Limitations of Light in a Shining City on a Hill
Epigraph: “A City upon a Hill” is a phrase from the parable of Salt and Light. It was cited at the end of Puritan John Winthrop’s lecture on “charity” delivered before his first group of Massachusetts Bay colonists embarked on the ship Arbella to settle Boston. Winthrop warned his fellow Puritans that their new community would be “as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us”. Winthrop’s text has been credited as the foundational document for the concept of American exceptionalism.
Poem by Theo Edmonds
Did you feel the flashing light?
Beating. Shining hardcore on human existence.
Rhythmic instruction of strange coincidence.
I am a poem
locked in a tattered gear machine.
Not programmed to the larger language of stardust.
Or, coded to the precision that poetry demands.
Did you ever notice?
Science sometimes feels most certain of its smallness.
It doesn’t know the taste of harvest wine.
It doesn’t share curiosity with outrageous creatures and gypsy bandits
It can’t feel the exquisite corpse inside their dialogue.
Only a poem can remain intact and humble
when thrust into tunnels shaped by bluster and fury.
Art does not show people what to do.
And, yet, the beautiful confusion it brings,
somehow serves as both inquisition and starlight.
Art is space that frees us to infinite exploration in all directions.
We float unbounded by a concept of time.
Earned fluid boundaries.
Waves of deep lack.
Particles of invisible wounds.
Concocted theories of objective reality
held hostage by unprocessed grief
inside gray matter
concerning its energy to build elaborate pathways
to find a thingness it can call the color “blue”.
…by coffee and mendacity,
…by good intentions and distracting monologues,
…by years of swallowing real hard
(so not to show my hidden freedom).
I know the unreal.
My certain gaze has been my distraction.
(I am a hundred miles and an hour from both now).
There is mappiness of political agreements
to give a name to the places where we have been.
Places where no-fi, hi-fi, and semper fi
are tucked away together in bedrooms and ballrooms
of rapacious South.
Places where go-go dancers and secretive trios
evangelize on dance floors in Chicago and Miami.
Places where pop freaks and redemptions
(both funkier than a mosquito’s tweeter)
alley-oop the street beat of new jack swing
into dubious triumphs out in LaLa Land.
Places where voodoo tambourines still shake
in Louisiana swamps
holding up a washtub city
with piano stabbing climaxes
still parading down streets
(streets that weren’t laid out for neon disco.
But, to survive, pretend for the customers like disco
is here to stay).
Places where poor, trash-talking mountains
and sophisticated hollers were once tucked away
from interstate commerce and public eyes.
Uncharacteristically content today
to be portrayed as a lament for the dead
An unpoetry of workable stereotypes
from unformed ideas barreling over media channels.
Though devoid of contextual foundations,
the bones know there is an expectation that must be played out
if survival is to be survived.
In reality, the blood feels oxygen sometimes
just from being noticed.
I hear pavement songs.
America has 3,537,441 miles plus an hour
of pavement songs in every direction.
Songs of scruffy mentalists who could never get clean
no matter how hard they got washed, beaten upon
or taken to the cleaners.
Songs that ping pong
between Dolly Parton and Kendrick Lamar,
between Lizzo and Lynard Skynard,
between Nina Simone and Ariana Grande,
between Snoop Dogg and Dean Martin,
between Tupac and Elton
between Grateful Dead and Radiohead
between Ye and Yee of little faith
between Lil Nas X and infinity
between gospel greats and acid jazz
between hustlers and preachers
between our ears, heartbeats, bellies, and legs
between drunken stage brawls
(and the salve moments of communal detox
which never seem to last for long.)
Songs of higher than the stars hotfluencers
who build bonfires and vanities of digital harvest festivals
inside the glass and guild bolts of this memory palace.
Digital alchemy to replicate
the analog sound of a little night music
where it sounded like…
“Is you is or is you ain’t my baby.
You… is still my baby, baby”
Baby gonna find somebody new.
Songs laid down for survival jobs
in Web3 digital crypto marketing
with libertarian leanings
Songs of up-tempo funk laid out in the sandy circles
of ugly duckling mandala digital architecture
and scratchy calypso Twitter scorn.
Songs of Red Bulls, Blue Balls, and Bingo Halls.
We are 3,537,441 miles plus an hour of pavement songs in revelation.
Revelation. Encoded in every direction
with the secret, painful and lonely wisdom
of biological stardust.
Memories of a cool wet seed,
turning in hot, scorched earth.
Caught between mud brick and flame
Caught between moonlight and Tesla cars,
Caught between running and clutching
A cool wet seed turning in hot scorched earth.
Revealing flexible truths of politicos and merchant kings
to be seen for what they are.
Wet bones standing in bloody shoes.
A dream of fire.
A baby with a swollen belly.
A child looking at us from a puzzled soul who takes notice
(of the emperor’s new clothes).
It is a child brave enough to ask the only question
which truly frightens us in the mirror.
Why do some feel the need to be rulers everywhere?
(Inescapably, we know that we are all mirrors and windows.)
Noise. Bluster. Fury.
The distractions of mendacity and loneliness.
From away inside, tenderness calls.
A familiar, strange voice.
A voice demanding nothing.
A voice sneaking up on us.
Conjuring memories from before knowledge.
Before the time following others
who demand that we believe
that only one set of words could be used
to name the experience of stardust.
We remember this time of imagination.
This memory of being stardust.
Stardust taking the shape of dance.
The dance of a cool, wet seed
Learning how to turn again
Through hot scorched earth.
Reaching beyond the limitations of light
in a shining city on a hill.