Replies: The Poetry of Earth

Monday Morning Musings:

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

–Leonard Bernstein (In reference to a concert played after JFK’s assassination.)

“I also believe, along with Keats, that the Poetry of Earth is never dead, as long as Spring succeeds Winter. . .”

–Leonard Bernstein

“He’s alive. He’s alive so long as these evils exist. Remember that when he comes to your town. Remember it when you hear his voice speaking out through others. Remember it when you hear a name called, a minority attacked, any blind, unreasoning assault on a people or any human being. He’s alive because, though these things, we keep him alive.”

Rod Serling, “He’s Alive,” The Twilight Zone.


The Queen of Soul with last breath sighs

a cappella respect and pink Cadillacs lay her to rest

and when the war hero dies, tributes attest

to his heroism, morality, beliefs that belie

the petty tyrant’s mocking words

his tweeting calls, unlike the birds

who in dawn chorus sing

and bring the poetry of earth alive

(let freedom ring).


At a museum we see the story of a people and a man

a tribute for what would have been his hundredth year

his father wanted him to be a rabbi, but didn’t stand

in his way, when music was what he held so dear

–but he was a rabbi of a sort, teaching with sound

and harmony, questioning and seeking justice, shedding tears

to bring the poetry of earth to light–

his reply to violence was not silence,

but rather let the music swell intensely, delight

in life, for all of us, poetry of earth and air

today, tonight

(someday, somewhere)


















We see a movie about a boy and his brothers

violence and love, we and us, a trio till it’s not–

they run wild, as mother and father

and family, all of them caught

a cycle, repeating what they’ve learned

yelling and silence, kisses and slaps

and so, he seeks solace in art, turns

to his frantic scribbling, wraps

his pain and questioning in late night visions

finally realizing, and makes decisions

there’s poetry in this dreamy work

where souls almost drown, but also fly

and even in the light, the darkness lurks

the poetry of earth means changes are sung

but his mother whispers

(may you stay forever young).


We stroll through the city

that also ages and changes,

we see ugly and pretty

poverty and wealth, such ranges

and though fall is coming,

summer still holds sway








the poetry of earth ever humming

through violence, love finds a way

we see weddings, people who are happy

and we smile with them as we walk

drink our coffee, discuss movies, and talk










about this and that

and in end of summer heat


(we’ll do the best we know

and make our garden grow).


Song lyrics: “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” which Aretha Franklin sang at Barack Obama’s inauguration. Leonard Bernstein references to “Tonight” and “Somewhere” from West Side Story and “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide. “May You Stay Forever Young,” Bob Dylan.

We went to the Leonard Bernstein exhibit on its last day at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. I didn’t know he had performed at a displaced persons camp after WWII. He conducted an orchestra that called themselves the Ex-Concentration Camp Orchestra. You can read about it here and here. We saw We the Animals. Trailer here. I really liked this movie.  We watched the old Twilight Zone episode “He’s Alive.” It was written in the 1960s, but it is a timely reminder about what could be.









30 thoughts on “Replies: The Poetry of Earth

  1. I’ve been thinking about Bernstein too. We see too little of that kind of connection with everyone today.
    And Aretha. She will live on too.
    And the inspiring words at McCain’s funeral. If only those hypocritical Congresspeople sitting there would take those words to heart…
    (sigh). Another thoughtful Monday of musings. (K)

  2. Merril… I cannot tell you how much I love your Monday Morning Musings (well, all your writings, but that’s neither here nor there 😉 ) – your recap of your week in poetry form is always so wonderful. Because of you, there are so many movies/books/things I want to see/read/do… Just love your shares.
    k. Will stop fawning all over, now.

    • Thank you SO much, Dale. I truly appreciate your very kind words. I got two rejections in two days, so fawn away! 🙂
      As for the movie, the more I think about it, the more I like it. My husband liked it, too, but not as much as I did. The boys in it were so good.

      • Rejection means you are sending your stuff out… eventually someone will realise they have something fabulous in their mitts…
        I looked to see if it was/will be playing in Montreal and, as a result, have signed up for a pass at a movie theatre that plays cool stuff like Sundance movies. I have decided a weekly or bi-weekly jaunt into the city will be worth it… To me from me, with all my love thanks to you!

  3. NPR is doing an extensive homage to Leonard Bernstein, which I catch on the radio when I drive. And that Aretha Franklin, so impressive too. I picture her buried in red stilettos and a golden coffin, her death not silencing her voice. Great musing, Merril!

    • It was a good exhibit. I’m glad we got to see it. It was a good mix of things–family, politics, and his work. Can you imagine their family Passover dinners with Comden and Green there, too? 🙂 There was one section in the exhibit that showed clips from the movie version of West Side Story on the left side of the screen, and on the right side, there were interpretations of that particular song by other artists/groups, including The Simpsons, Gap commercials, etc.

  4. I’m always amazed how you can intricately connect current events to the past and create this splendid web of musing. You truly are a magician, Merril! The first quote by Bernstein is powerful and creates the perfect backdrop for your poetry. Absolutely splendid words and photos!

  5. I love your quotes, especially the first two, and how you wove them in (the photo of your hubby posing in front of the poster is superb :). So when we make music, art, write poetry we are keeping all that is worth living for alive…I like this view.

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