NAME, M/DD NAME, M/DD NAME, M/DD NAME, M/DD Express %26 Inspire Development %26 Publication

David Shaddock

On the Biden Inauguration

1. Trump's Copter Lifts off the West Lawn

Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand.

Time to drag out that old CD of the Dead

at the Mosque in Richmond Virginia May 25th

1978 and let your tired kishkas have a jiggle.

Darkness has fled, or at least retreated.

Joy, say the Hasidim is the truest expression of piety.

We are baring our arms for the vaccine

and thanking God with our awkward boogie.

Remember how our long (alas) hair

would fan us as we spun at the Fillmore?

2. Speaking of Twirling

Allen Ginsberg reading at Berkeley, 1966

a thousand students Sufi twirling

to his Blake harmonium.

Merrily, merrily we welcome in the year.

He has us supply a final noun, picks one

and holds it: merrily, merrily

we welcome in our death.

Afterward I'm walking him across campus

with Peter Orlovsky and a flowing woman

he called his guru Maitreya

to Ahimsa, our communal house

on Haste Street. I'm nineteen

spend days smoking hash and listening

to Surrealistic Pillow. After dinner

Allen invites us to go along to his next stop

a fraternity house on Piedmont. We whoop

down the street like a hipster army

but he turns to shush us—

identifying the edge where innocence

becomes its opposite.

Are there any poets here who rhyme

like William Blake? he asks

and a shy boy pulls a poem out

of his pocket and begins to read.

3. Candles

When Jake had his break in high school

and I stayed up night after night

listening to him rave and struggle

I learned what the fear of losing a child

can do to you, and Biden lost two

including Beau, his Jake

his everything. Here he is

on TV, standing by the reflection pool

lined with candles for the Covid dead.

To heal we must remember

he tells us, and I think of "Kaddish"

Ginsberg's mother saying

the key is in the sunlight at the window

and Kaddish the prayer, never mentioning

death, glorify and sanctify

the world He has created.

4. New Glasses

Biden is like lens number two

at the eye doctor, fiddling

with the astigmatism

till you can see it's an "E."

But Folly is an endless maze

writes Blake at the end

of Songs of Experience—

Q believing anti-vaxxers

or me carrying Mao's little red book

inside my p-coat—

How many have fallen there.

Five years older than me

Biden and his friends

"stepped past with disdain" a group

of anti-war protesters at Syracuse

while Stop the Draft Week, 1967

Oakland cop's nightstick grazes me

and lands square on my roommate's

forehead. Arms linked we rise

and scream for a medic.

5. Sparks

A runaway truck smashed

teetotaler Biden's life

just as the receding tide of excess

left ours in disarray. Single father

Biden riding the Metroliner

home to his boys each night

Toby and I adopting Jacob

after years of trying.

How shall we gather what griefs destroy?

asks Blake. Only as bits of light

says Kabbalah

sparks in shards, released

by acts of kindness.

6. Jerusalem on the Potomac

When I was middle school I decided

it would be cool to stutter.

a..a..a.. alligator I practiced

till I found in horror I couldn't stop—

lesson that what you imagine

becomes your reality.

Biden, as a child, overcame his stutter

memorizing Yeats' Easter 1916

learning to see the whole sentence

in his mind before he spoke it—

years later flashing his now-fluid tongue

over the alliteration of hope and history

quoting Heaney on the campaign trail.

But Blake wants more from a president

then an eloquent performance

of selfhood: the Human Imagination

O Savior pour upon me thy spirit

as Biden, in self-knowledge and rectitude

calls on Amanda Gorman

his female emanation

to rhyme dare with repair

merge mercy and might

and establish from the sunbaked south

to the lake-rimmed cities of the midwest

the country her thin fingers

conduct into existence.

David Shaddock, PhD is a poet and psychotherapist. His most recent poetry book is A Book of Splendor: New and Selected Poems on Spiritual Themes. He is also the author of Poetry and Psychoanalysis: The Opening of the Field, from Routledge, and two books on relationships and couples therapy. He lectures widely on those topics, and maintains a private practice in Berkeley.

— posted SEPTEMBER 2021

© 1972-2021 Poetry Flash. All rights reserved.  |