Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
  • Home
  • About
  • Archive
  • Bio Notes
  • Bookshelf
  • Contents
  • Submit
SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Song for a Year that Was

by Robt O’Sullivan Schleith

	1964 & the generation before
is still tryin’ to blame it on the Bossa Nova
’cause the Camelot years of Hyannis Port are suddenly over
and the boys ahead of me at the high school are all talking
about hiding out awhile north of the border
where Scott & Denny D & John the Journeyman
hadn’t dreamed their California yet, no

	1964 Mr Talkin’-John-Birch-Blues & his Butterfield
boys hadn’t plugged Newport
into the modern age of the Great Society yet
but then what did I know about society’s modern age,
I wasn’t even 12 years old yet in the final
weeks of that amazing year at the cusp of the
touring up & tearing down the continents
on Pan Am & on TWA, on the subway cars & Trailways buses
singing at the top of their Sunday church house voices

	We-the-People civil rights &
We-the-People anti-war!
	We’re Headstartin’ all the kids &
we’re Medicaring our grandmas now,
	Hey hey, ho ho!

	MLK-the-People marching all the way
from Selma to Montgomery right where
Rosa Parks had done so just a decade earlier so that

	We-the-People Fannie Lou Hamer, yes
she down in oppressive Mississippi burning delta blues land
could register the folks, could get out the vote,
could protest the Triple K’s hoods & flaming crosses,
could land herself in a beat-up county jail &
could run for U.S. Congress yes &

	We-the-People Margaret Chase Smith, first
woman since Suffrage was so hard won
to announce her run for POTUS
yes to continue the howl & roar of defiant triumph
& try to move us yes, to try
just a little bit harder, just a little bit
forward into a modern age like the roar of the first rocket to
Mars in

	1964 like the first high speed bullet
train in the Land of the Rising Sun moving forward futuristic,
outshining & outrunning us here right here in GodblesstheUSA
where we stopped putting our mail on rails & one by one,
the trains that had survived the onslaught of the highway
trucks & the airport runways began to disappear. . .
only seven years before the Amtrak man’s All Aboard rang out
across the land

	1964 & Andy Warhol trying & Allen Ginsburg for
crying out loud & Lenny Bruce, man that guy was flying across
this land just to get us all to be a little bit more subversive man,
just immerse yourselves in all of it & don’t worry baby,
that Supreme Court, hey, they’ll know it when they see it &
they didn’t see it in Louis Malle & they didn’t even see it
in Louie Lou-eye so why worry baby’s got to try
just a little bit harder now to claim your C.O. status,
get your deferment filing in

	No shit, my queer buddy in the city got his 4F,
	goddamn never thought I’d say it but
	sure wish I was homo to the Corps—Score!!

	1964 in the middle of a war in the middle of a Viet
conga line but then what did I know about our fine modern wars,
I wasn’t even 12 yet in the final weeks of that amazing year
when the PLO was born in east Jerusalem & in Pretoria
Mr. Mandela was imprisoned for treason, for
life (or so they said!) & in Kolkata where the Hungry
Generation poets were imprisoned for obscenity, well
at least til Mr. Ferlingetti found & published them, yes!
keep your eye on the prize, Dr. King’s
won the Nobel Peace . . . but then

	1964 in NYC, just out of sight of the 12-story World’s
Fair Unisphere, a 15-yr-old black child name of James Powell
was shot & killed in front of his ninth-grade friends
by this off-duty white police lieutenant,
sets off six consecutive nights of riots, 500 arrests in Harlem &
more to follow out in Philadelphia, in
Rochester & in Paterson just three short years
before the flowers & the smoke of the Summer of Love;
no John the Journeyman wasn’t California dreaming hadn’t
moved into Jeannette Macdonald’s Bel Air mansion yet. . .

to me, not even 12, the world was only just now waking up.


—Selected for Honorable Mention in the competition for the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2016, and first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2016-17 (Garden Oak Press, February 2017); appears here with permissions from both poet and publisher.


SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Robt O’Sullivan Schleith

is a poet, performer, and decades-long promoter and organizer for literary arts in the San Diego region, including the original San Diego Poetry Slam. He captained San Diego’s first team of poets to the National Poetry Slam, and he is the host of Poets, INC (Inland North County) and The Escondido Arts Partnership Literary Series. He has served as regional editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual since 2008.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury