Grasp The New World In Birth
Just imagine! Seventy years, comrades,
We need to celebrate anything we can
At any time.
Mao said that.
Don’t you agree?
When I was young,
I knew when birth happened.
Pain, blood and water.
A nodal line marks a leap
From one quality to another.
Nine months earlier,
The magic code of our species’ history
Caught in capsules of sperm and egg,
Isn’t that a “Birth” day?
Later, through pain, blood and water,
A screaming, spitting mammal flays the air with all four limbs
Breathes air for the first time,
Struggles toward independence. Human?
Open that bottle, fill those glasses, drink up.
Tell me, what does human mean?
Watch the child grow,
Burst through boundaries,
Incorporate the parameters of its surroundings,
Every furry touch, strawberry taste, furtive look
Inscribes an indelible neural circuit
Recreates a virtual external world.
When do we jump from recording,
Begin to see the pictures related,
Begin to ask big questions,
Begin the quest that sex provokes
Strive to transfer our version of the code?
Rites of passage celebrate
Another, a double edged kind of birth,
The birth of a consciousness
Of a possibility to continue species.
Why don’t we start our count of when we are human
From the date of our own passage from tadpole to frog?
Browning had his bishop order a tomb.
His bishop ruminated on his inglorious past,
His clerical competition, pride of place after death.
For him all was debauchery, all was over.
But wait. We’re not done yet.
Opened vistas to scholarly disciplines.
At 23 I crossed the Tehachapi Mountains,
Learned from farm workers about grapes
And exploitation and health for the poor.
At 27 a Cuban peasant taught me about cooperation.
At 30 a Black bricklayer
And a Chinese-Norwegian artist
Introduced me to Marx.
At 50 I married a Bolshevik painter.
Those are births too.
Another bottle? Fill those glasses,
Tell me now what you think.
Why do we focus on emergence from the womb
And ignore the stages on the journey,
The conscious quest to understand
And transform society?
With you and me,
Our child-ness is the caterpillar of our social being.
Together, humanity thrashes to break out
From its own cocoon
Cast off its own chrysalis of unconsciousness
Emerge at the end of capitalism fully human.
Marx said that.
Drink deep, with me, that dry, heady amontillado and dream of Poe.
I would embed our own Fortunatos in a wall of their own making,
Thus end the rule of that perverted class that destroys our world.
I am seventy years old today.
I am not done yet.
We are only as old as the child’s imaginative
Grasp of the new world in birth.
(after a poem by Robert Browning,
“The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church”