WWII memory began to loosen and fade,

and movieland directed a cold new anger at women,

faces bleeding on-screen, men everywhere

controlling the laugh track.


The stuff on the AM dial in our Datsuns and Pintos,

the sea of paisley and Hai Karate, deconstructionism,

Beatles gone – we needed a word, a new word

for how abandoned the moment felt moment by moment.


Still, with the ease of youth came friendships,

never so easy again. At times it wasn’t ease

but teenage panic that made me cling

to friends who insulted or endangered.

I don’t miss that. We survived, most of us.


What’s missing is the canopy of beauty

that supplied America from end to end back then –

the elm, 80 million of them, soon

withered by blight and leaving us here

with a too harsh view of a too bright sun.


“Look! We have come through!” Lawrence could write

decades before, in a bad time. We could say it too,

most of us. The present, that permanent cosmos,

pours down its light. It is giving us everything it has.

© copyright 2019 Ray Waddle



I let the word slip in, talking to a church group

about the latest politics and what we ought to do.

I said we need wisdom.


But it’s no good – using a word like that

I sounded hoarse, gone soft, no longer speaking

from inside the action. I won’t be invited back.


It’s like other words on the list –

solidarity, restraint, unity, beauty.

A splintering noise shouts them down.


Talk today comes outfitted with sharp edges –

sharpened to fend off all challenges, personal dreads.

People are overwhelmed. Power resides elsewhere.


The secret hope is we’ll regain our strength one day.

No one admits to this. It would look like weakness,

especially if it’s true. Truth – another one for the list, for now.

© copyright 2019 Ray Waddle



Twice from the window seat – first outbound,

then on the way back – I happened to look up

from the magazine and out and down and there

was Memphis, a city’s crinkled circuitry

six miles below, held in place

by the big river’s russet thread. Down there also,

buried off the big boulevard somewhere, was Elvis.


For years he filled the sky, a colossus

bearing our sorrows, the research said.

His afterlife was going to be the future of faith –

a new Pentecost, a sluice that caught

the molten core of America.

The sociology was exciting.

I attended the conferences, took notes.


It felt worthy to summarize

big ideas and get paid for it.

But the Elvis claim died as soon as written.

It was bad theater, malpractice,

denial of the sloven weight

of what’s left over every day.

People’s griefs can’t be borne.


Up here in the sky, his name is a frail

out-the-window incantation, nothing in particular.

What a thing, this retail machinery of dreams,

the empty talk pressing us to get on board

and make it true. Presently approaching 550 mph,

flight 7177 leaves behind

that particular illusion anyway.

© copyright 2019 Ray Waddle