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The Aim Is Song

216 pages1 hour


Taking Aim

Before man heard the wind he thought
that he could sing, now soft, now strong,
now proud—more, being so self-taught—
of knowing all there was of song.

Then blew the wind, "Man, what is wrong
is there are airs you just don’t know.
There’s more—oh, so much more to song.
Man, listen—how you ought to blow."

The wind blew sweet and sad and strong,
so like a love song, then let slip
a lover’s sigh, "The aim is song.
—Man, you are shooting from the hip."

Man saw, through tears, moved to rejoice.
So blowing, he could truly claim
to “singer,” and he raised his voice
up to his shoulder, and took aim.

So moved, I have taken aim, in this volume, at thirty-nine disparate subjects, and endeavored to put them into song. But of course merely taking aim is no guarantee of bringing the quarry down. Many factors come into play, not least of which is hand shake; especially considering that no few were not the species of quarry that readily yield their lives up to being put into song, any more than pigs do to being put into sausage. Among these are:

the embalming of President Abraham Lincoln, and of the embalmer’s increasingly frantic attempts with makeup to keep the Great Emancipator, his lips contorted into a slight smile, free of the ever mounting look of death throughout his agonizingly slow three-week funeral train home to Springfield, Illinois [photo of Lincoln lying in state];

the Death Zone discovery of the frozen body of British mountaineer George Leigh Mallory, one-third eaten by ravening goraks, 75 years after he was lost in 1924 along with climbing partner Andrew “Sandy” Irvine attempting to be the first to climb Mt. Everest [photo of Mallory as he was found];

the uniquely creative suicides of seven death-wish poets: Vachel Lindsay, Hart Crane, Sara Teasdale, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and John Berryman;

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which mysteriously disappeared from the face of the earth, along with 239 passengers and crew, somewhere in the deep, frigid forlornness of the southern Indian Ocean;

to name but four. Could I bring any one of them down, let alone thirty-nine? So it’s not hard to see that I would be subject to hand shake, often uncontrollably. How could my hand not shake at such a daunting undertaking? And this is before even factoring in distance. Often, even peering through the high-powered scope, I was so far from my quarry, not only in space but in time (in the case of Lincoln, thousands of miles and fourteen score and fourteen years ago), that I despaired of coming within a country mile. Then, of course, I hardly knew where to begin making allowance for wind shear, not just of one wind, but an incalculable number—from all directions and of all strengths—over so much space and time. Finally, there was the bore of my fowling piece. To me they were all riveting narratives, and I couldn’t see how any one of them had any bore at all; but there is no accounting for the interest and the attention span of readers. This alone was so calculated to put me off my aim that I couldn’t see how my once trusty fowling piece would not be perceived, to derisive laughter, as my ever dependable fouling piece. And did I mention that these typical quarry were just four of thirty-nine? So you can see I was in a tight place.

So, lover of song, in the final analysis, if, in poring upon this unlikely songbook, it should be your kind opinion that, against all odds, I have successfully brought down a quarry or two, you might as metaphorically give my hand a shake—but the shortest one possible, mind you, for still I have in sight some trophy beasts that I have designs on bringing down, to be stuffed and mounted alike, and that it would be such a shame to miss. Chief among these are the killings of Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in graphic narrative verse; songs so sweet that everywhere they wou

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