of Venice run our stores.
Women of Venice run our homes.
Women of Venice watch over our canals.

We live by the womb of the world.
From the sea we love came all life,
and the feminine spirit of Venice.

But Los Angeles, built for the Queen of Angels,
was stolen by men whose greed
and craving for land knew no bounds.

Now, L.A. treats Venice
like the victim in a bad marriage
battered by developers and gentrifiers.

Someday, O someday,
Venice will be serene and at peace
when we men learn to act more like women.

Women of Venice - Mardi Gras -3-5-11

George McGovern Dies for Our Sins

George McGovern Dies for Our Sins
 
I think of George McGovern this night.
He is lying in South Dakota
with the life force draining out of him
It will be his second death.
 
In 1972, he died for our sins
crucified before millions
because he loved us so.
 
He loved the four students
who were gunned down
at Kent State
 
He loved those who suffered
severe poverty and 
racist hatred.
 
He even loved those who 
were turned against him
by evil men.
 
But most of all, I think 
he loved the victims 
of the horrendous war in Vietnam.
 
He loved the Americans 
and the Vietnamese
without distinction.
 
He knew the 
masterminds of war
were in Washington
 
Where old men
vainly tried to hold
back the tide of history
 
He saw that the war
could not be stopped
without a dramatic act.
 
And so, in the Summer of 72
he took all our sins 
upon himself.
 
He said, I will be your sacrificial lamb.
Let me be the focus of their hatred
so all of you can go free
 
Don’t despair my friends,
your fight for justice was right.
our dream will come again
 
From this defeat, 
and my sacrifice
will come our victory.
 
We will win a world
of peace and decency
if it takes a hundred years
 
A world where every child, man
and women is well fed,
educated, housed and happy.
 
That is my legacy to you.
 

My remarks on receiving the “Spirit of Venice” Award, Oct. 7, 2012

The Spirit of Venice
is the light that shines over our fair city
and distinguishes us from all the others.

The Spirit of Venice
means we would rather enjoy life
that chase after the almighty dollar.

The Spirit of Venice
means we would rather watch a sunset
than watch a TV show.

Will the Spirit of Venice survive?
As our immortal poet laureate Philomene Long said
in a poem written for Bill Rosendahl’s inauguration:

“who will walk upon our footsteps into the next century
That the light of Venice not be extinguished
Nor diminished, nor simply be maintained
But that light burn, burn, burn into a boundless Luminosity!”

And a line of my own:
“In Venice, time goes by,
but the magic remains.”

Thank you, and keep the Spirit of Venice alive.

Sacred Places

There are sacred places in the woods
first recognized by the Tongva people
and revered to this day.

And who would not stand in awe of a mountain spring
or a mighty rock thrusting towards heaven
amid the woodland silence, and the subtle sounds.

The sacred is where you find it.
Here in Venice, the hidden Redwoods,
Japanese gardens and impossible flowers.

And walking toward the center, the Circle,
there is a Temple on a rise of ground,
Inside is a space like the Greeks once knew.

In ancient times they looked up in awe at the mighty Apollo,
or the wise Athena, until their calm places
were pulled down by Barbarians, blind to the sacred.

Inside our Post Office, the deified Abbot looks down
and watches us through the journeys of our lives
as we embrace the Sacred, or turn away.

And now we face the loss of our holy place
Where joy and sorry are carried in a letter
as the new Barbarians pull down our temple.

The World Wave

There’s a Tsunami comin’
to shake up the whole wide world.
You can’t escape this big old wave
hittin’ every city where there’s a slave.
Gonna feel this human tidal wave.
 
Listen, rich man
Your pockets got half of everything
If you billionaires won’t share the wealth, 
and the things we need
Someone’s gonna bleed.
 
You made us the wretched of the earth
’cause you won’t give us dignity and jobs
So we’ll do a little night work.
And if we don’t get a pay raise
we’ll get extra cash another way.
 
Rich man, you got your armies
goin’ around the world
terrorizin’ folk. That’s gonna end.
Hey, we got our army, too.
25 million jobless comin’ unglued.
 
So call out your army and The Fear
Tear gas and water cannons by the ton
Lots of us want justice even more than livin’
Dyin’ might be our pride and our fate
But all you got is your hate.
 
You can knock us down once, twice
maybe more, but we’ll keep comin’
got no where to go so we’ll play your game
’til your soldiers join us in our fun
whatcha gonna do when they cut and run?
 
You seen it comin’ rich man
Hard-workin’ folk fed up in North Africa,
the Middle East, Greece, Spain,
and hairy old England
The World Wave keep on rollin’.
 
We’re gonna make a better world
Annihilate hunger, vaporize your greed.
Egypt didn’t need your pet dictator
like them we’re gonna put you in our past
We’d like to take it slow, but it could be fast.
 
We know those talkin’ heads will lie, lie, lie
your punk politicians will try to make us die.
Tsunami comin’ this way can’t be stopped
Rich man, where you gonna hide?
where you gonna hide?
   
(This poem appeared in the Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology, published 2012)

beats and The Changeling

 

beats

By Jim Smith

Holy Voice of Venice
Crying out softly
in the morning mist.
Escapees from an empire
gone mad with power.
Out they come
from the Venice West
from the Gas House
from the ancient bungalows
lining the walk streets.
Walkin’ down Ocean Front Walk
Got a nickel for a coffee?
Hey man, give me some
of those bennys.
Is that Bird blowin’ out
of Billy’s apartment?
Yes. Bop’s the thing
Oh my head is racing
Gotta put the words
on paper.
Don’t try to think.
No why, No how,
Just go. go, go, go
Listen, man, listen
the ocean will tell you
The gulls are chiming in:
Chee wah wah
And Bird’s layin it down
for a gone world.
Man ooooo man,
We are in The Groove.
Listen you slaves of production
Listen you slaves of adverting
Turn your back on the city
Look out at the ocean
Just stop. Just Stop. Let it take you
in its arms. In its infinite arms.
We are home. We are home.

———–

Changeling

 She rides upon her great mare, Gladus
From end to end this town is hers.
The timid peek over their fences
Others wave from their porches.
We recognize her without a doubt
A bit of pink or brightly blue, it’s her.
One of a kind, A Venice woman.
Hard to predict, easy to admire
She’s up to nothing but good.
Cooking for the sick.
Entertaining the elderly.
You’ve got to be Bad
for Suzy not to think you’re good
…down deep.
 
When night falls our fair maid
changes before our eyes
and under the moon
into the Vamp of the speakeasies
and Queen of the b l u e s
bop bop a be bop
Yeah, sing it baby sing
sing that song of a woman’s torment
sing that song of a woman’s ecstasy.

Power

(In answer to Byron’s The Isles of Greece)

Too many tyrants have risen
and ruled heedless of our suffering.
O, to smash them down
And set our selves, our land and people free
Which of you will wield the Power
and drive away the dark?

Young liberators take action.
Ride the tiger to the far horizon
Yet, it is a dangerous game you play
Power is not free or freedom.
It has a deadly price
to pay

Power is always either here or there.
In times past with mighty strokes
we laid our oppressors low
and put all wrongs to right
then gloried in our deeds.
till time again began its march.

Slowly, slowly, Power took control
the servant became our master
Black and white became our colors
Our veins ran cold
with only the cruelest blood
and the tyrant lived again.

And tempting us still
are the gods of Homer
inviting us to slay another foe,
whose threat we will soon invent.
But what foe is greater than Power
and harder than it to slay?

Come here my friends
and drink good Venetian wine
and take this soothing herb.
For eons we have in battle raged
and still we suffer like the beasts.
Let’s play an earthy tune instead.

Comrades, I would remove my armor
and hang my sword upon the wall.
Leave me amid gardens and sparkling canals
and ocean sunsets caressing Venice.
Pray let’s celebrate our peaceful ways
writing verses in these golden days.

Yet even now I hear the sirens’ call,
the march of pickets echos in my head,
and martial chants entice me still.
Whoa Power you shall not win this day.
Your time is passing. You will not thrive.
Our human race, and me, without you will survive.

Venice Dreams

Venice, it seems, is buildings, streets, canals
but look again, it is built from dreams
and knitted together by we, the dreamers

The biggest dreamer, Abbot Kinney,
dreamed Venice out of the void
And into the soft fog of the world

By his side, Irving Tabor dreamed
of sunlight and good for his people
In a few blocks called Oakwood

When Abbot died, little dreamers
sat by the beach and dreamed
only for a family, a job and a home

Then came the poetic dreams of the Beats
set to the lonely bebop riffs
of seagulls’ cries and waves pounding

Stuart Perkoff dreamed
of the Lady, and the Lady
dreamed of Stuart

John Haag dreamed of freeing Venice
for the people, for all the people
to live in peace in a city of their own.

Philomene Long wove
her dream of timeless love
from her lofty perch by the sea.

Now, thousands dream
their dreams that everyday
recreate Venice in our minds.

Do you have a Venice dream?
If you do, make if real,
make if real.

On First Looking into the Collected Poems of Philomene Long

After Keats’ On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

By Jim Smith

Much had I traveled – or so I thought – in the lands
made brilliant by the poet laureate of Venice
‘til this mammoth and beautiful book
revealed to me my ignorance.
But now, with book in hand,
I can journey to every realm
under heaven and beyond the stars.

I took this magical tome in hand
and opened it at random.
Three baby pigeons flew out
and began chirping
Philomene, Philomene.
The room came alive
with gulls, doves and
regal Ravens

Turning pages,
I was now on Paloma’s beach
The sun became bright
and chased the fog away.
I looked up at an old castle
and saw two poets
standing in the window
their gaze was upon the ocean
far away.

Storm clouds appeared
as suddenly as turning a page.
The poet appeared as a giant on the beach
gliding toward me out of the setting sun
Twenty feet tall at least.
Her voice roared like a winter storm,
A booming roll of thunder seemed to say,
who will walk upon our footsteps
that the light of Venice not be extinguished?

Then I was in her room
high up in the Ellison
She was alone,
but a presence lingered.
She spoke to John
across the chasm of death
as if it were of no consequence.
As she told us, her poems
have conquered death.
They are beyond his reach.

I closed the book
and looked around
at my familiar room.
I will return often
to this magic book,
I vowed.
I thought of Philomene
and the journeys
we would have together.