Dewey G. Whetsell

Monday, November 23, 2009

ORDER THIS BOOK

Thursday, March 15, 2007

LAZARUS ON A SPUR LINE - poems and essays

Several of the poems herein appeared in a first volume And The Fires Not Green, which evoked the following comments:

"I was very moved." Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer--Theologian, Philosopher, Author, Movie Producer.

"...a fine poetry volume...Loved the poems." Vincent Price--Actor, Art Historian, Author, Touring Lecturer on Literature.

"(the poems) show a level of personal, in-depth perception not commonly found...Whetsell is a living camera recording emotions and the ultimate truth...Mr. Whetsell is an artist in the use of comparisons." Max Vickery--Critic, Lecturer.

"I liked 'And The Fires Not Green' very much." Dennis Smith--Author, Editor of Firehouse Magazine.

"I think Dewey Whetsell's book is great!" Philip E. Jenks, Editor TAB Magazine

"The poems are forceful, thoughtful...meant to be read aloud." Donna Douglas, Staff Writer, Muncie Star.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

"Genesis On The Book Shelf"

(last piece in the book)

Putting aside the debate about man’s origin for a minute…Fallen Angel versus Risen Ape…let’s look at following estimates:

Since his appearance on this planet, man has stacked up about eight hundred life-spans. The first seven hundred and forty life-spans were spent in caves or worse. It’s only been the last sixty where man had any real shelter. It has been estimated that only in the last forty life-spans has man had any discernable, formal communications. And only the last seven life-spans saw printing. Words.

The spoken word is amazing in its own right: Sounds carried on puffs of breath that not only announce immediate and basic concerns, but transmit abstract concepts from one living person to another. With words, man created the second world; the world of culture. Words painted portraits of the past and graphic visions of the future.

The source of most elation--and dark brooding--is injected into our scrambled psyches via words. The unique greatness and the unique suffering of our species comes from knowledge we are able to pass from one individual to another. "Words" are our Eve's apple; our greatness...our suffering.

Because of words, Man is different from that mute animal whose past vaporizes quickly, and whose entire universe consists of that which lies immediately in front of him. The world of that other animal, contains no abstract anticipation; there is nothing outside his periphery to revere or fear. Nothing exists outside his periphery.

If words were the tools that led to the creation of culture, creation of the abstract, affirmation of the past, the hopes for the future, then the written word immortalized the fleeting thought, and institutionalized concepts.

You don’t need Genesis to believe in miracles. With the written word, you can sit in your solitude and share a moment or share a dream with someone who has been dead for a thousand years. How’s that for a miracle?

Table of Contents

Foreward (essay
--the fight between the "arts" and the "sciences" for the right to define man)... Upon Hearing Sarah Vaughan Sing "Dreamsville"... Scenes That Strike You Silent... I Would Fight More Fiercely... Blessing Space (essay--man's irresistible compulsion to probe)... Lazarus On A Spur Line... Self-Improvement Books... To Loren Eiseley...Alaskan Winter Night... Old Cordova (Alaska) In Summer (essay)... On The Docks... The Sailor and The Whore... To Dr. Francis Schaeffer... Crossing The Line-- Speaking Of Schaeffer (essay--the battle to define Man continues as Religion and Philosophy weigh in)... A Few Yards Short of a Poem (Written in prose form but thick with alliteration and assonance, meant to be read aloud and has been at several significant occasions)... To Don... Saturday Mornings... Sadat... Hiroshima... Introduction to 'Reflections of Pontius Pilate' (essay--Besides explaining the historical/political backdrop of Good Friday, it traces the changes in Man's view of himself)... Reflections of Pontius Pilate... Introduction to 'The Assassinations'...The Assassinations... Introduction to Uncle Russ... Uncle Russ... Take My Hand... God Bless Grandpa, Beer, and Mrs. Murphy's Chowder... Two Years Since My Father's Death... In Memory... Introduction to 'To What's-His-Name'... To What's-His-Name, Aged 24... Genesis On A Book Shelf (essay--"Words" are our Eve's Apple", the source of our greatness and our misery).

Preface (excerpt)

The Arts and Sciences bicker for the right to define man. The excerpt......
What is a person? Does art peer into the soul while science exams the machine? Does it make sense that each person is two independent entities: A mechanical entity and an ethereal entity?......(Leonardo) was unable to nail down the illusive and sought-after interconnectivity of art and science.

Of all the domains of science, of pure technics, it lacks a domain of value. Technocrats subtract “value” (of the human being) out of the equations, because “value” cannot be quantified, in fact, its existence cannot be substantiated. The arts search for the definition of man…his value.

THE ASSASSINATIONS

"The Assassinations" is my impression of an era in America that left everyone reeling. Starting with the assassination of golden Jack (Kennedy): the scene that TV viewers had electronically injected into our collective psyches, when on a sunny Dallas day...a Dallas ringing cheer of lead that sent the beautiful knight quite dead.
Then, the decade spiraled on down. Of course, we say, 'twon't be unsung, but God, it has all only just begun with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy: The same went on with Reverend King, and the sting that stung young brother Bob; the "crack" and smoking-barreled curse.....it increased the blood stains on our floors.....and nailed our souls to the chapel door (and yes..."nailed our souls to the chapel door" is a reference to King's namesake, the original Martin Luther.

UNCLE RUSS


"Uncle Russ" was fun to write in the nursery-rhyme genre and made an amusing poem out of the story of the cops beating dad's brother, Russ, to death.

"The cops (including the FBI) had been after my Uncle "Melf" for years, Either nodody knows why or nobody's talking. My dad never told them where Melf was. Neither did Russ, even when they questioned him with such exuberance, he had to be carried up to his Chicago apartment after being discarded on the sidewalk in front. He died a couple of days later. But my family showed 'em they wouldn't take a thing like that lying down. They all moved to Pittsburg."
Snappy dressers, but never confessors, dad and Russ remained so tight-lipped.....

The cops unamused and very short-fused,
in Detroit they did rough up my dad.
But that's not so bad, when Russ they did grab

in Chicago and pounded him dead.

BLESSING SPACE (excerpt)

Outer space may offer the answers to some important questions about our planet—some relevance to our existence, but even if it did not, it would not change anything (our compulsion for space exploration). We’re going. Whatever exists, must be touched by us—“blessed” by us. Not necessarily in arrogance. Maybe even with humility, or in reverence, like the shaky hand that finally touched the top of Mt. Everest. The humanly touched thing.

**Ah, hell, here's the entire piece**
In a society of advanced technology, the very air we breathe is thick with expectations. The population paces in anticipation of taking the next step closer to Utopia. One might conclude that technological endeavors bespeak a shallow arrogance; and even though I agree that that aspect exists, I think the compulsion to discover exists independently of the desire for sudden wealth or deification.

Everyone has heard that if a man built a warehouse, he could not force himself to leave any part of it vacant. Man cannot ignore capacity. It is a physical and metaphysical impossibility to resist being drawn into a vacuum. If an answer is knowable, then goddamnit, we want to know it.

A common comment, “Why are we spending millions of dollars in space exploration when there are millions of people on this planet literally starving to death?”

My answer is this: If the number of starving people doubled what it is now, or if the cost of space exploration doubled what it is, it wouldn’t change anything. If exploration proponents completely ran out of contrived excuses, and there were no practical value whatsoever to going out there, we would go. We cannot not go.

The mountain climber who explained, “We climb that mountain because it’s there,” answered correctly. Everyone knew there was nothing up there to justify climbing to its cold and brutal top.

Outer space may offer the answers to some important questions about our planet
some relevance to our existence, but even if it did not, it would not change anything. We’re going. Whatever exists, must be touched by us“blessed” by us. Not necessarily in arrogance. Maybe even with humility, or in reverence, like the shaky hand that finally touched the top of Mt. Everest. The humanly-touched thing.

Rocks and dust, dead as dirt, surrounding a tiny sprig of clover, tiny in its green promise, need only sit with patience. As sure as life, the clover will reach out its diminutive tentacles
indomitably and unquestioninglyto touch the dead dirt and “bless” it. Likewise, the astronaut will risk it all to bless the black, dead silence with the living. Blackness, more expansive than the human mind can grasp, will be invaded by the strangest sound ever heard in that cold….breathing.

TAKE MY HAND


crossing the street in ’51
from habit, my father clutched my hand.
embarrassed, my manly eight-year hand
freed the grasp to search my pocket
for some important thing.
I knew my search had fooled my dad.

crossing the street in ’81
from habit I clutched my son’s hand.
embarrassed, his manly eight-year hand
freed the grasp to search his pocket
for some important thing.
He knew his search had fooled his dad.

I wish I had both chances again.

SATURDAY MORNINGS

The breeze-danced sun-streams
land solid on the cluttered kitchen table,
surrounded by tousle-haired children
with all of creation in their eyes
and crumbs in their laughter.
They burst forth from slamming screen doors
to conquer the mountains of their minds
and destroy the villains of innocence
with shrieks and shouts and urgency
.. and swords of sticks at the ready

Victorious at sunset, the conquering warriors return.
The porch is strew with armaments –
broken sneakers, twisted caps, jelly-stained jackets.
The villains of innocence were held at bay
.. for one more Saturday



IN MEMORY



Grandmother and Grandfather Cummings

Married after the turn of the century, my Irish immigrant grandfather (an Irish tenor) died, like many Irish immigrants then, of tuberculosis. Bright mustang he was” died, coughing, just before his wife “through pain and blood, opened as life pounded at the locks giving birth of my mother.

It begins with my grandmother, old and remembering: One remembers the past in snapshots not epochs, so she thumbed through her 80 years. She is so old she is pale as a winter’s sun, and stiff as a spinster’s spine…. Remembers being courted by the Irishman, the evenings: moon-wooed; moon-silvered walks, flower-scented talks, the lake-sided willow wept with joy. They were married brightly united on a bell-ringing Sunday

But after he coughed himself to death, she was alone the home, like Coney Island in winter....
in the sad days of dying willows.


But this poem is of her last day of remembering… her last moments of dreaming; sitting by her window and she calls down the last feeble-stepping dream--gold bathed.

Tired and resigned, with grace, she leaves:....the
faint tick-tocking of her willing heart.…the soft strum of a song being sung by a waiting, missing mustang.

GENESIS ON A BOOK SHELF (excerpt)

Because of words, Man is different from that mute animal whose past vaporizes quickly, and whose entire universe consists of that which lies immediately in front of him. The world of that other animal contains no abstract anticipation; there is nothing outside his periphery to revere or fear. Nothing exists outside his periphery,

If words were the tools that led to the creation of culture, creation of the abstract, affirmation of the past, hopes for the future, then the written word immortalized the fleeting thought and institutionalized concepts.

You don’t need Genesis to believe in miracles. With the written word, you can sit in your solitude and share a moment or share a dream with someone who has been dead for a thousand years. How’s that for a miracle?

UPON HEARING SARAH VAUGHAN SING "DREAMSVILLE"

In the early ‘60’s, getting hooked on jazz meant involuntarily becoming immersed in an existential mood. I describe that mood--that collage in my mind--this way:
jazz wafting from a smoky club next to an old warehouse…scotch and overcoats…. fedoras and shades on stage….wordless conversations of nods and half smiles…women in satin and spikes-with-straps, soft throaty laughs….in the wee, small hours…. roof tops at 3:00 a.m
melancholy dawn behind the skyline….expensive shoes clacking on deserted sidewalks….and of course, fire escapes in the rain….

In the club that night, waiting for Sarah to start…
Kerouac in cufflinks ambles in; Dylan Thomas is sober and pensive; Marlon Brando in tweed examines the floor; Charlie Mingus is writing verse in the corner; Tennessee Williams just arrives by streetcar; Holden Caufield bores himself and grows silent; Mickey Spillane clutches a perfumed scarf and can’t talk about it.

Shortly after, the upright bass “fumps” a slow walk, and
Soul-brown Sarah in satin rustles softly to the mic.
Brandy-amber lights are dimmed,
Kerouac is mesmerized
Mingus closes his tablet
Dylan orders a double.


Slowly scan the dark, smoky room. See several patrons at their tables: Like the…

Pasty-gray clerk, who wonders why
He never burned from the bones of his passion—
.. the night singer draws you up to her.

Lonely lady, middle-aged forever, whose desperate
daydreams cannot block the encroaching ice –
.. the night singer caresses you in your closed eyes.

The young man, fancy in his spangled vanity
who cannot see above the waist—
.. the night singer offers tenderness.

Giddy hottie, so proud of her sweater stretchers,
mindless in her giggly titty-prance,
.. Sarah offers you grace.

Or, way back in the back, sitting alone: See…
The spent man, slumped with regret,
seeking some salvation in baptismal gin –
.. the night singer offers redemption.
and


Small-souled man seeks gratification in being missed
,
longs to be missed….by someone
,
.. The night singer says you matter.

SCENES THAT STRIKE YOU SILENT

Everyone has seen scenes and were struck with a sense of irony or melancholy, beauty or tragedy and found it impossible to adequately describe it to someone else. So, that person quietly keeps it to himself. Like:

You wish you would have said something
to the parents who tend, and then depart;
to fade like the dust of papers in some
...................................................forgotten attic
.
And only their caressing eyes
remain in your mind
to appear in quiet moments--like angles--and
..................................................make you ache.
* * *
And during the daily march of your existence,
when, with a word, a song, a scene in a park,
comes the memory of a woman--and you grow still.
* * *
Or wishing you could retreat years back
to some golden place in your youth,
only to find there, a rusty gate
.................................................creaking in the wind.
* * *
Or with rain falling endlessly under a street lamp
you didn’t know which direction to turn
...............................................with empty arms.
* * *
Do you cultivate a memory
and fight its fading
.............it’s so sweet
..........................and crushing
.....................................by its beauty
...............................................and tragic swiftness
or its pain exaggerated by time?
There are lots more brief "scenes that strike you silent" in this poem.

SADAT

“Sadat” is the shortest thing I’ve ever written…6 lines. And I cannot explain why I became as fixated on counting syllables as a Haiku poet, but I couldn’t pull away from that. I also can’t explain why I consider someone as being cool who—before becoming gracious—had been a warrior…a throw-down guy, cooler than someone who became peaceful and gracious purely for philosophical reasons. He was the first Muslim head-of-state to extend the hand of friendship to Israel. I know someone who—upon hearing of Sadat’s assassination—thought it was the end of the only hope for peace in the Middle East. But, I’ve never heard of any figure in history who had more balls than Sadat, who—I suspect—knew he faced certain assassination. Studying just the implications of biblical philosophy, the sacrificing Christ of his convictions means that his convictions weren’t just a philosophical/political stance, but that—like Jesus—he would allow himself to be crucified to make his statement. He probably suspected that the Islamic fundamentalists from within the ranks of his own military (“legions”) would be the “lions” he would finally face unflinchingly. As is common in many of my poems, I liberally use assonance and alliteration. The “I” sounds combined with the “K” sounds in the 5th line, and the "F" sounds combined with the "L" sounds in the 6th line.

The sacrificing Christ of his convictions,
unflinching, faced the lions of his legions.

CROSSING THE LINE (excerpt)

Eugenics promises to be the ultimate “machinist” who will be able to rummage down our DNA of mentality and character to a common (and then modifiable) denominator; subjecting it to our natural need to “fix it” (human flaws, that is). In the meantime, here we all sit in our collective Columbine cafeteria, hoping our machinists can tinker away the quiet rage of our assassins before lunch time.

I WOULD FIGHT MORE FIERCELY

I Would Fight More Fiercely is a poem for each of us who regrets “holding back”. Well…no…not holding back, but failing to appreciate those moments back “in the day”. Yep, I would fight more fiercely if the years would take me back…. and I would dream more wildly, if that child would tarry here.

And for the guys, you must have—at some point—learned to adore the wispy golden girls of your neighborhood. Realizing that they may not exist simply for your seeking seed, not to be feasted upon by your aching needs. Remember the pre-pubescent urge just to impress them and leave them spellbound by your “daring” deeds?

I would hold with my daring deeds,
the wispy golden girls spellbound.
Not lure them with my seeking seed
nor feast upon my aching needs
.............those idolizing girls;
.............but love their wispy laughter’s sound
.

INTRO TO 'REFLECTIONS OF PONTIUS PILATE'

….the disciple Peter buckled at this point. Peter was tough, spontaneous, and took no bullshit from anyone…yet after the crucifixion, when the mob was really pumped up, Peter denied being a follower—three times. His belief became too much of a liability. But, I like Peter because he had flaws just like the rest of us. He was really just a blue-collar, neighborhood leader. He was the Bruce Springsteen of Galilee, a denim-wearing factory worker. He wore a robe with his bowling league embroidered on the back. They don’t mention that in the Bible.

A FEW YARDS SHORT OF A POEM

I've only written a couple of things upon request. When the Prince William Sound College asked for a piece for their "Soundings" (quarterly literary magazine), I had just finished reading Dylan Thomas' "Quite Early One Morning" and was inspired to write something poetic in a prose form. Later, following the Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill, when John McKuen came to Cordova (Alaska) to do a concert, I opened for him by reading this piece. The damned thing is so long, it took 11 minutes to complete. This year, someone heard a recording I had of it and invited me to a Kiwanis meeting to read it. That was cool and resulted in the sale of quite a few books. Anyway, the subject of the piece celebrated his 40th birthday with a walk through the winter's morning in that sea-sided town, still and steel-cold under the Alaskan frost. He strolled through the neighborhoods, the boat harbor, and cannery row. Next, he decides to slog his way to the top of a high hill overlooking the town.... Forty years to the day of his birth, he sought the mountain top. Ascending the encasing gray, he pounded back the forty years with long strides denying their ache.
There, he ponders "time"....On the cold windy crest there are none of those things to busy oneself in order to take no note of Time. Time, though quiet, is always just over one’s shoulder, so that in moments of solitude and reflection one merely needs to turn around to feel its dusty breath upon one’s face. Time, which disappears with laughter, work, or worry, nuisance that it is, creeps back to breathe upon one’s neck just when one forgot it existed.