Joe DiMaggio

Posted: November 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

What’s that? A new poem post?

Well, I usually wait unit I have slammed a poem, but that may to change to when I perform a poem. At least that is the case right now and I did this piece as the sacrificial poet at CapSlam last night.

CONTENT: April, 2012

Wait, did I call this a new poem?

This shows you how far behind I am in slamming. Whenever I spend time on a team or whatever, I concentrate on working poems for that team and just get further and further behind.

One thing you may notice, if you have my latest book, This is Day One (plug, plug), is that the poem here is slightly different from the version printed there.

The wonders of Spoken Word!

Here is a story. I was at VERSeFest (a poetry festival in Ottawa that I used to help organize) talking to one of our features (good friend and amazing poet, Mary Pinkoski) as we heard one of the ‘page’ poets say (more or less): well, I am not sure I like the ending. I changed it back and forth a few times but now it is the book so I am stuck with it.

Mary and I looked at each other and said: uh no. You can change it whenever you want.

That is Spoken Word. We can change it whenever we want.

One of the strengths and drawbacks of Spoken Word is that people can’t always see what you are saying as part of the bigger context. Not everybody listens intently to every word so there are certain things that are hard to pull off while assuming that everybody will understand what you mean.

One of those things is sarcasm.

So, as I was memorizing this poem I realized that I had a couple of problem spots. In print, I was pretty sure what I was saying was crystal clear, but out loud, I wasn’t so sure.

One of those lines was “Abortions stayed in back alleys where they belonged”.

I thought in the poem it was pretty clear that I didn’t mean the “where they belonged” part. Out loud, I wasn’t so sure, so I dropped that part of the line.

There also is a line “When men were men and women knew their place”. I left that one is because I figured in my performance I could make it clear what I was saying. I think it worked. (There are other small changes as well.)

Now, let me tell you about the name of the poem.

You may wonder why it is called Joe DiMaggio where there is literally no mention of Joe DiMaggio anywhere in the poem.

Well, there used to be. When I was initially writing it, I used the ‘where have you gone’ motif as a hook. I took that motif from the song Mrs. Robinson by Simon & Garfunkle.

(That is the sort of song you used to not have to explain. I am getting old…)

The first line of the poem WAS “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?” When I worked the poem up, however, the DiMaggio section DIDN’T work. (I also need to add the Margaret Sanger section.)

So I dropped it… but kept the title. Why? In-jokes amuse me.

So, does everyone want to know who all the people named in the poem are?

Learning is fun!

Joe DiMaggio

Bob Dylan (and the song reference)

Margaret Sanger

Tommy Douglas

Stephen Harper (boo hiss)

Martin Luther King Jr.

Trayvon Marton (the ‘black man named Martin ref)

So, here it is…

Joe DiMaggio

Where have you gone, Bob Dylan?
We could use the
Call from the wilderness
And a voice of a generation
To stand up and say
Enough is enough
And it is time for a change
But be careful
Because not all change is
And the times they are
A’changing back
To a simpler time
When men were men
And women knew their place,
Birth control was god’s will
And abortions were kept in
Back alleys.
Workers were just parasites
And Lady Justice had
A direct line to societal
Cheques and balances
Where a verdict was tied
Closer to bank account And skin tone then
Facts and evidence.

Where have you gone, Margaret Sanger?
We have come so far
Yet watching the systematic
Dismantling of women’s rights
Under the guise of
Financial conservatism
And religious determinism
Feels somehow unreal
Like watching a parallel
Dimension where
Don Draper chauvinism has
Remained static for forty years
Instead of being forced under
Wraps behind a veneer of
Progressive civilization.
They are building a
Sexual prison where
Women’s bodies are public property
And roles are proscribed and
All aided and abetted
By well-meaning men
Who think that dictating
Dress and behaviour and
Calling it freedom
Isn’t another word
For misogyny.

Where have you gone, Tommy Douglas?
As Stephen Harper lines up
His strike busting goons
Carrying briefcases
Rather than axe-handles
Forgetting than a union
Is a joining of strengths
And an attack on unions
Is an attack on people,
But when the right
Doesn’t care about rights,
Cries for a fair deal
Are all that is left.

And where have you gone,
Martin Luther King Jr.?
Oh wait, I know that one –
He was gunned down for
Saying things that challenged
Society because
Words can be dangerous.
But how far have we come
If now all a black man named
Martin had to do to be shot
Is wear a hoodie
In a community designed to
Keep him out?
We inherited a world
Moving away from wives as
Property, workers as serfs
And pride in a White America
And we have sat back and
Watched a backslide to
Regressive double-speak
Like Family Values and
Moral Centers.

Do not be complacent.
The snake is speaking in tongues
And it whispers stories of
Fear and control.
Do not be complacent
As the right continues
To plow us under
Using economic leverage
To get us to agree to
Do not be complacent
Or the world is already theirs.

  1. […] The other day I posted a poem called Joe DiMaggio. […]

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