The Heroic Age of Venice
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.