love’s a universe beyond obey

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s home in Cambridge, across from which E. E. Cummings grew up

My father moved through theys of we,
singing each new leaf out of each tree
(and every child was sure that spring
danced when she heard my father sing)….

and nothing quite so least as truth
—i say though hate were why men breathe—
because my Father lived his soul
love is the whole and more than all

e. e. cummings (Excerpt from my father moved through dooms of love), written after Edward Cummings death in an automobile accident in 1926.

nothing false and possible is love

by e. e. cummings

Nothing false and possible is love
(who’s imagined, therefore is limitless)
love’s to giving as to keeping’s give;
as yes is to if, love is to yes

must’s a schoolroom in the month of may:
life’s the deathboard where all now turns when
(love’s a universe beyond obey
or command,reality or un-)

proudly depths above why’s first because
(faith’s last doubt and humbly heights below)
kneeling, we-true lovers-pray that us
will ourselves continue to outgrow

all whose mosts if you have known and i’ve
only we our least begin to guess


Edward Estlin Cummings was destined to be a poet. He was conceived and grew up in a house across the street from where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had lived, poetry part of the pageantry of his youth, but more importantly he wanted to please his mother, who wanted nothing else for her son than to become a poet. Cummings began writing a poem a day from the time he was six years old, learning an important lesson, that to become a writer you have to write, even if most of what you write is not very good. What’s interesting to me is how poets become poets, and not just writers, particularly poets that we look back on that influenced the trajectory of poetry in the 20th century. How did Estlin become a poet, preferring his middle name over his first name Edward, the mantle of wearing the same name as his father a bit to much to carry.

Several important factors steered him in a poetic direction, his father’s influence as a Unitarian minister and prominent reformer and proponent of social justice, seeped into his soul listening to his father’s sermon’s each Sunday, combined with the permanent chip on his shoulder stemming from his rather smallish physique and his preferred self stylized temperament as the struggling artist. When you then stir in a Harvard education in the classics with his experience during World War I, when he was imprisoned on charges of desertion, it set the stage for a young, slightly smug, immature writer to develop into the Greenwich village poet we admire today. Although Cummings first artistic commission occurred shortly after he graduated from College, a friend asking him to write a poem in honor of his engagement, in which he paid Cummings the handsome sum of $1,000 in 1916, enough to sort of establish the young Cummings as a man of independence from his father, it was not until 1922, that Cummings career as a poet, writer and playwright would take root.

But to understand Cummings maturity as a poet, one has to balance both how he benefited and scorned the bubble that was the posh and coddled society of Cambridge from whence he came. Cummings best poetry is relatively simple with a whiff of satire, or even scorn, taking nothing much seriously, except for the very seriousness of his favorite topic – love. Cummings seemed to never have escaped the puritan expectations that goes with being a minister’s son and yet that very yoke seemed to be the thing he needed most to eventually put to paper some of the most beautiful love poems of the past 100 years. The fact that sex was not a topic of conversation in the Cummings household growing up maybe why he was more than a bit fixated on it as an adult. However, Cummings faith and his father’s influence never left him and so in Cummings creativity, the playfulness of language becomes the smokescreen to purify the passion that still clearly rests beneath the surface of his best work. Cummings unconventional use of language was a way to make acceptable even the most graphic of his emotions. Though Cummings would live a most unconventional, conventional life, fathering his only child, a daughter, while having an affair with his best friend’s wife, his best love poems convey the unconditional love that he found compelling in his faith and yet a bit elusive in his real life as a young man, at least until he met Marion Morehouse.


it is at moments after i have dreamed

by e. e. cummings

It is at moments after i have dreamed
of the rare entertainment of your eyes,
when(being fool to fancy)i have deemed
with your peculiar mouth my heart made wise;
at moments when the glassy darkness holds

the genuine apparition of your smile
(it was through tears always)and silence moulds
such strangeness as was mine a little while;

moments when my once more illustrious arms
are filled with fascination, when my breast
wears the intolerant brightness of your charms:

one pierced moment whiter than the rest

– turning from the tremendous lie of sleep
i watch the roses of the day grow deep

the ears of my ears awake

 

i thank You GOD for most this amazing
by e. e. cummings (1894 – 1962)

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginably You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


Welcome to 2022!   I have been debating for some time what poet I was going to showcase in January and I finally settled on e. e. cummings.  Several things factored into my decision; few poets are more closely connected to the sonnet during their career and yet are known for pushing the boundaries of poetry forward.   Cummings best work still sounds fresh, yet it is the structure of the sonnet that kept Cummings  grounded. 

As we head into the month, I’ll explore Cummings’ life, friends, influences and demons. Before I start there is one thing I want to address that may sound trivial but which I have given much thought; how should I present his name?   If you are a fan of Cummings you know that capitalization and punctuation were something he eschewed from his very earliest published poems.  I have seen Cummings’ name presented as E. E. Cummings, e. e. cummings and e e cummings, in various articles, books and anthologies.  But in reference to the man, I am going to capitalize his last name and in giving credit to his poetry I am not.  

I have included Cummings’ poetry sparingly on Fourteenlines to this point in part because it would have been too easy, his poetry is playful, popular and accessible, something I applaud, but I also like to spread the spotlight around and so I work hard to not mine a too familiar vein too deep.  So why do it now?   To be honest, after two long years of the pandemic, I figured I needed a bit more light-hearted for the upcoming month, given the predictions of a difficult 60 days ahead of us with Omricron, and the vast majority of his best work are love poems, something we all need a bit more of in our lives. 

I will be using two primary books to inform the month ahead; the biography by Kennedy titled Dreams in the Mirror, and the recent new edition of Cummings collected work from 2015, edited by Firmage and published by Norton.   In an earlier blog entry I had counted the number of sonnets from his 1962 complete anthology, (which of course turned out to be not be complete, because there were unpublished poems that were included in the 2015 edition) and found that nearly one quarter of the total poems he shared with the world out of the more than 900 poems now in print are sonnets or sonnet influenced.  Not all of these sonnets look like a traditional sonnet on the page in the placement of the words and not all of them follow exactly the rhyming schemes of a classical sonnet but none the less they are unmistakably sonnets.   And its not that Cummings wrote sonnets only in the beginning of his career, by my count in reading through every published volume of poetry that Cummings published in his lifetime, at least one sonnet was included in every volume, which says something about the pull of the sonnet on Cummings creativity and literary soul.  It begs the question, why was the sonnet so influential on a poet for whom from the very earliest examples of his writing was desperate to escape the shackles of tradition?   Why keep coming back to 14 lines over and over again as the basic canvas on which to paint his words?   I have not found a definitive answer to that question in my reading, (yet), but in my opinion there may be two reasons, Cummmings had a short attention span for his own writing and two, despite wanting to be known as pushing poetry into new spaces, evolving the art, he also desperately wanted to be accepted, by his peers, by his father, as a legitimate “artist”.  And there is nothing like successfully mastering the sonnet to the point that your readers forget you are using it to accomplish both objectives. Robert Hillyer, who was a classmate at Harvard of Cummings, and who published his first poems alongside 8 poems of Cummings and several other classmates, including John Dos Passos, may have expressed it best in his first book of poetry in 1916, as all three men were heading off into the world;

reading those imperfect boyish rhymes,
I hear through the blown dust of many storms
The hymns of the advance-guard of my life.

 

XXIV.  (There was a boy in some forgotten spring)

by Robert Hillyer

There was a boy in some forgotten spring
Who fled from all his comrades at the school,
And in the hills beside a forest pool
Lay on the grass, watching, and listening.
And as he listened, melancholy delight
Stirred in his heart a pang he did not know,
And voices of new passion bade him write
Of the vague thoughts that shook his spirit so.

Now on the battlefield of later times,
I meet those dreams returning in the forms
Of mighty friends and foes amid the strife;
And reading those imperfect boyish rhymes,
I hear through the blown dust of many storms
The hymns of the advance-guard of my life

As Yes Is To If

Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)

Nothing recedes like progress.

e. e. cummings

nothing false and possible is love

by e. e. cummings
 
nothing false and possible is love
(who’s imagined,therefore is limitless)
love’s to giving as to keeping’s give;
as yes is to if,love is to yes

 

must’s a schoolroom in the month of may:
life’s the deathboard where all now turns when
(love’s a universe beyond obey
or command,reality or un-)

proudly depths above why’s first because
(faith’s last doubt and humbly heights below)
kneeling,we-true lovers-pray that us
will ourselves continue to outgrow

all whose mosts if you have known and i’ve
only we our least begin to guess


Come Back To Me

Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)

Come back to me, who wait and watch for you –
Or come not yet, for it is over then,
And long it is before you come again,
So far between my pleasures are and few.
While, when you come not, what I do I do
Thinking “Now when he comes,” my sweetest when:
For one man is my world of all the men
This wide world holds; O love, my world is you.
Howbeit, to meet you grows almost a pang
Because the pang of parting comes so soon;
My hope hangs waning, waxing, like a moon
Between the heavenly days on which we meet:
Ah me, but where are now the songs I sang
When life was sweet because you call’d them sweet?

Their Eyes Would Never Miss A Yes

eecummings3

sonnet entitled how to run the world

by e. e. cummings (1894 – 1962)

A always don’t there B being no such thing
for C can’t cast no shadow D drink and

E eat of her voice in whose silence the music of spring
lives F feel opens but shuts understand
G gladly forget little having less

with every least each most remembering
H highest fly only the flag that’s furled

(sestest entitled grass is flesh or seim
who can and bathe who must or any dream
means more than sleep as more than know means guess)

I item i immaculately owe
dying one life and will my rest to these

children building this rainman out of snow


true lovers in each happening of their hearts

by e. e. cummings

true lovers in each happening of their hearts
live longer than all which and every who;
despite what fear denies, what hope asserts,
what falsest both disprove by proving true

(all doubts, all certainties, as villain strive
and heroes through the mere mind’s poor pretend
-grim comics of duration:only love
immortally occurs beyond the mind)

such a forever is love’s any now
and her each here is such an everywhere,
even more true would truest lovers grow
if out of midnight dropped more suns than are

(yes;and if time should ask into his was
all shall,their eyes would never miss a yes)

When I Am With You

bly

Robert Bly (1926 – )

being to timelessness

by e. e. cummings

being to timelessness as it’s to time,
love did no more begin than love will end;
where nothing is to breathe to stroll to swim
love is the air the ocean and the land

(do lovers suffer? all divinities
proudly descending put on deathful flesh:
are lovers glad? only their smallest joy’s
a universe emerging from a wish)

love is the voice under all silences,
the hope which has no opposite in fear;
the strength so strong mere force is feebleness:
the truth more first than sun more last than star

—do lovers love? why then to heaven with hell.
Whatever sages say and fools, all’s well.


When I Am With You

by Robert Bly

When I am with you, two notes of the sarod
Carry me into a place I am not.
All the farms have disappeared into air.

Those wooden fence posts I loved as a boy —
I can see my father’s face through their wood,
And through his face the sky as threshing ends.

It is such a blessing to hear that we will die,
Ten thousand barks become a hundred thousand;
I knew this friendship with myself couldn’t last forever.

Touch the sarong’s string again, so that the finger
That touched my skin a moment ago
Can become a lightning bolt that closes the door.

Now I know why I keep hinting at the word you —
The sound of you carries me over the border.
We disappear the same way a baby is born.

Some fool with my name has been trying.
To peer all afternoon through the thick boards
Of the fence. Tell that boy it isn’t time.

You Shall Above All Things Be Glad And Young

joy_harjo
Joy Harjo

you shall above all things be glad and young

by e. e. cummings

you shall above all things be glad and young
For if you’re young,whatever life you wear

it will become you;and if you are glad
whatever’s living will yourself become.
Girlboys may nothing more than boygirls need:
i can entirely her only love

whose any mystery makes every man’s
flesh put space on;and his mind take off time

that you should ever think,may god forbid
and (in his mercy) your true lover spare:
for that way knowledge lies,the foetal grave
called progress,and negation’s dead undoom.

I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance


There are certain poems that jump out and bite me, latch on and won’t let go.  Both of these poems reached out and bit me several weeks back and I have come back to read them over and over.  I can’t even articulate the power they have over me, other than I smile when I read them. I like a poet who has the talent to make me smile, make me happy that they took the time to share the glory of their inner thoughts.

I wish our federal government had a kitchen table that each morning our leaders were required to not only make breakfast with each other but sit down and eat it together with a civil tongue.   I recently wrote a blessing to remind me of how blessed I am.

Thank you for this food.  I give thanks because I’m able.
Thank you for each person, dining at this table

Focus on what’s good. Each breath we breathe be praise.
Then, let’s enjoy the rest of this ordinary day.

And when my wrongs need right, grant me strength to see.
Take from this brief silence, a forgiving revelry.


Perhaps the World Ends Here

by Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Music, When Soft Voices Die

file-13.jpeg
Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Music, When Soft Voices Die

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

 


life is more true than reason will deceive

by e. e. cummings

life is more true than reason will deceive
(more secret or than madness did reveal)
deeper is life than lose:higher than have
—but beauty is more each than living’s

all multiplied by infinity sans if
the mightiest meditations of mankind
cancelled are by one merely opening leaf
(beyond whose nearness there is no beyond)

or does some littler bird than eyes can learn
look up to silence and completely sing?
futures are obsolete;pasts are unborn
(here less than nothing’s more than everything)

death, as men call him, ends what they call men
—but beauty is more now than dying’s when

When The World is Mud-luscious

muddy dog
April is a Muddy Dog

(in-Just)

by e. e. cummings

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman
whistles          far          and wee
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring
when the world is puddle-wonderful
the queer
old balloonman whistles
far          and             wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
it’s
spring
and
         the
                  goat-footed
balloonMan          whistles
far
and
wee

 


We had our first real taste of spring this weekend.  Minneapolis hit a high of 80 degrees on Saturday and everyone and everything stuck their head outside and smelled the warm air.  After a long cold winter, the gift of spring is an awareness of change; with the change in light one of the most compelling.  Spring light has a different intensity than just a few weeks ago, it has a different slant, a different tint, a different warmth. It is a gift to northerners who appreciate the sun maybe just a little bit more on these final days of April than our southern counterparts who are already cursing the 100 degree afternoons in Florida. No such cursing in Minneapolis, only gratitude that in the following week the swelling buds on trees will turn green and the only grumbles will be from the person who has to clean up the muddy footprints of children and dogs, who trail their playfulness from the muddy front and back yards of their houses into the kitchen to see what is for dinner, all of them wagging their tails.


Sonnet 98

William Shakespeare

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him,
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.

Love Me As I Am

file-11 (3)
T. A. Fry – Day dreaming with a twinkle in my eye.

 

love is more thicker than forget

by e. e. cummings

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky

 


It’s Valentine’s Day, a day hopeless romantics unite to eat prix fix expensive dinners with cheap champagne with someone who makes them smile. I hope you’re one of ’em.  Dating in your mid 50’s requires a bit of a thick skin and a sense of humor. If you are one of my fellow 50 something daters, love is in the air if not chalk candy hearts in your dish.  If you haven’t heard, the company that makes those went bankrupt.  This is not a cosmic karmic sign that love is dead.  In fact it is a love success story as a new round of investors has bought the company and plan to have inventory in place for next year so your chalky lite-pink BE MINE candy can wind up in your squeezes tummy.

I do find it just a tiny bit odd, that all of us who are mid 50’s, at this incredible junction in our lives, for most of us helping our elderly parents or parent, watching our 20 something children launch their adult lives and/or ushering in grand children, while still dealing with late stage careers and trying to navigate the last stretch without getting side swiped or down sized, while reeling from watching friends be stricken by cancer, despite dealing with all that stuff on our plates, (not to mention male and female menopause), we then set this preposterously high bench mark to simply go out on a date. You would think with all those stressors we would make it easier to eat Tai food over a glass of wine with a member of the opposite sex who responds in much more human sounding responses than our pets or dead silence in our downsized apartments.  I do laugh at the bios people post on online dating apps and the criteria they have for agreeing to see someone for the first time.  When did we get that choosy?  Answering 438 questions on-line to filter out dates?  Yikes.  It didn’t work that way in high school or college.

Sadly, many of us in our mid 50’s suffer from PTSD – Post traumatic stress divorce syndrome. Or even worse yet, the traumatic loss of a spouse because of death. In both cases we are coping and adapting to the loss of a partner.  If it is because of divorce, we have come through the grindstone of a once successful marriage that deteriorated into something that was no longer successful and have enough bruises and scars accumulated that we’re still recuperating and wondering if we have what it takes to take a run at one last great love affair, preferably one that take us all the way to end of our lives. It can be even harder emotionally to move on for those still dealing with the processing of grief. Dating is daunting, but the alternative of not dating is daunting as well. How do you find that person that can meet you at your level for companionship? On-line multiple choice quizzes? I don’t think so. Probably have to roll up our courage, take a shower and get out there on a date and find out.

Fortunately, I have good role models in my life that you can find love at every stage.  My 87-year-old father is dating an older women for the first time and the two of them bring happiness and fun into each others lives on a daily basis while steadfastly maintaining their independence.  My friend Liz, who is 91 and in an assisted living facility, just moved again so that she could be only a couple of doors down the hall from her friend Jerry. Both are confined to wheel chairs these days, but eat 3 meals a day together and always have something interesting to talk about and a kind word for the other.  For both of these couples there is no screen time intervening, they are 100 percent present in each other’s company and have the most optimistic of spirits.

I wrote Generous Eye – the sonnet below, on a Sunday afternoon, after having gone to church with my Mom, we were sitting next to Liz, her wheel chair parked right next to our pew.  The pastor’s sermon made reference to generous eyes and I wrote it down in my bulletin as a writing prompt and this sonnet eventually emerged. At the time I was dating a french speaking woman and the only thing holding our relationship together was passion and it was obvious that wasn’t enough to sustain a relationship going forward. My writing, I think like most writers, is not autobiographical, it is an attempt to create a reality I hope one day might exist.

Romance is this odd magical trance, where it can’t begin generally without some attraction but as the relationship matures into something lasting, it needs to soften and be flexible, just like our bodies as we age, into a greater focus on companionship, while wanting a partner whose ear is still tuned to hear the ancient lutes and lyres playing the song that stirs our bones and keeps us going. I am envious of those couples, like in the song below referencing Johnny and June Cash, whose love lasted through the best and worst of their lives. We all aren’t so fortunate.  But we should all keep trying, your Liz or Jerry might still be out there waiting for you.  Happy Valentines Day!

 


 

Generous Eye

by T.A. Fry

As salient desires spark like steel on flint,
with generous eye and gentle ear you scold
my broken ways, without the faintest hint
your loyalty sways, nor spite has taken hold.
What’s after passion?  Mon amour, je t’aime!
Will lust be lost amidst our dwindling fuel,
as ancient bonfires cool?  I’ll not condemn
this reckless plight where human hungers rule,.
For sexual desire knows no bounds of youth.
All hear its song from deep within their flesh.
It sings; “Caress me dear….with the naked truth.
Heal from gentle touch as two hearts enmesh.
Savor carnal knowledge, as a worthy goal,
And love me as I am; body, mind and soul.”

You Miss Each Other

chris Brown Frieaky Friday
Chris Brown – Freaky Friday Video

 

This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.
Look at it talking to you. You look out a window
Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don’t have it.
You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.

Excerpt from Paradoxes and Oxymorons by John Ashbery

a total stranger one black day

by e. e. cummings

a total stranger one black day
knocked living the hell out of me–

who found forgiveness hard because
my(as it happened)self he was

-but now that fiend and i are such
immortal friends the other’s each


This blog entry comes with a warning.  It’s going to be a little long and seem fragmented.  Forgive me.  Forgiveness is the theme of today’s post.  I get to the point eventually.

I have been screwing up the courage to write this post for 11 months. I needed some time to gain perspective. As a person who has always felt under the protection of the sisterhood, in the sense that my closest relationships for my entire life have always been with women, it is hard for me to admit that one year into the #metoo movement, I have really complicated feelings around whether we are caught in the normal backwater churn of positive change or whether I am just collateral damage in a really good wave of progress.

It started with this sense of shame coming out of the New Year around our state of politics in this country,.  A shame of association in being a white man.  It doesn’t matter that my politics and beliefs are in complete conflict with the Republican party, there is a stain that feels like it spreads across the divide for simply being a member of the club – white, for being middle class, educated and privileged, even if I acknowledge the privilege.

I at first applauded the successes that #me too movement was creating in bringing down one icon after another for bad behavior in their personal and professional lives.  I was hopeful this powerful movement would bring about change. But as time went along and for the most part, other than the entertainment industry and a few industry icons losing their positions of power and status, the two sides seemed to settle into a stale mate of hate, the feminists telling all testicle-carrying members of the male sex that we’re fucked up, or at least it felt that way in what I internalized, and Fox news and the weirdness that is white men in America counteracted each other with their shallow misinformed perspectives. As time went along, I started feeling more and more like I was somehow guilty too, even though I honestly can’t recall a single event in my life that would fall under the guise of the #metoo movement.  At some point though, rather than feeling like I was moving across the divide with women to a better future, I simply felt beaten down by it all from both sides.

Why roll this confession out now?  Every year for the past 15 years I have made a CD mix of my favorite new music from the past 12 months. The process of making the compilation is a true enjoyment for me, which is why I do it. This isn’t really a gift for others, it’s a gift to myself, with about 12 other people getting a copy to have some insight into what made me tick this past year. I start Thanksgiving weekend by digging out all the CD’s and vinyl I bought over the course of the year that is spread out over my car and my condo. I then listen to it all one more time.  Sometimes I know exactly what songs are my favorites.  Other times this process brings new insights into my personal soundtrack of the past year and it brings new songs to the top. The songs also have to flow.  Sometimes initial picks that I love don’t make the final cut because they clash with the rest.

I also sit down and do a little research of all the best of lists in the media and online.  I see if there are gems I missed. I always try to start things off with a bang on each CD with a great new rock and roll song or dance song. This year’s glum rock movement made that hard. I don’t really relate to most rap and it felt like it was only the rappers like Cardi B that were having fun in 2018.  So what can this possibly have to do with the #metoo movement?

In searching through 2018 and a song with a sense of humor or that certain vibe I came across Lil Dickey’s Freaky Friday. The song itself did not make the mix as without the benefit of the visuals of the video, it’s not nearly as funny, but the video is brilliant. After watching the video 8 to 10 times, I realized the humor of it all made me think differently about Chris Brown.  Granted the video is a home run for Brown! Who wouldn’t want to collaborate on a project where someone wants to be you for a day, but the positive energy he brings to it and the sheer joy of it, made me realize that Chris Brown is more complex a person than I have given him credit.  I had allowed myself to dehumanize him and had broad brushed my thoughts about him based on bad press.  I had to admit I really don’t know anything about Chris Brown and maybe I needed to give him another look.

It made me wonder, does the #metoo movement offer offenders a second chance?  When is the movement going to shift from finger wagging, nagging screaming and shouting to forgiveness? When are men going to step up and internalize that bad behavior is not acceptable and earn a second chance? Does the #metoo movement have room for second chances, even for the worst offenders?

The best concert I went to last year was my birthday gift to my daughter in January.  We went and saw First Aid Kit, one of both of our favorite bands, at the newly renovated Palace Theater in St. Paul. Their new album, which did make my best of, is outstanding and their concert was a blast. Their new album is called Ruins. It’s all about falling out of love and being sick and tired of men and the music business. Half way through the concert the lead singer, Klara Söderberg, shouted out to the crowd between songs something to the effect, “this next song goes out to all my sisters in the audience because we just aren’t going to take it anymore.  We are tired of being scared of men and its time we take back what’s ours.” The audience went nuts.  But not all the audience.  Only the women in the audience. In the mosh pit of standing in close proximity to one another that only a rock concert can create, the men in the audience quickly became silent, in part from the dirty looks from the female strangers standing next to us if we had joined the applause, whistles and shouts, the male voices quickly fading.  This song wasn’t going out to us. We (men) weren’t welcome in the club. We were the problem that needed silencing.  And they did, silence us.

There is nothing wrong with what she said or the reaction of the women in the crowd. I even agree with it, I am tired of being scared of men too.  What was shocking was how for the first time, I felt like I didn’t belong.  I wasn’t welcome with the sisterhood who had tolerated me in Blue Birds, because my Mom had to take me along with my sisters, who had shared with me the secrets of some of the finer arts of cooking, sewing and nurturing, who had welcomed me into their inner confessional circle in the past. I have always known that I circle the periphery of the clan of men.  I do enough to get by and be accepted, but I have never been completely comfortable. It was an odd feeling to stand there alone, realizing I was no longer a castaway on girl island and was swimming in a new current, one in which there was no life boat that was going to come to the rescue.

What happens next?  If a man like me who considered himself on the side of the liberal feminists is retreating not in his beliefs but in his willingness to engage, what does that say about the movement? When will #metoo transform to also include the #forgivenesstoo movement?  Great questions to contemplate for 2019.

Happy Holidays everyone.