Saturday, September 10, 2016

Poetry & Portraits: Isaiah

By Eric Meub


Align the avenues and sweep the streets!
Suburbia, so long neglected, greets
the tan Executive, his tailored Queen,
his stately Presidential limousine.

Here comes the son! Here comes a Kennedy
of dewy Promise and Integrity.
Our hats will fly. The socialites will cheer
to catch the turning head of Guinevere.

We’ve slummed enough in politics and strife:
we’re ready for a color spread in Life
where carpet-picnics of the leisure class
require but platitudes and tempered glass.

There’ll be no Marilyn or mobsters now.
This time the Secret Service will allow
that battlement of black and chrome to roll
past no assassin’s perch or grassy knoll.

Copyright © 2016 by Eric Meub
Eric Meub, architect, lives and practices in Pasadena. He is the adopted brother of the artist, Susan C. Price. They respect, in their different ways, the line.


  1. Eric Meub imagines a modern-day prophet seeing the trends of popular culture in America. Prescient visioning?
        Or limited perception in my own capacity to comprehend and appreciate Eric's poetic invention? Other readers, please help me out. And I know that Eric would love some takes. We owe him that.

  2. A pure and excellent wish and vision. Oh make it so...

  3. Eric, It took some time to understand your poem Isaiah, which was evidently inspired by his prophecies. Unfortunately, I read the poem to be a critique and devaluation of the bright Kennedy years and ask if I misread it.

    I read wiki's articles on the Book of Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet who was active in the 7th century BC, and on the Babylonian exile of the Kingdom of Judah in the 6th century BC. Isaiah prophecied this fate of a corrupt Judah which had to be punished by God by the seventy year captivity.
    Only after Judah had suffered and became moral, just and God-fearing again, could it return to Jerusalem to rebuild it and the Temple of Solomon after it had been burned down by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon earlier in the century.
    It was a time of jubilation and rebuilding under God's satisfaction, similar to the prophecy.

    Your poem starts with a smart parade and jubilation of JF Kennedy and Jackie as Guinevere in this new American Camelot. Jackie's redesigned White House seemed like the rebuilt Old Testament Temple of Judah.
    However, if the Kennedy years were the years of jubilation and recovery of virtue, did this mean that the Truman and Eisenhower years were the Babylonian exile? Hardly.

    So your poem must be understood as turning around Isaiah's timing, now jubilation precedes decline, rather than following it.

    Indeed, the next stanzas question whether the Kennedies were an overexposed medial phenomenon, with cute and stylish picnicks on grassy lawns. And the last stanza seems to suggest that the Kennedy years were cut short by internal designs, of the Secret Service not avoiding to drive past the grassy knoll!

    Wow! What a killer argument, which seems to be correctly assembled, given your poem's title, the prophecies of Isaiah, and your description of the Kennedy years as too bright and probably rightly short.

    I say QED to your poem, which I admire for its
    cogency but dislike for its meaning.

    What did you mean?

  4. Rolf, what a wonderful interpretation you’ve come up with. As far as I’m concerned, that’s as good as any other. If you want to know what I was thinking, here goes. (But if it didn’t convey itself in the poem, it doesn’t matter. I should try again and write another poem!) I chose Kennedy as the modern liberal’s King David: the “Golden Age” of Isaiah’s nostalgia. Kennedy nicely fits with both sides of the David myth: he not only spoke of courage and vision (the “good” Kind David), but frequently played the Don Juan role (the “bad” Kind David). But everything looked and felt wonderful, as far as the public was concerned. As for the second half of the poem, I see, come January, another Babylonian Captivity threatening (hopefully that will not be the case). Israel’s corporate/national crime was to keep falling back into idolatry. Our current corporate/national crime is similar: we have made an idol out of our hatred for each other. The hate won’t go away overnight, alas, but our deification of it could, in the press, on the radio, in (anti-)social media. We don’t have to kill each other, verbally or physically, but if we don’t stop our present course, killing may become all we ever do. That’s what I thought the poem was about. I just read “An Unfinished Life” by Robert Dallek. I don’t hold much with conspiracy theories, I’m afraid. Thanks for the inspiring comments! Eric