Ode to a Laughing Man (after Bertolt Brecht) — Lew Rosenbaum

Ode to the Laughing Man

Lew Rosenbaum

I

The morning light, still before dawn,

Filters through the windows,DSCF6866

Creeps around table, the chairs, the end of the bed

Lets me see their shapes as if in the night

Their edges had all softened, become indistinct,

And the breeze ripples lightly across my skin

Bringing with it intense, sweet fragrance

From the lilacs in the courtyard. I love watching

The early morning light define my surroundings:

I love inhaling this late May scent that has, since childhood,

Signified pleasure. And still, and then

The light reveals

Bodies of the bombed,

The fragrance cannot hide

The stench of sewage in our waters.

II

This morning, and yesterday, and probably tomorrow

I think of Bertolt Brecht, writing

Ah, what an age it is

When to speak of trees is almost a crime

For it is a kind of silence about injustice!

III

with glasses

I love to walk into the garden

Where purple salvia run riot

Interrupted by pink columbines at play,

Magenta spiderwort wave at me in the wind,

And my neighbor stops to gossip

About hosta, peonies, and we laugh

About the advancing violets,

Even about the dandelions,

About their bitter greens in a salad.

We smile, we laugh, and laugh.

IV

He who laughs

Has not yet heard

The terrible tidings.

Brecht wrote that too. But

 

I’ve heard the terrible tidings.

And yet I speak of trees,

Because after capitalism that is what we will do.

It is a crime to dwell on capital’s depravity,

Its descent into fascism,

Without envisioning what’s possible and necessary

What needs to be accomplished by the only ones who can.

There is but one reason to talk about

Doom and gloom.

Everything or nothing.

All of us or none.

[With apologies/thanks to Bertolt Brecht: To Posterity and All of Us or None }

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