Thursday, July 2, 2009

Memo: To a Long Dead Poet

I Don’t Hear America Singing Anymore, Walt

You heard American singing their varied carols -
The mechanics,
The carpenters,
The brick masons,
The boatmen,
The shoemakers, wood-cutters and ploughboys
And the mothers and young wives.
Their songs you heard were blithe and strong and delicious.

Walt, I’m sad to say we don’t sing much anymore.
We tweet…
We blog…
We text…
We email…
We are enslaved by credit card-sized communication and entertainment devices, receiving the information and digitized music we alone wish to hear.
But we don’t sing much. Why should we?

Singing laborers? On the job? No Walt, that’s not permitted now.
Not by the boss,
Not by fellow cubicle-dwellers,
Not by OSHA.
We’d be too self-conscious to sing, anyway, not possessing a pleasing, well-modulated voice that would bring praise from all blessed to be in its presence.
Singing is out the the question.

We don’t have shady front porches any more, Walt -
No rain-weathered rocking chairs,
No squeaking porch swings,
No foot stools for the little ones,
No place or time for aunts and uncles and cousins and neighbors.
No place or time for the old stories and songs and hymns.
No place or time for guitars and mandolins and fiddles and autoharps served up with lemonade or sweetened ice tea or Uncle George’s home-made "special drink for the menfolk".

Where are the porches you ask?
Replaced by concrete stoops with straw Welcome mats from WalMart - and security service signs warning that your every move is monitored in some dark, secret dungeon far away.

The parlor? That semi-sacred room where tiny feet dared tread only if accompanied by authorized and responsible adult kinfolk? That parlor with the well used, out of tune upright piano with a B-flat below middle C which sticks for everybody but Cousin Maude? Topped by the yellowed hand-made doily from the old country and faded sepia portraits of stern ancestors that only a few great aunts can identify? No, Walt - parlors are a thing of times long past.
Homes have dens and offices,
breakfast nooks and formal dining rooms,
multi-media rooms,
master bedrooms, walk-in closets and palatial indoor privies.
A place for conversation? Oh yes, we go to $tarbuck$ for that.
We don’t sing there either.

What about you, Walt Whitman?

What if you were living in these electronic times?
Would you be a poet?
Would you sing?
Or would you blog?

Sometimes I even wonder if Woody or Leadbelly would have bothered or felt the need to write songs.

I wonder.

Maybe I will blog about that. And perhaps I’ll hum a favorite old hymn tune while I do it...

but very, very softly

"I Hear America Singing" is a short poem honoring 19th century laborers by Walt Whitman. Read this classic online at:

© frank thompson

1 comment:

Clay said...

I sing way out on the lake on my kayak.There the loons don't seem to mind.
I like the old hymns. Very few churches sing them any more.
Up here in Maine, There is lot's of singing. Even the young kids. TV is not good here, cells phones are iffy, computers are slow.