Thursday, September 26, 2013

We Were The Ones

Book Cover of Woodstock 1969

All through the impending doom of two world wars,
the Great Depression of gloom, in between,
that clouded all;
 to that generation, every baby born 
was Their Child --
                             We were the ones they prayed for!

All the boys in the trenches buried abroad
to the sounds of death,  the headlong dash to the modern,
the rush of JAZZ then the CRASH!  the blowing dust-bowl dirt hard times & migrations -- Nazi Germans, Japanese, Axis, Allies,
disease, Enola Gay, atom bombs, missiles, Nagasaki
death, death, death, then more death.

"Oh '42?" she said, (waiting with me for a  train
on a bench in Church Stretton) "that year we waited out 
the blitz in the dark of the Underground, world coming
to an end, we thought; you were the ones we prayed for."


We were the ones who lived
who banged the pots & pans
who mimed the freedom calls
We were the ones who rode 
in big black cars over black tarred roads.

We were the children of war
We were the ones who heard the drums
who drew the story crayon bright 
on subway walls - We were the ones!

We were the ones who'd unite,
who studied well and kept to the rules
did our chores, studied the stars.
We were the ones who played the city
with cheap guitars ticked out on Wall Street boards.
We were the ones who felt the nuclear sands
blow white on the western breeze
glowing as it dusted us in the night.

We were the ones who sewed the songs
into flags we burned for civil rights.
We were the ones who decomposed 
the landscape for greed and might.
We were the ones, yes we were the ones.

We were the riders of speed --
fast bikes, fast cars, fast rockets, 
metallic rods - 
hard, upright, to the deafening roar
of "sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll"
Crying peace              Wanting more

And did we indeed succeed?
Out of many, ....few
Out of the thought, ....quiet
Out of the clamor, .....dumb
Out of the passion, ....numb

out of abuse, .......solitude
out of the city, ............cells
out in the country - nightmares, injustice, corruption, addiction, disease.

And the parents, grandparents, great grandparents alive or hovering over their graves prayed,
a bead at a time, 
a flickering candle

We were the ones who fought again, and many lived
we, we, we, ..............were the ones they prayed for
for end to war more killing fields
that.......Johnny, whole, might stay at home and build a world reconciled,

© Gay Reiser Cannon * 9.26.13 * All Rights Reserved


  1. Wow, this is great. I love "who drew the story crayon bright on subway walls" . So much to reflect on in this.

  2. For some of us, this period is like yesterday. I can't help but think of that one word: Imagine.

  3. Oh, so right Maureen. We all did imagine and would that we could have followed the lines of Lennon's lyrics.

  4. what a strong piece i would def love to hear performed...some really great confessions and statements along the way....such a strong voice as of the lines i really like is...

    We were the ones who sewed the songs
    into flags we burned for civil rights.

    also the crayon on the subway walls....very cool....

    1. a nice one to go back to in celebrating friends gay....
      you know i like this one...smiles.

  5. I agree with Brian, Gay... this is so powerful!

  6. Oh my! This is so strong, Gay. And indeed, we are the ones who have never known anything but war. I wasn't at fact it was a quite different world for me back then, but I share the scars of that generation. Nicely done.

  7. Oh, wow, Gay, this is spectacular! I loved so many of the lines -- I was breathless by the end of it. Amazing.

  8. Powerful write... war has shrouded us all in some way or the other. We hear of it everyday, we hear the gun shots... what has democracy brought? The condition is no better than how it was under monarchy. War... and war and war. There is no end to war because there is no end to vanity of the humans.
    Thought-provoking and like Brian said, I'd love to hear the incantation of these verses.

  9. Stunning writing, Gay,as those before me have said. The repetition of "we were the ones..." was like a drumbeat, compelling me to continue to read on. One of the strongest lines for me was

    " ... every baby born was
    Their Child
    We were the ones they prayed for! ... "

    So very true, I think, and they prayed that it wouldn't happen again...
    but I think, as I reflect, that their prayers were not answered.
    Sad really, they had such hope, but it all goes on, doesn't it?
    And perhaps always will!

  10. We were the ones who sewed the songs
    into flags we burned for civil rights.
    We were the ones who decomposed
    the landscape for greed and might.
    We were the ones, yes we were the ones.

    Now you got me my thought held with this! Love this verse so much

  11. This is one incredible ballad for boomers, Gay! like Brian said, it seems to scream for some level of performance, with a laser & slide show behind it, big band music, jazz & blues, hotrod smoking tires, early rock and roll. It moves beyond the words on a page. It towers over all of us with a cast of millions; my head is still spinning; thanks.

  12. a fine write, Gay ~ M

  13. That repeating "We were the ones" just hammers home the message. No more killing fields--just an epic piece!

  14. The power in this and - maybe - the bitterness, are breathtaking. This would be a great poem to leave about in strategic places, like Government buildings.....

  15. Not so much "bitter", Viv, I think as disappointed. Such promise but we couldn't surmount the pitfalls to fulfill the ideals. In other words, against our hopes to be super, we were simply human.

  16. Right up to the line 'And did we succeed?' this all seemed so energetic, so hopeful, so young and hopeful. Then the last few stanzas have a downward beat to them, and with the repetition, it feels like they are being dragged down by inertia - the 'we we we' chant sounds almost like 'me me me', contrasting the two.

  17. Very powerful! an assertation that rings irony in some ways yet springs hope too

  18. I remember Woodstock and the Flower children. Those were emotional days of growing up! Fantastic take and wonderful word craft, Gay! Thanks for sharing!


  19. Gay, this is rich and powerful...very meaningful in today's world. I think you captured so much in your words.."we were the ones"..
    the ones that tried to change the world and make it a better place seeking peace.,if only peace could be attained...

  20. What an expressive write and you covered a lot of decades here!
    Everlasting lack of peace! Too bad for us all.

  21. This is a stunning summary of hope, hubris, humanity. I lived it, too, and was right there with you.

  22. Gay - this is just stunning. So well written. Well done!

  23. A very powerful admittance .. what came really out of the great dreams... love the repetitions and alliterations that just make the piece stronger... I we ever do a live version of dVerse pub... this should be performed live

  24. excellent piece. such strong imagery and voice, Gay. Your repetition is mighty effective, and your visual and audible examples are clear. I am convinced Peace is the final outcome.

  25. Hey gay, I am sorry I am on iPhone and the typing difficult at times. This piece has a Whitmanesque feel that is very strong in its passionate declarations and rhetorical flourishes. I say that in the best of ways. I am not sure the boomers have actually been so bad! Far from perfect and very wasteful and despoiling of the landscape. Which is huge. But the level of conflict does not seem to me to be nearly as huge as the world wars. One cannot speak too soon (ugh), but so far... Also though racism and sexism are still terrible, they seem to me to be really quite a bit better than in the fifties, at least in the states. All that said, it is a strong and passionate poem. Thanks much. K.

  26. K. I believe it's better, too - think Forrest Gump - as I said to Viv, I think it's just that we didn't hit the marks we set for ourselves, and it didn't come soon enough. Certainly the laws are not on the books, the Jim Crow era is pretty much gone, and most people won't admit to their prejudices even if they're deeply buried in us all. I don't think I meant it as an indictment of our generation, but more like a bluesy admission that the mountain was higher, and the path steeper than we believed; and like Sisyphus we seem to be eternally pushing back the ball filled with the weight of all that could crush us as a society. Thanks so much for reading and for the comment, K and everyone!!

  27. This is great. The hopes and expectations of the parents - are they ever fulfilled, I wonder?

  28. Gay you wrapped me up with this one brilliant

  29. I do not see this poem as being about death, but more about the yearning in the space between ideals and their fading. I came along (maybe) 5 years later than you, but I remember all of these references and the wrench of having to make new choices in case the world wasn't ending. This poem is glorious, almost a tribute. I agree with Brian. I would like to be present when you read it!

  30. Gay, so masterful..... Lovely. I will tell you this: Every time I am about at an event where my nation's National Anthem is played and I find myself gazing at my nation's flag, invariably and quite noticibly I begin weeping, sometimes uncontrollably. It is something I have never controlled. I'm guessing that most people who see me in that state might think that I am somehow emotionally challenged. Maybe I am, I don't know. But every line, and every stanza in this poem you posted here puts the complete verbalization to that unspeakable emotion that causes me to behave that way.... Thank you. Thank you for recognizing those who came before us and gave us the opportunity to make the changes..... And thank you for believing that we can indeed make those changes.....

  31. This took me back Gay (sorry for my late response) the essence and the structure made it a very enjoyable read - thank you

  32. Gay, this really is an epic poem, I think. It covers so much territory....and so well. I don't know where to start in commenting again today, as I see I commented on this poem in the past. I enjoyed reread. The last stanza leaves me breathless, as I think about that continual wish for peace.

  33. this was meticulously crafted and exquistly laid out. A beautiful unique writing. /You should be proud. >KB

  34. oh heck gay... this is one powerful the beat...all the images...the pledge for peace and friendship...

  35. I liked how you made the period real once again here Gay. I enjoyed how the repetition of "we were the ones" gives rhythm to your poem.