Daniel Berrigan: A Dark Word

Those of you who have been around awhile and had some exposure to the counterculture of the 60s will certainly know the name Daniel Berrigan, Roman Catholic priest and peace activist.  He died Saturday at the age of 94.  Arrested many times, as recently as 2006, he was once imprisoned for two years after he burnt draft files during a protest against the Vietnam War.  One of his partners in crime was his brother, Philip, who also served time in a federal prison.

You can learn more about Berrigan in this NY Times obituary.

According to Wikipedia,  until his death he taught at Fordham University and served as its poet-in-residence.

It seems apropos in the wake of his death and on the last day of National Poetry Month to present this poem by Daniel Joseph Berrigan:

A Dark Word

berriganAs I walk patiently through life
poems follow close –
blind, dumb, agile, my own shadow;
the mind’s dark overflow, the spill of vein
we thought red once but know now, no.

The poem called death
is unwritten yet.  Some day will show
the violent last line,
the shadow rise,
a bird of omen

snatch me for its ghost.
And a hand somewhere, purposeful as God’s
close like two eyes, this book.


I rock (I rock) therefore I am

It was 1981 and The Rolling Stones were touring North America in support of the Tattoo You album:  Two concerts at the LA Coliseum, October 9th and 11th.  I went to the Friday show with some friends and Sunday I went alone.  It’s always been a hassle going to a Stones concert but I was young then and full of Stones-fire and willing to put up with the physical ordeal part of it.  And, unlike any other of their concerts I’ve attended, I had fairly good spots to watch from both days.

Also on the bill were George Thorogood and The Delaware Destroyers and the J. Geils Band, two real good rock and roll bands.  And it was two real good rock concerts.  A special treat was a rare appearance by Ian Stewart, original member of the Stones, later road manager, played on many Stones records, and with them at live shows, however I don’t recall seeing him at any I attended.  For the two LA gigs, Stewart, considered one of the best white boogie-woogie piano players in the world, played with George Thorogood.

There was a fourth act, the opening act; a group that came out in some weird outfits with a lead singer who wore a corset and fishnet black stockings, or something equally outrageous.  They looked as if they had stopped by the Trashy Lingerie store in West Hollywood on their way to the stadium.  The music wasn’t bad.  In particular, I remember a song about John Lennon that sounded good.  If the audience had any appreciation for what the Stones were about, anti-social attitude tinged with a drop of androgyny, they’d have realized how this band fit right in.

But they didn’t and on both days the audience threw things at them and they were booed offstage during the fourth or fifth song.  On Sunday, legendary rock impresario Bill Graham, who was promoting the tour, came on stage and dared the audience to throw any more stuff on stage.  Some guy up front lobbed a milk carton at Graham.  Two security guys jumped down and pulled the guy up onstage and they took him out.  Of the stadium, that is.  I’d hate to think he was roughed up.

I had not heard of this opening act before, but less than a year later, a lot of people who attended those Coliseum concerts would be paying big bucks to see this guy who called himself Prince and his band The Revolution perform at similar venues.

prince2cI rock (I rock) therefore I am (therefore I am)
I don’t need you to tell me I’m in the band ((…) please)
I rock (I rock) therefore I am (therefore I am)
Right or wrong I sing my song the best I can

– Prince, 1996



Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?

Small-Blue-RGB-National-Poetry-Month-LogoThese lyrics to a 1949 song by Woodrow Buddy Johnson, are offered to commemorate National Poetry Month, the opening of the 2016 baseball season, and this day 69 years ago when Jackie Robinson became the first black player in major-league history by playing in an exhibition game for the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field.

Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
It went zoomin cross the left field wall.
Yeah boy, yes, yes. Jackie hit that ball.

And when he swung his bat,
the crowd went wild,
because he knocked that ball a solid mile.
Yeah boy, yes, yes. Jackie hit that ball.

Satchel Paige is mellow,
so is Campanella,
Newcombe and Doby, too.
But it’s a natural fact,
when Jackie comes to bat,
the other team is through.

Jackie-Robinson_Stealing Home2bDid you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
Did he hit it? Yeah, and that ain’t all.
He stole home.
Yes, yes, Jackie’s real gone.
Jackie’s is a real gone guy.


Most of you know about Jackie Robinson, but you may not be familiar with Buddy Johnson, an African-American blues and jazz pianist, bandleader and songwriter.  His biggest hit as a tunesmith was Since I Fell for You, a standard recorded by many artists over the years, my favorite being Lenny Welsh’s 1963 hit.

Now, the best known recording of Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball? is no doubt the one by Count Basie, done at the Victor studios in New York City on July 13, 1949, with “Taps” Miller as vocalist.  According to the Library of Congress, this version “has become synonymous with the song itself.”



It is not an actual word, but I like to call it “bardism.”  You know it as poetry.  I am a believer in bardism, and to me it is a free form of art.  Edgar Allan Poe said, “I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of Beauty.”  But, as you are aware, for some time now, words have not needed to rhyme in order to be poetry.  As far as I’m concerned, poetry can be almost anything.  Bob Dylan claims that “a poem is a naked person…” and some poets, like those in Bruce Springsteen’s Jungleland, “don’t write nothing at all/They just stand back and let it all be.”  That’s bardism.

Small-Blue-RGB-National-Poetry-Month-LogoEach April, the Academy of American Poets sponsors National Poetry Month, a celebration of  poetry in the United States. And each year since I have been blogging at The Endless Further, I have joined in by offering posts on bards and bardism.

According to the Academy, the goals of National Poetry Month are to:

highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets

• encourage the reading of poems

• assist teachers in bringing poetry into their classrooms

• increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media

• encourage increased publication and distribution of poetry books, and

• encourage support for poets and poetry.

2016 marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month.

I thought I would start the month off with something from the first poet whose work truly inspired me, e. e. cummings.  As I wrote in 2013, “His ‘[in-just] spring’ was the first poem I read that really suggested the possibilities of poetry . . . I think I was in the 3rd or 4th grade, and I loved the way the words were un-capitalized, run together, out of order, and arranged so unusually on the page . . . He wreaked havoc with the form of poetry and the structure of the sentence, he fractured spelling, ect&ect. His Influence on modern poetry is immense . . .”

It being Spring and all, it would be nice to post cummings’ ‘in-just spring’ but the format cannot be reproduced in WordPress (at least, I have not figured out how to do it), so I offer the following instead.  It is from his 1940 collection, 50 Poems, a piece simply titled 38:

cummings-barn2love is the every only god

who spoke  this  earth  so  glad  and  big
even a  thing  all  small  and  sad
man,may  his  mighty  fortress  dig

for love  beginning  means  return
seas who  could  sing  so  deep  and  strong

one queerying  wave  will  whitely  yearn
from each  last  shore  and  home  come  young

so truly  perfectly  the  skies
by merciful  love  whispered  were,
completes its  brightness  with  your  eyes

any illimitable star