One Hundred Years Among the Daisies, poems by George Wallace. Published by Stubborn Mule Press, 2018.
I have this notion that the chunk of time we’re going through in ‘our’ American culture, under Mr. Trump, is somewhat akin to the bad side of the ‘50s. There is a great fear of being different in any meaningful way, combined with a tsunami of forgetting. This forgetting is probably caused, to some degree, by the internet, because computers take away the necessity of personal memory. And there seems to be a fear of real love as well. George Wallace’s work is a bridge over all of that, or a tunnel through it. Wallace’s bridge is akin to Walt Whitman’s attempt to bridge the sadness in this land after the Civil War – a search for what is life affirming.
First, let’s talk about love. George expresses his love for so many things, the city of New York among them. From THE CHRYSLER BUILDING IN SNOW:
Who ate the neon I don’t know but I love New York always will…
He moves on to the personal in the poem HOW THE MISTS MOVE:
And om to your eyes, and om to your lips, blue nests on mountaintops, and om to this eternal confusion, this thing called infatuation
And then wraps it up in TO COME DEVOTED INTO THE ARMS OF LOVE:
To lie on a lazy sun-drenched porch, together, like grain, with you, together like straw, our hats removed, full-faced in simple garments. stitched together like silk; to be easily buttoned, worn through but easy to mend – we two, like stars, lying on our backs, hand in hand –
In the poem LOVE FOLDS DEEP IN THE FOLD George moves on from love into the sadness that has enveloped this country:
…the massive human tragedy called America rolls and unrolls, engine of its own carnage and self eradication, and the train keeps rolling…
In the poem THE ROAD LEADS NORTH ACROSS THE DESERT he states:
No one can separate a man from his work, not even a president…
George Wallace pushes death away continuously throughout this marvelous book. In the poem IF YOU COULD REMOVE THE DEAD FROM THE DEAD he writes:
…all the sleeping dead rising from death, standing at the bridge, looking down from the parapet, all the incoherent laughter, perfect innocents raised back up from the heap, all the untroubled song, no more disillusionment, no more oblivion, do you understand what I’m trying to say, can you see it for yourself, the slaughtered sons and daughters, sharecroppers and soldiers, students, nurses, peasants and miners, all the sweet lives returned to the living.
And this theme of fighting death is combined with a call for revolution, another way of fighting death in life. From the poem HOW WILL IT END:
Revolution is a small boy reading whitman at a long wooden table; revolution is a small girl carrying the book of the world in secret hands; revolution is a young woman and a young man making love against your terrible red glare;
And George Wallace ends this wonderful, Whitmanesque collection of poems with a poem entitled FOR THIS MY HEART THE REVOLUTION. His final words are:
I prepare myself for this For love, for death – for this My heart the revolution
I absolutely recommend this book. It is not only enjoyable and moving, it is a pulsating map that guides the reader through this strange time we are now living in – it is that person who sits down beside you in your neighborhood bar and buys you a white Russian, and then tells you the story of their life.