April 28 Birthday: Harper Lee

harperAtticus’s Speech

Atticus was speaking easily
He walked slowly
Up and Down
In front of the jury
and the jury seemed to be attentive

Atticus paused
He unhitched his watch and chain
and placed them on the table
saying “With the court’s permission,”
Judge Taylor nodded
unbuttoned his vest
loosened his tie
and took off his coat
and to me and Jem
this was the equivalent of him
standing before us stark naked

he said
“this case is not a difficult one,
it requires
no minute sifting
of complicated facts
this case should never
have come to trial
This case is as simple
as black
and white

The state
has not produced one iota
of medical evidence
to the effect
that the crime ever took place
It has relied
upon the testimony
of two witnesses whose
has not only been called into
serious question
on cross-examination
but has been
contradicted by the defendant

The defendant
is not guilty
but someone in this courtroom is

I have nothing
but pity
in my heart for the chief witness
but my pity
does not extend
so far as to
putting a man’s life at stack
which she has done
in an effort
to get rid

I say guilt
because it was guilt
committed no crime
She has broken
a code
a code so severe
that whoever breaks it
is hounded
from our midst as
unfit to live with

What did she do?
a Negro

No code mattered
but it came crashing down on her
Her father saw it
What did her father do?
There is
circumstantial evidence
to indicate that
Mayella Ewell was beaten
savagely by someone
who led almost exclusively with his
left hand
Mr. Ewell
swore out a warrant
No doubt signing it with his
left hand
and Tom Robinson
now sits before you
haven taken the oath
with the only good hand he posses, his
right hand

And so,
a quiet
humble Negro
who had the
unmitigated temerity to
feel sorry
for a white woman
has had to put
his word
two white people’s
I need not
remind you of their
appearance and conduct
on the stand
The witnesses for the state
have presented themselves
to you
to this court
in the cynical confidence
that their testimony
would not be doubted
confident that you
would go along with
the evil assumption
that all Negroes lie
that all Negroes are
basically immoral beings
that all Negro men are not
to be trusted around our women
Which, gentlemen
we know is a lie
You know the truth
some Negroes lie
some Negroes are
immoral beings
some Negroes are not
to be trusted around women
black or white
this is a truth
that applies to the
human race
and to no particular
race of man.

One more thing,
before I quit

Thomas Jefferson once said
All men are created equal
There is a tendency
for certain people
to use this phrase
out of context
to satisfy all conditions
We know
all men are
created equal
in the sense some people
would have us believe

there is one way
in this country
in which all men are created equal
there is one
human institution
that makes a pauper
the equal to a Rockefeller
the stupid man
the equal of an Einstein
That institution
is a court
in this country
our courts are the great levellers
and in our courts
all men are created equal

I’m no idealist
to believe firmly
in the integrity
of our courts
and in
the jury system
that is no ideal to me
it is a living
working reality
a court is no better
than each man of you
sitting before me
on this jury.
A court is only as sound
as the men
who make it up.
Come to a decision
restore this defendant to his family
In the name of God,
do your duty,”

Atticus’ voice had dropped
and he turned away
from the jury
he said something

“In the name of God,
believe him,”

A found poem created by Dylan Aspie from To Kill a Mockingbird

NOTE: In honor of National Poetry Month, each day a person’s birthday will be celebrated with a poem about or by him/her. The poems come from all over the place.


April 27: John James Audubon

aububonYou Can’t Get There from Here

Bird watchers top my honors list.
I aimed to be one, but I missed.
Since I’m both myopic and astigmatic,
My aim turned out to be erratic,
And I, bespectacled and binocular,
Exposed myself to comment jocular.

We don’t need too much birdlore, do we,
To tell a flamingo from a towhee;
Yet I cannot, and never will,
Unless the silly birds stand still.
And there’s no enlightenment in a tour
Of ornithological literature.
Is yon strange creature a common chickadee,
Or a migrant alouette from Picardy?

You can rush to consult your Nature guide
And inspect the gallery inside,
But a bird in the open never looks
Like its picture in the birdie books-
Or if it once did, it has changed its plumage,
And plunges you back into ignorant gloomage.
That is why I sit here growing old by inches,
Watching a clock instead of finches,
But I sometimes visualize in my gin
The Audubon that I audubin.

–Ogden Nash

NOTE: In honor of National Poetry Month, each day a person’s birthday will be celebrated with a poem about or by him/her. The poems come from all over the place.


April 26 Birthday: Carol Burnett

The-Carol-Burnett-Show-Gone-with-the-WindTHE CAROL BURNETT SHOW

After my father died and I had to drop out of college for the second time to go back to being a go-go girl, my mother came to live with me to take care of my kids although she didn’t approve one bit of what I did for a living, said I was just goofing off and having a good time even though I told her I wasn’t, and so ashamed was she of me she lied to my grandmothers, told them I was a dancer on the Carol Burnett Show and that’s why I worked nights, wore mini skirts, false hair and eyelashes, but my mother told the truth about me to her sister Vera, a divorceé like me, and when Vera came to visit, the two of them came to see me at the Playgal Club and Spike the manager gave them a front row table and a free pitcher of beer and potato chips and there they sat, wearing white gloves and Jackie Kennedy pillbox hats, Kleenexes from their purses for napkins on their laps as they watched us go-go girls dance, sling pitchers, kegs, tanks of beer to the drunken aerospace execs, construction workers, surfers, Nam-bound marines, watched us empty ashtrays, dance, wash glasses, dance, sweep up broken glass after some pool hustlers got into a fight, and dance and the next day at noon as I sat in the kitchen, nibbling my bowl of Rice Krispies, a somnolent zombie and achy from working till 3 a.m., I heard my mother outside yelling at the trashmen not to make so much noise banging trashcans, they might wake up her daughter who worked nights and her daughter worked .DAMNED HARD to earn a living! It was the finest tribute my mother ever gave me and now, years later, finally I can appreciate it, now that I’m all rested up.

–Joan Jobe Smith

NOTE: In honor of National Poetry Month, each day a person’s birthday will be celebrated with a poem about or by him/her. The poems come from all over the place.


April 25 Birthday: Ella Fitzgerald

ella-fitzgeraldA Poem for Ella Fitzgerald

when she came on the stage, this Ella
there were rumors of hurricanes and
over the rooftops of concert stages
the moon turned red in the sky,
it was Ella, Ella.
queen Ella had come
and words spilled out
leaving a trail of witnesses smiling
amen – amen – a woman – a woman.

she began
this three agèd woman
nightingales in her throat
and squads of horns came out
to greet her.

streams of violins and pianos
splashed their welcome
and our stained glass silences
our braided spaces
opened up
said who’s that coming?

who’s that knocking at the door?
whose voice lingers on
that stage gone mad with
         perdido. perdido. perdido.
i lost my heart in toledooooooo.

whose voice is climbing
up this morning chimney
smoking with life
carrying her basket of words
                 a tisket a tasket
my little yellow
basket-i wrote a
letter to my mom and
on the way i dropped it-
was it red… no no no no
was it green… no no no no
was it blue… no no no no
just a little yellow

voice rescuing razor thin lyrics
from hopscotching dreams.

we first watched her navigating
an apollo stage amid high-stepping
yellow legs
we watched her watching us
shiny and pure woman
sugar and spice woman
her voice a nun’s whisper
her voice pouring out
guitar thickened blues,
her voice a faraway horn
questioning the wind,
and she became Ella,
first lady of tongues
Ella cruising our veins
voice walking on water
crossed in prayer,
she became holy
a thousand sermons
concealed in her bones
as she raised them in a
symphonic shudder
carrying our sighs into
her bloodstream.

this voice, chasing the
morning waves,
this Ella-tonian voice soft
like four layers of lace.
                 when i die Ella
tell the whole joint
please, please, don’t talk
about me when i’m gone….

i remember waiting one nite for her appearance
audience impatient at the lateness
i remember it was april
and the flowers ran yellow
the sun downpoured yellow butterflies
and the day was yellow and silent
all of spring held us
in a single drop of blood.

when she appeared on stage
she became Nut arching over us
feet and hands placed on the stage
music flowing from her breasts
she swallowed the sun
sang confessions from the evening stars
mage earth divulge her secrets
gave birth to skies in her song
remade the insistent air
and we became anointed found
inside her bop
                 bop bop dowa
bop bop doowaaa
bop bop dooooowaaa

Lady. Lady. Lady.
be good. be good
to me.
to you.         to us all
cuz we just some lonesome babes
in the woods
hey lady. sweetellalady
Lady. Lady. Lady. be gooooood
        be good

–Sonia Sanchez

NOTE: In honor of National Poetry Month, each day a person’s birthday will be celebrated with a poem about or by him/her. The poems come from all over the place.

Events, Poems

April 24 Birthday: Barbra Streisand

Music. Stage and Screen. Personalities. pic: circa 1960's. Barbra (Barbara) Streisand, born 1942, American singer, theatre and film actress.Grizabella Origins
T.S. Eliot

(1) “Rhapsody on a Windy Night”

…Remark the cat
Who hesitates toward you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin.
You see the border of her coat is torn
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the corner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin.”

(2) “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat”*

She haunted many a low resort
Near the grimy road of Tottenham Court;
She flitted about the No Man’s Land
From The Rising Sun to The Friend at Hand.
And the postman sighed, as he scratched his head:
“You’d really ha’ thought she’d ought to be dead
And who would ever suppose that that
Was Grizabella, the Glamour Cat!”
* from an unpublished fragment by T.S. Eliot.

–by Trevor Nunn and Andrew Lloyd Webber

Not a sound from the pavement.
Has the moon lost her memory,
She is smiling alone.
In the lamplight
The withered leaves collect at my feet,
And the wind begins to moan.

All alone in the moonlight;
I can dream of the old days,
Life was beautiful then.
I remember the time I knew what
happiness was;
Let the memory live again.

Every street lamp seems to beat
A fatalistic warning.
Someone mutters and the
street lamp sputters,
And soon it will be morning.

I must wait for the sunrise.
I must think of a new life,
And I mustn’t give in.
When the dawn comes,
Tonight will be a memory, too.
And a new day will begin.

Burnt out ends of smoky days,
The stale cold smell of a morning.
A street lamp dies, another night is over;
Another day is dawning

Touch me,
It is so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun.
If you touch me,
You’ll understand what happiness is.
Look, a new day has begun…

NOTE: In honor of National Poetry Month, each day a person’s birthday will be celebrated with a poem about or by him/her. In this case, Streisand popularized this poem/song. The poems come from all over the place.


April 23 Birthday: William Shakespeare

willSONNET 29

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

–William Shakespeare

NOTE: In honor of National Poetry Month, each day a person’s birthday will be celebrated with a poem about or by him/her. The poems come from all over the place.