Thursday, October 26, 2023

Coming Out of the Closet

Last night, I saw the film about my last year at school for the ninth time in a movie theater in San Francisco. Always bittersweet to relive that experience, especially with the unwelcome twist in the plot of the pandemic. But still sufficient sweetness to merit another viewing, especially in company with some people who hadn’t seen the film yet and the pleasure of feeling the audience response. 


On my desktop is a file marked “Songs, Raps and Poems” and looking through it the other day to find that Immortality poem (see  October 23rd), I looked at some of the collection of all these unpublished poems that so few have ever read or heard and thought, “I like these.” On my 60th birthday, oh so long ago, I read selected poems at my party (with 60 people attending) and then played music with some Orff colleagues who, after that experience, became The Pentatonics Band that is still alive and —well, not exactly kicking, but we did recently perform at SF Jazz—thirteen years later. Before reading the poems, I prefaced it with, “Well, I’m not a poet, but I have written some poems I’d like to share.” Afterwards, someone came up to me and said, “You lied. You are a poet.” 


That party actually marked the beginning of me saying, “Okay, I guess I’m a musician,” a claim I still harbor doubts about. But all these years later, I still haven't claimed the poet title. Yet in that folder are over 300 poems, from haiku to song parodies to rhymed stories to free verse. Maybe it is time to come out of that closet and publish “The Collected Poems of an Unpublished Poet.”


Meanwhile, stumbled upon this one that I wrote as I neared my last day of school. I intended to read it at the retirement party I never had the year I retired and in the shortened version of the party (shared with two other retirees) two years later, there wasn’t time to read it.  But it would have been perfect for the occasion, the poetic equivalent of the bittersweet emotions of the film.  Both the title and the tone are inspired by a lovely Oscar Peterson tune (Nighttime on his album with Itzhak Perlman), which is the perfect backdrop for reading it.




It is the nighttime of my many many years in this place I have loved so long


The sun is setting


The moon is rising.


The day’s stories have all been told


And behold, they are good. 



The fire is lit with the warmth of memory. 


I see the long parade of beautiful children now grown


and leading the next ones forward, King Glory


going up the mountain. 


Where the first one, the second one, the third 


           followed me.


but will follow me no more. 



Now, someone else will be walking them through the promised land.


That glorious place where we traveled along, singing the songs side by side, 


Where we stumbled and fell, lost our way, huddled together in the cold, 


circled together in joy and danced our way to happiness.



Behind me now, the bread crumbs of those lived years are messages to the future, 


beckoning others to make the long climb to unending beauty, bubbling laughter, 


shouted exultation. 


Here, paused on the peak, the sky is orange with the day’s close.


The owl and the whippoorwill fill the air with song while the morning birds turn to sleep. 


Tomorrow a new day will dawn.



It is the nighttime of my many long years.


The sun is setting


The moon is rising.


The day’s stories have all been told


And behold, they are good. 


They are good.


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