Here's the next prompt from the daily list I've been writing from.
41. What You Don’t Know: Write about a secret you’ve kept from someone else or how you feel when you know someone is keeping a secret from you.
Nope! I'm not doing that one. Not today. If there's anyone else who doesn't want to write from that prompt today we could get together. We could form a new Rebel Alliance and defeat the Empire of legalism.
One of the early exercises in a book I have is to write something solely in commands, imperatives. I can't remember what else it says but the gist of it has stayed in my head. This morning the exercise came back to me and with it a fragment of a song I used to sing as a child.
I had an American book of folk protest songs. Some were political, others environmental. Unfortunately I no longer have the book. In that book I learned names like Pete Seeger, Malvina Reynolds, Woody Guthrie, and Joan Baez. Later I heard them sing too, on old records. I bought a second American book of folk protest songs too which I still own, put together by Pete Seeger. It was there I learned L'Internationale and used to sing it with dreadful pronunciation in several languages.
The first book contained a song by Malvina Reynolds, written in 1970. Much of it was written as imperative commands encouraging listeners to behave in a more environmentally friendly manner. It's at least twenty-five years since I last sang the song but could still remember a few lines and, part way through writing, I wanted to incorporate them into this post. I have to admit I'll never obey the first line of the song.
I could only find one mention of the song online. Nancy Schimmel, the daughter of Malvina Reynolds, kept a blog for a while devoted to her life and work. The words to the song are in one post. I find that Nancy wrote it, not Malvina. I'll link to the post at the bottom of this one. Glad to have found it. There's a link to a site containing lyrics to all of Malvina's songs. And there are links there to some amazing resources. Among them is a site with pdf files of Broadside which was a "magazine of topical songs." It's a brilliant treasure trove and I think if I allowed myself I could spend many days exploring it and taking up my own guitar again, learning more of the songs of the 1960s folk revival. Here, for instance is issue #20 which contains perhaps the most famous song by Malvina Reynolds, Little Boxes. The issue begins with Bob Dylan's Masters of War. There's some talking blues too and an inspiring version of Wayfaring Stranger.
On to my writing. Written freely with just a pause to stick those lyrics in. It's not all written as imperative commands. There are two characters in this. Only one would force obedience and conformity.
|Pete Seeger's banjo. Image taken from here.|
Don't you dare sing that song again.
Put down your guitar at once.
Don't make me block my ears.
Don't you dare make me come over there and block your mouth.
Stop it! Stop it now!
Throw away that wretched book.
Close your eyes.
Don't look at the cover, at the horrible face of that old folk singer.
Remove it from my sight.
Traitor to your race, close it again.
Close it now you hear or you won't be welcome here again.
Turn back to the truth of religion.
Repent of listening to the ideas they've brainwashed with you.
Preach it like you used to.
Tell the world of the evils of folk.
Teach about the evil words and deeds of Woody Guthrie.
Make placards to protest when the heirs of Pete Seeger come to town.
I'm pleading with you, return to truth.
Don't make me cry please.
Stop turning the pages.
Stop searching for that song.
And paint out that false slogan you've painted on your guitar.
Repaint the Bible verse that you used to be proud to carry with you.
Try not to hate your mother so much.
Listen to her when she tells you what's good for you.
PUT DOWN THAT PLECTRUM AT ONCE YOUNG LADY!
Come back please.
Draw back from the precarious ledge you're standing on.
Remove yourself from Satan's clutches.
Destroy his works, his words, his lies.
Stamp out ecology. Let Jesus save the world as he promised.
Throw out the disgusting theory of, I can hardly say it, climate change.
Rebuke the teachers of evolution.
Put yourself in sackcloth and ashes and
Destroy any notion that there is freedom in the cesspit of the world.
Young lady, put it down or you'll not be welcome under my roof.
Don't make me hate what you've become.
Remember The Bible.
Remember the way God touched you in the camp.
Don't try to tell me that Pastor Eric touched you too.
Don't you tell such despicable untruths about that lovely man.
Remember how you used to say that Jesus was your force field.
Remember how cute we said you were.
Think about how God was raising you up into a beautiful woman.
LISTEN TO ME. Please.
Through the noise of my sobbing I began to sing.
Don’t use a tissue, sniff instead,
Don’t use a napkin, use a piece of bread,
Don’t flush the toilet every time you pee,
Do your bit for ecology.
Stop it. Stop it. For God's sake stop it.
Oh Jesus forgive me for my blasphemy.
Oh Jesus forgive me for raising a child of the devil.
Have mercy on her, she doesn't know what she's doing.
Help me to love her, a sinner.
Help me to hate her sin, her environmentalism.
Jesus Guide me.
Jesus show me your plan.
Help me to be strong when I cast her out as you command.
Never let me waver.
Get out of my house child.
Don't come back until you've learned submission to The Bible.
Watch me and see how much you've hurt me.
No, don't take the book with you.
Don't take the guitar either.
Leave them here so I can burn them.
Get out you socialist!
I left. A friend took me in.
She lent me a guitar. She had the same book as me.
She had many books.
A warm bed too and the best hot chocolate.
Mum called hot chocolate decadent,
A distraction from the work of the Kingdom.
My friend called it a taste of heaven.
I sang with my friend.
I cried too about my life.
She called me strong and held me tight.
Then I knew I could persevere, learn true freedom.
And then, the following Saturday, I sang that song again.
On the steps of the city hall I sang.
I sang of freedom too, of hope.
I sang of the power we have to change our world.
The people cheered.
Except for a few who stood where I once stood.
They brought placards. Bigger than ours.
Turn from the lies of science!
Love the sinner, hate the sin!
They looked so angry, so much sadness in their eyes.
They looked lost.
I had once been as lost as them,
Fundamentalists, terrified in case they ever wavered.
And there among them, my mother.
She too, one of the angry, the lost.
I caught her eye as I led my songs.
No pride there.
Just a mix of regret and hate.
I turned away from her
Into the embrace of freedom
And the warmth of inclusive love.
I prayed for her too that one day she might learn the truth.
It was for that same freedom Christ came
And for love Jesus walked among us.
As promised, here's that blog post with the lyrics of the song.
If you're wondering. I bought some 2017 calendars very cheaply in a Christian bookshop in Bolton. I plan one day to wreck them for my own purposes. One page of one is a simple image and the words "Jesus is my force field." Really. Honest. It does say that. Photographic proof will be provided on request.