Jim Smith

The Heroic Age of Venice (after Virgil)

The Heroic Age of Venice

(After Virgil)

By Jim Smith

Justice for the people I sing, who forced by fate

to abandon their homes and flee

the vast wasteland of mediocrity

Now filled with haughty puritans of unrelenting hate,

Expelled and exiled, they came to the Venice shore

O Muse! what adventures each may claim

In their native lands, now turned against them

Let them tell their tales

We will listen for a hundred years

They flocked to our quiet haven

which sheltered and healed the damage

to those who just wanted to be left alone

But even here, the fearful guards of propriety

Hounded and harassed the holy men and women

Who could not still their creative daemons.

In small cafes and on the broad beach

They cried out their laments against unfair existence

In a land that valued wealth not wisdom

The poets shouted: “Stop this madness

I will not be a part of it.

Leave me be in tranquil Venice

Y’ll not have me for your war machine”

They jailed our bards, Stuart and Frankie

But it only made their words stronger

They and Tony, John and later Philomene

said, “This Venice you shall not have.

It belongs to the Lady.     Beware!

And many more gathered to defend sacred Venice

They rallied around the Haags – John and Anna

from far off Roma, worthy successors of Aeneas

who long ago also came from far away

to fight for freedom for his people.

And soon they were joined by the quiet architect

Rick Davidson and Carol of two names, Berman and Fondiller,

Jane Gordon, Maryjane, Mary Lou, Marvenna and so many more

who rallied for a Venice with freedom to love and create

They rose in the thousands from the cafes and bungalows

to fight for fair Venice’s survival, struggling to throw off the yoke

of landlords evil as marauders who have no thought except for pillage

The people marched, again and again

to save their homes, to stop a freeway, to protect their canals

and always for freedom, a concept their enemies could not grasp

Our heroes said there must be peace, in Vietnam and Venice

and all of us must be equal to live and love side by side.

We will not sleep until the killing stops, they said,

so all can live free of fear.

But, the black shirts came to sweep the people from the beach

to stop the poetry and the music that soothed and enlightened so.

In 1967, a piece of Venice spread across the state

to bring Peace and Freedom to all who were awake.

“This is good,” said John Haag, “but how do we spread the word?

Here at home, the barbarians from the city are at the gates.

They intend to destroy all that is good and just

for they hate that which is different and denies their profits.”

How to let our people know?

Our heroes debated long and hard.

Some said we must have a radio station to be heard.

But most agreed that it was a newspaper

that must be made to serve the community

and be its voice.

John answered: “We have made a beachhead in our town,

Like the one in Normandie, but this time for peace not war

Let us inform our readers what precious things we’ve made

Our poetry, our art, our comradeship, our gentleness and hope

Truly a beachhead in a land that needs it badly.”

Long did they labor those dark nights of November 68.

But on December First, our heroes gave birth at last.

The Free Venice Beachhead – 10,000 strong

proclaimed for all to see, “this paper is a poem.”

Freedom and truth are our watchwords

and let the chips fall where they may.

And through the years, hundreds more joined in

to add their Beachheads to the growing pile –

three million – and even more – copies since 68!

When did our heroic age end, you ask?

We will tell you when it does!

Forty years have come and gone

Many heroes have fallen, but others rise up to take their places

We struggle still, for freedom and just to be left in peace.

The outcome is far from certain, but we are determined

We shall not fail to heed the call

We shall be human until we fall.

We will thrive so long as beloved Venice

is truly a beachhead, a beacon upon the land

for all those who value a beach more than a bank

and friendship more than commerce.

And we will know our community is strong,

its people well and loving.

as long as the seagulls sing Chee Wha Wha

and our treasured Beachhead is surviving still.

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Categories: Jim Smith, Poetry

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