John Bennett

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Playground from a Disappearing World

I haven't seen children playing tag or hide-&-seek in decades--do they still do it?

And it's been ages since I've heard a mother calling her children home for supper from the front porch.

But playgrounds are still around, if sparsely populated. Children still swing on the swings and slide down the slides, but the slides are plastic and the run is short, and the swings are chained to bars half as high as they used to be.

What's being lost is a way of experiencing life without corporate intrusion--no one sells you a playground, and not even a mother intrudes on a game of hide-&-seek.

Such a world helped children shape their destiny on their own terms, something that can't be done on line where today's children vanish.

Nuke the Chinks

Lines written before jumping out a ten-story window. While cowering in the belfry of Westminster Abbey. While building a stone wall to keep out the neighbors.

Lines on the mirror, lines on her face. Beauty marks and age spots and the wild sun's corona. Lines in the dust, in the single's bar, strung out between a parabola of poles. The Wichita Lineman, splicing one voice to another over mountains and prairies, deep under troubled waters. Soup lines, unemployment lines, soldiers all in a row.

If you lined every Chinaman up six abreast and marched them into the sea, it would go on forever. That's what General Curtis "Bombs Away" LeMay, in charge at the time of a fleet of perpetually airborne B-52s armed with atomic bombs, said to Arthur Godfrey on the Arthur Godfrey Radio Show. This alone, said LeMay, was a good enough reason to “nuke the chinks”.

All hell broke loose, and LeMay was told by the President to apologize. He never did. Instead he said that the woodpile was full of Communists who were putting words in his mouth. Nuke the woodpile.
When I was 13 years old, my father in the Air Force and stationed on Offutt Air Base, I took General LeMay's daughter, Janie, to a matinĂ©e at the base theater. We went to the same school. When the lights went down, she took my hand and placed it on her tiny breast, and that's where it stayed until the movie was over.

It was like Che Guevara dating Richard Nixon's daughter.

I was obliged to meet her father when I took her home. LeMay was sitting in his easy chair in his shirt sleeves, sipping whiskey, smoking a cigar, and watching football on TV. He looked me over, told me to make sure I served my country when I grew up, and then went back to his football.
Little did he know that his daughter had gone to the movies with someone who would one day march on the Pentagon and the FBI would start a file on.

Something Is Happening

The folk singers and protest marchers who drifted around the edges in the Sixties thought they were heralding a revolution, thought they were the cutting edge of a grand tradition, but they were the death throes of that tradition, Woody Guthrie's stillborn children, their peaceful revolution was a last fling before the global corporation's final lock down.

That's why they went up in arms when Dylan went electric and began writing songs like Desolation Row and Ballad of a Thin Man. They knew something was happening, but they didn't know what it was, shaking tambourines at the sky and singing we shall overcome in the fast-approaching darkness.


He spoke
many languages,
all of them
in English.


John Bennett was for many years the driving force behind Vagabond Press which operated on the run from Munich to DC to New Orleans to San Francisco and beyond.  He’s published four novels, two novellas, five short story collections and numerous books of poetry, essays and shards, a poem/story hybrid of his own invention.

He keeps slamming out the words, if anything with more ferocity than ever. As Henry Miller said so eloquently around half a century ago, “You may as well have your say, they’re going to shit on you anyway.”