Phil Woods’ poem: the Sixties

  Rampant police murders revealed, time after time, some filmed, the latest Freddy Gray of Baltimore, his back broken “mysteriously” in police custody:  Black Lives Matter! has now forced this issue into public debate (covered even in the Times here).


     Bush launched the Iraq War;  an anti-war protest, around the world, including in many places (New York, Madrid, Barcelona) occurred in the millions.


     There is a dynamic here, in the 60s and today (there is a lot of protest taking place), which Phil Woods captures in “The Sixties”:

Remember that swirling furious energy
of the mid-Sixties. Phil Ochs singing
his JFK song “Crucifixion.” TV reports
from jungles of Vietnam. Helicopter
gunships, wounded being flown out.
A naked child running down the street
burning from Napalm. Eric Burton
singing “I’ve got to get out of
this place.” Undertow, burning ghettos,
some kind of seductive madness
bound up with the violence, the
destructive feeding the new but
yanking it down into its opposite. Both
Bill Moyers & Richard Goodwin consulting
shrinks. What do you do when
you think the President has gone
round the bend? Guys in kaki
listening to Hendrix in one ear
while listening for sniper fire
with the other. Burning villages
& killing water buffalo to feed
the body count. Tough, experienced
reporters going to what they called
“The Five O’clock Follies.”
Crafted lies issued by the Embassy
which the VC nearly breached
during TET in 68. And when
the violence & war wound down
social change advocates discovering
it was much harder without
that scale of madness feeding,
shockingly, both the creative
& the destructive. And where
oh where are we now?