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Left-handed Writing

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Left-handed Writing

Bi Janus

With thanks to Bill Withers

Not calling to me

and not insistent.

A story overheard

walking by,

a susurration

on a rainy evening.

I could tell by the voice

he wishes me to sit.

No scold; no lesson,

just a story, the kind

with an ending

you dare not miss.

Once I went awarring,

and he sings to me

as if he might have done.

He sings the surprise

between young men

across the losing-ground.

The lyric reaches

around my shoulder,

just a way of saying

let’s sit a while, survivors,

and look ahead together,

seeing not clearly.

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  • 4 months later...

If you haven't heard Bill Withers's haunting song, "I can't write left handed," sung at his Carnegie Hall concert in 1972, you should find the recording and listen. For me, it was the most jagged antiwar song of the era.

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Poignant stuff. Like so many songs, the first few lines of the lyrics alone tell the story.

"I Can't Write Left Handed"

[spoken introduction...]

I can't write left handed
Would you please write a letter to my mother
Tell her to tell the family lawyer
Try to get a deferment for my younger brother

Tell the Reverend Harris to pray for me, lord, lord, lord
I ain't gonna live, I don't believe I'm going to live to get much older
Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain't never
Bless his heart I ain't never done nothin' to, he done shot me in my shoulder

Boot camp we had classes
You know we talked about fightin', fightin' everyday
And lookin' through rosy, rosy colored glasses
I must admit it seemed exciting anyway
But something that day overlooked to tell me
Bullet look better I must say
Rather when they comin' at you.
But go without the other way

And please call up the Reverend Harris
And tell him to ask the lord to do some good things for me
Tell him, I ain't gonna live, I ain't gonna live, I ain't gonna live to get much older
Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain't never seen, bless his heart I
ain't never done nothing to, he done shot me in my shoulder

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My homage to Bi Janus' poem is a little mainstream, but it brings to mind many of the protest songs from another era that is, perhaps, not so far removed from the tears of the one we are living through.

Warning: the images are confronting:

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