Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: Ale for What Ails Ye

Tidal Marsh on San Francisco Bay (CBS photo)

Ale for What Ails Ye

Shakespeare’s Falstaff
Extolled the virtues of sack
Even as he joined the fight
Upon Henry the Fifth’s noble call to arms.
Moreover, the Bard oft spoke
Of merriment and ale.

The psalmist sang
In sacred text
That God gave us wine
To make the heart rejoice.

Partaking of the vine
And passing the brew –
A time-honored practice
Going back to antiquity.
Egyptian hieroglyph
And Sumerian cuneiform
Record the practice
Of fermentation.

One might say
That alcoholic beverage
Is the mark of civilization.
Or, one might also say
That as soon as people learned
To live in large communities,
They needed some way
To tolerate
Life in such close proximity.
Thus wine and ale
Smoothed the rough edges.

The dark side came
When English employers
Paid workers in gin, 
And colonizers gave firewater
To indigenous tribes.
Liquor became the co-conspirator
In the exploitation of people
On two continents.

Yet the altered state
Continues to have appeal
As heads-of-state
Conspire to wreck
The natural state
While calling into question
Our human fate.

We raise a glass
To celebrate 
The things that remain;
To tolerate
The troubled times;
To smooth the rough edges 
And for the glory of ancient Sumer.

                                                     ~ CK

Good People Brewing Company, Birmingham, AL (Photo by Bryan Richards)

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The best thing that poets can do is to bear witness to the times – articulate what is happening in the moment; speak to the real life experiences of your people.  I am setting myself a goal to write a poem each week that reflects what I see and experience in the life of our nation. I may not post a poem each week, but if I can write one poem a week there will be some chronicle of our sacred/tested/doubtful union.

I hope my efforts will not be polemical, but will rather be a true expression of what is. My goal will be to speak to our experiences of what we see and feel in our community and national life. Hopefully that poetic chronicle will depict the joys, sorrows, celebrations and uncertainties that come forth in our common struggle for a more perfect union.


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