Dedicated to the forgotten graffiti artists of New York and Philadelphia in the late 1960s and early 1970s who started it all before there were Kings.
They wanted to burn it all.
Wipe it out,
and impulse and angst-driven lust for freedom
told them to combust it –
petrify it all in ink.
Decapitate it in aerosol,
batter it all,
Blast it all to their esthetic hell,
slay it in a new cosmos of streak-lined and curved beat.
New language more wreckage
youth language more damage
new ravage spray damage.
Maul it all,
and murder it all in fresco scrawl!
– The alternative was their madness –
Walls or moving steel ripe for the marking,
districts and tracts for the virgin taking
they felt their birthright
to brag a name
scream it in crime,
script it like a child’s birthday cake,
to the eyes of the rich and the poor
in cursive that howled
that resurrected a city in color
and made her a vibrant Lazurus.
Hallmark that could only rise
from the tired breath of streets
that passed on promises
well before news and a new style
scattered and coated
itself across an ocean
and Europe was slain.
Before the privileged
and the savvy came and
played Bach to the graffiti shock
in galleries and commissions
clincked to Chardonnay –
before Kings were made.
Reflection: The American soldier returning from Vietnam in 1967. Years later. Thoughts on his tours.
It smelled different. Even rustled differently. Funny how fauna and flora can sting the nose, impale an ear before familiarizing it all – before the snout and drum could be pockmarked by burning homes, fields, or culture we struck the match too. Yet looking back, many expected a liberator. We thought it would be Walter Cronkite – black and white – the liberation of Paris – flowers pampered at us, kisses left and right. All before our own KIAs and those we wasted in the pong and sizzle of slaughter of men who, in more fantastical times, could have been our friends. Before we put the whole deck of cards together. Before some of our Dear John Letters. Before we understood the silent mask many of us would wear of nectar stolen, the honey diseased, the ambrosia soured. Before we became artists of rationalization, went mad, or hid under beds. Before our returns burned their tongues. Before we were made crumb.
* KIA: Killed in action.
* Wasted: Killed.
* Dear John Letters: Letter written to a man by his romantic partner to inform him that their relationship is over, usually because she has found another lover.