02 August 2012

Big Earth Ball



(See also Big Earth Ball 2017)




Lawn party for the March 1970 solar eclipse, me
sitting on a blanket in an army jacket and long skirt,
embroidering inserts to bell jeans and holding thick
negatives for the sun show when . . .
“Uncle John’s Band” plays from dorm windows lining
the quad and both the stoned and the merely happy
rise in swooping dance, eyes closed, inner harmony

We needed a break from anti-war demonstration
and its black and white certainty of right and left. 
Clarity grew from confusion, a sharp diamond set
in too much all at once . . .
“Say it, A Ball of Confusion”  “The first days are
the hardest days, don’t you worry anymore . . . “
The disco ball had not yet turned, rock ruled

Temptation to “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out”
was hard to resist: I cut all my classes that spring, 
started smoking, played hours of duplicate bridge
in the Student Union . . . 
parted my long hair straight, wore wire-rimmed
glasses, carried Sartre’s Being and Nothingness 
in my pocket, took on Nausea and avoided the gaze
 
Of those who just didn’t get it.  We walk in space!
We build things to destroy people and we walk in space!
We walk to look up at the sun, see its angry glare,
Who cares if we go blind . . .
Sight from blindness grows as clarity from confusion
“You know all the rules by now and the fire from ice”
Darkness rises as the moon bites into the sun.




Inspired by Theme Thursday's "Confusion," I now post "Big Earth Ball"--about the March 7, 1970 Solar Eclipse--for dVerse's "Poetics ~ ‘His’tory, ‘Her’story & time machines" hosted by Brian Miller.  1970 was the year "Uncle John's Band" appeared on the Grateful Dead's 4th studio album "Workingman's Dead" and the year the Temptations recorded the hit single "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)" for the Gordy (Motown) label.   Both political songs helped shape my take on my world, sun, and moon on that grey day.   "Turn on, tune in, drop out" is a 1967 quote from either Dr. Timothy Leary or Marshall McLuhan to popularize a psychedelic counter-culture (of which I was not a part). 

1970 Mar 07 Total Solar Eclipse

Photographs taken in North Carolina by Fred Espenak

US astronauts first walked in space in 1965.  In 1969, the  Apollo 11 moon landing with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin was televised live on July 21 and we heard Armstrong say his famous words ,"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."  I watched in a little bar near the Hunter Mountain ski resorts (where I was during the 1969 Woodstock Festival--which is another story).  


!970 was the year of the Vietnam draft lottery which set college students on edge.  Protest against the US involvement in Vietnam and its undeclared war there, had escalated since 1964 and was particularly heated by 1970.  On May 4th, 1970--2 months after the solar eclipse of my poem--the  U.S. National Guard killed four young people during a demonstration on the Kent State campus in Ohio.  "As a result four million students go on strike at more than 450 universities and colleges" (Wikipedia).




Copyright © 2012 S.L.Chast
Submitted to Aviary,
Submitted to Nain Rouge 10/18/2012

52 comments:

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Susan, I so love this! The look back is wonderful. I can see you, your hair, the glasses, the book......I envy you that time of expansion. In those same years when the young were coming alive, I was stultified in an imprisoning marriage - from which I escaped, thankfully.......I enjoyed every riveting line of this poem.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

p.s. I love The Peace of Wild Things on the right!!!!!

Kris McCracken said...

I do like addition of Nausea. Lovely touch.

Sreeja said...

there is so much in here Susan....wonderful...I loved the last stanza...though I didn't get some here and there....

Susan said...

Thank you all for visiting! I like this poem too, and will repost it soon so I can get a few more reader responses. I'm thinking it is one for the future book.

Daydreamertoo said...

No peace is ever won without first a war being fought to win it. I wish (As John Lennon sang) we would all 'give peace a chance,' but, it's so unlikely with money behind it all, driving everything.
I loved your description of how you spent that spring. We all reach an age where we become quite the little rebels, don't we. :)
I remember watching the moon landing live on our black & white TV. Wow... talk about do I feel old... lol

Anonymous said...

A wonderful take on a unique point in history. And to throw in the recollection wrapped around the solar eclipse is even better.

Brian Miller said...

wow love that last stanza susan...it is very strong...maybe more so because of how you set it up with your personal history of that year before rocking it out with what its all about.....i like....how did i miss this one...hmm....

John (@bookdreamer) said...

I was at Woodstock - well the film version but I had flares and said Vietnam sucked in between wondering what Jill's kisses were like. Ah, youthful memories caught well in your poem

Claudia said...

wow...you put in quite a lot of things here...love the look back...that was a tight time..lots of things happened..i was just born and later often thought that it was def. a time when the world kinda altered the course..but then...think you could say this of many times...wonderful write susan

Susan Daniels said...

Susan--this is exquisite. Love the wire rims and JPS... Did something similar 20 years later with the same books :)

Anonymous said...

Wild times, very well described. k.

Uneven Stephen said...

Awesome trip. Very vivid with strong imagery. That last line - "Darkness rises as the moon bites into the sun." is a fantastic closer.

Vaksinius said...

That enthusiasm is lacking today. We are all counted. (。◕‿◕。)

Mary said...

I love the personal history most of all. It is interesting to look back, and sometimes I do wonder if we will ever know the 'rules.'

Adriene said...

The moon, an era, existence, it's all here in this poem. And this one is timely: To think we may soon find out if there is life on Mars! Very nice, Susan, thanks.

hedgewitch said...

Ah, the memories, Susan. Two great songs, and a fiery magnifying glass on a moment in time, that clarity so sharp that it can sometimes burn.."got some things to talk about/here beside the rising tide.." used to love dancing to that one. I have a feeling we may have to dust off our protest shoes some day and march again--if we can bring our canes. ;_) Enjoyed this very much.

marousia said...

Fantastic! You capture the spirit of the time so well - the images are powerful, visual - I could see it all

lucychili said...

yes the peace of wild things is a stark contrast
with the jagged human conflict.

'I come into the presence of still water.'

Bodhirose said...

I think it wouldn't be such a bad idea if we got a little "revolution" going again...seems like it takes us hitting the streets to get our voices heard. Loved your look back and reading your personal experiences..you may have been a little on the fringe of the "counter culture" (without the psychedelics perhaps) don't you think..

Unknown said...

Terrific piece Susan. Love the way you really captured the moment itself, the attitudes of the time, the settings, both in terms of physicality and culturally. Really nice write. Thanks

Dana Dampier said...

I love these snippets of the past... so vivid and real.

Anonymous said...

Right there with you ~ brilliantly evocative

Marbles in My Pocket said...

I remember those days well. The music definitely had a moving, controlling effect on the young people of that era. Nice write, Susan!

kaykuala said...

A lot of things went into this. The flash backs were very effective. Love them, Susan! Great write!

Hank

Susan said...

Do not envy! I've just shown you one day of it! I hope you got to hear the music even if you weren't on campus.

Susan said...

Have you read it?

Susan said...

Thanks, Sreeja. This is so totally the USA continent in 1970, that if you got some of it, you are doing well. The links will give you a sense, too, of those turbulent times. I think the protests were actually affective eventually.

Susan said...

I'm pretty sure that Ghandi would not agree that you need a war, but that does not mean no one will die and that the villains will easily cede their power and money.

It's neat that we both watched the moon landing together! I turned 18 in Summer 1969.

Susan said...

Thanks!

Susan said...

Do all of us have a rebel age?

Susan said...

On missing this--do you think something is wrong with mrsupole?--haven't heard from her either and I note that the comments have no responses.

About the Solar Eclipse--I cannot even say what it was all about and how the free speech movement became a move-away-from-the-hypocrisy movement and all of the music and poetry and war protest and all that followed. It must have just been time after 1968 when Parisian students blew up and revolutions happened in the Balkans and etc. Just bloody time.

Susan said...

Thanks, John. I never made it to the festival either. I was near Woodstock, but the Festival itself was about 32 hours down state.

Susan said...

Thank you, Claudia, I'm glad you enjoyed the poem--and even got all of its references. I agree that 1970 is not unique in making the world change course--but it is one that I know something about from experience--and I am sure it changed me and my family irrevocably.

Susan said...

Really!!! I thought by 1990 that Sartre had been abandoned! Did you try to live as an authentic existentialist? I moved on to Camus, but did not have the courage for quantity over quality-- Thank you for "exquisite"!

Susan said...

2 hours. By car.

Susan said...

Thanks, and thanks for stopping by.

Susan said...

I have learned "the rules," but maybe not the ones you are speaking of. Living them is another story.

Susan said...

Adriene! You visited! I am very excited to see you here and read your comment of praise. That means a lot. Do you think "we" will recognize the life on Mars if we see it?

Susan said...

Thank you for that "fiery magnifying glass"! Definitely need our canes to protest, but I hope there will be so many people out there that I can just watch and write . . .

Susan said...

great!

Susan said...

(Maybe.) Thanks for coming by and adding to the conversation.

Susan said...

. . . music by the people, of the people and for the people . . .

ds said...

Wow. "We build things to destroy people and we walk in space!" My favorite line (of so many) in my favorite stanza. Powerful stuff, that. Extraordinary times, those. A lot came back from this. Thank you.

Victoria said...

Remember this so well. Especially the moon walk. I was taking care of a friend/patient in the hospital. One of those moments we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing! Well-portrayed, Susan.

Archna Sharma said...

Susan, this is such a refreshing piece. Thank you for sharing a time of pure revolt and a mark of change in history. I love the picture of you in the long skirt, swooping dance, and inner harmony. "Sight from blindness grows as clarity from confusion", so much strength in this voice. We have protest stories in our home too, but they are new ones, with my own children these days. I would love to hear your other story!

Susan said...

Thank you, ds, for commenting. That line embodies major contradiction in being civilized.

Susan said...

Oh, you should write about it too!

Susan said...

Grin! Stick around. I'm just getting started! And new protest--or non-protest--stories would be a gift to me!

Mrsupole said...

Whew, I have been working to try and get blogger to stop freezing up. I have been running so many different scans, deleting programs here and there, and so far I was able to add Mr. Linky, add a few links and then come here without it freezing. Keeping my fingers crossed. I have my iPad but grandkids have been here and all of them keep taking it to watch vids. Plus it is not much easier to write comments then my iPhone. I am trying to learn the audio writer program but it is so slow and only understands half of what I say, I think I talk too fast for it to understand me and I think I talk slow. Thought it had to do with living in southern CA and it being so hot. Also if someone has word verification on then the comment window covers it up and cannot see to write it.

Anyway I really enjoyed this poem and all the other additions. Funny how we can remember watching the landing on the moon, the protests, and the draft. My husband went into the Army in 1970 along with his twin. Luckily because he brother was in Europe for four years my hubby never actually made it to Vietnam. I went into the Army a few years later as my form of protest to save at least one young man from being drafted. Not sure if that ever worked but at least in my mind I think I saved one guy. Still not sure what the Disco thing was. We were out of the country during that time. I remember Saturday Night Fever and after watching it we had no idea that it was a lifestyle in the U.S.A. You know I have never asked my brothers and sisters if they got into it. Maybe some things are better kept quiet. LOL

You seem to have had a lot of interesting experiences during that time and I have to say that if you had straight hair then you have made me totally jealous of you. I cannot even count the hours that I spent trying to get my hair to go straight during those years. The funniest one is rolling my hair with orange juice cans at night and then sleeping sitting up all night so as to not squish the cans. Oh if only the blow dryer had been invented back then. Heck we were so excited to find a hair conditioner.

I think you are so correct about your post bringing up recollections. But new ones are nice too.

Thank you for being concerned about where I had gone off too. I know the problem was with blogger and something connected to it. All of my other programs worked just fine. And my Adobe Flash kept crashing and hence the connection, at least I hope so.

If I get locked out again I may just be using that sledge hammer.

This was a great confusing confusion Theme Thursday.

God bless.

Susan said...

Thank you Mrs. Thank you very much. I don't know why it was so important to me that you read this particular one, but it was. I am glad to know that you went into the army as a protest! as a gift. I hope you will reveal more of those times as you continue writing--or perhaps lead me to where I can read what you have already written about that.

Andreas said...

Certainty cuts us off from a less than certain world. So sometimes darkness is a good thing. All our cherished beliefs taken from us we begin to see what's really there. To see we have to pass through blindness. "Sight from blindness grows as clarity from confusion". I feel it is a tough road ahead.

I've always wanted one of those army jackets. Very cool, Susan!

Thank you for this journey; a moment long, much like eternity.