A Silent Rock

My love for the music [poetry] of Simon & Garfunkel began with their album The Sounds of Silence. Back in the 60s and 70s, we had 45s and record players. I could stack up to about 10 45s on the player and it would automatically play each one from bottom to top… my mechanical playlist. To put a song on repeat, I would prop the arm up, tricking the record player into thinking many 45s were there to drop. I had these particular songs on repeat while [hiding] in my room. I am only now beginning to appreciate why as I break the silence and disturb the slumber of feelings that had died. Of course, grown-ups know feelings don’t die, we just bury them for a while.

I am a Rock

A winters day
in a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
gazing from my window to the streets below
on a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock, I am an island.

I’ve built walls,
a fortress steep and mighty,
that none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
I am a rock, I am an island.

Don’t talk of love,
well I’ve heard the words before…
its sleeping in my memory.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock, I am an island.

I have my books
and my poetry to protect me.
I am shielded in my armor,
hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock, I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

The Sound of Silence

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
because a vision softly creeping
left its seeds while I was sleeping
and the vision that was planted in my brain
still remains
within the sound of silence…


Unsettling Fear, a poem about the pain of racism

I decided to write about racism a couple of weeks ago when I heard an open mic was going to be focusing on Black History. I suppose the safer route would be to read a poem by an African-American or write a poem about Martin Luther King, Jr. However, I have had this tugging on my heart to write about this particular memory of events for some time now and I could no long ignore it Him.

I retain memory fragments from the events of sixties as a young child. In 1968 I would have been 8. I remember events like Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, the Nixon/Wallace/Humphrey presidential race, and Neil Armstrong. I do not have any memory of Martin Luther King Jr’s life or assassination from those years. I think these memories and lack of memories reflect “white” America at that time. In my 100% white neighborhood and 100% white public elementary school we learned about “good, wholesome, American stuff.” What I know about Black History during the prior century, I have taught myself after becoming an adult. Many younger people are privileged to only read about and come to know about the pain inflicted on everyone by state-sanctioned racist policies such as “separate but equal.”

Unsettling Fear is a poem inspired by some events taking place in our quiet and peaceful home. Though the characters are all real, I do not remember details like sequence, names, or faces. The story describes a blurry scene sketched from my 8 year old memories. Memories that match up all too well with all that I’ve learned through my self-study.

One final and very important caveat: I use the n-word in my poem. In the written form it serves the topic accurately by painting it as the ugly and evil word it is. In other words, it is sadly, all too accurate. When I read Unsettling Fear aloud, I am substituting the word negro and letting everyone there know this ahead of time. When sharing this poem with others, please respect this distinction between the written word and the spoken word.

Unsettling Fear
by ric booth

It was the sixties. Our world was a mess.
In need of His Love; we settled for less.

Growing up in a boarding house town
for college coeds no boys were allowed
That would be my life age 5 to 11
Cool you think huh, a young boy’s heaven
yeah but…

My parents you know, well you might have guessed
were whiter than snow, a colorless nest.
The coeds all knew our quaint neighborhood
no color would do, they each understood.

The college’s colorful crowd
Little boy unaware,
like I could care…
…lessly playing all cute for the girls
they loved me you know cuz of my curls.
One day I was out an playin’ around
choked on a red-hot and fell to the ground.
Turnin’ cool blue I could not scream out
Leslie grabbed me an’ started to shout
Coughin’ and wheezin’ she thought I would die
first air then the tears we started to cry
I think she just failed her math test that day
I never said thanks. I think I was eight.

The girls had no boyfriends- that’s what I thought
its me an’ my curls that all of ‘em sought
till one day…

Dad yells at Leslie … a boyfriend upstairs
Dad said he saw him they had it out there
The other girls must be saints or all gay
only poor Leslie caught hell in the day.
“I’m sorry!” she cries while dad yells “No more!”
Please say it aint so God, what is a whore?

It was the sixties. Our world was a mess.
In need of His Love; we settled for less.

The very next day got home from my school,
heard my dad shout “Do you think I’m a fool?”
A scary black man caught tryin’ to leave
an’ Leslie right there attached to his sleeve.
I ran to my room. She screamed, “That’s not fair!”
God, what’s a nigger an why do we care…
…Leslie gone now. I’ve not seen her since then.
Wonder if she knows I still call her friend?

It was the sixties. Our world was a mess.
In need of His love we settle for less.

For much of this life I feared the black man
Irrational strife; all settled in sand.
But then oh my God, He got in my face
addressed the young boy amidst his disgrace.

Ricky my love I’ll take all of those fears,
the shouts and the screams and every last tear.
Leslie, I got her. So let her go too –
An’ dad an’ boyfriend… that’s too much for you.

As our tears subside, He takes on this shame.
His screams echo by, awash with our pain.

Leslie turns sixty. Our world is a mess.
In need of His Love don’t settle for less.

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