Jared Morningstar

Jared Morningstar is a high school English teacher and adjunct English professor at Saginaw Valley State University and Delta College. He writes about his interests and observations of the world around him. Morningstar has published three collections of poetry and prose (American Fries, American Reality, and A Slice of American Pie) through Alien Buddha Press, and he was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2020. He lives in Michigan with his wife and children.

Make Art Dangerous Again

 
Like Twain roasting the KKK,
at the height of its powers,
calling them cowards
who only find courage
in a crowd with other half-men
under masks again.
 
Like Chopin pondering
a world without men,
that greater happiness
and freedom could be found
when a woman
wasn’t bound to a husband
and his last name again.
 
Like Hughes, too, seeing America,
acknowledging what
Whitman wouldn’t,
and making sure the nation read
his page for English B,
that its blinders were torn off,
and that it had to admit
that Black people
were less free again.
 
Like Guthrie arming himself
with plain-spoken speech
against fascists
and greedy capitalists
who were willing
to let the poor starve
in alleys and ditches
just so they could
keep lining their pockets again.
 
Like Ginsberg howling
against conformists
to save the best minds
of his generation
from those who’d
crush their spirit and dreams
and keep them
imprisoned by rules
in a suburban hellscape again.
 
Like Hendrix setting
fire to his guitar, literally,
and metaphorically
when he blistered
“The Star Spangled Banner”
at Woodstock,
raising awareness to
bombing overseas and
injustice at home again.
 
And like Banksy, still creating
with a vilified medium
in the faces of
close-minded squares,
forcing them to look
directly at what’s wrong
with the world
and the authoritarians
who’d choose to keep
art in museums
and the public ignorant again.
 
So pick up your pens,
guitars, brushes,
your spray paint,
keep up the good fight
with words instead of fists,
and let’s raise hell
so that we don’t
end up living there,
so we can keep
the promise alive,
so one day, things will
truly be great again.

The Promise (Was Broken)

Springsteen once wrote a song
about innocence lost,
when Thunder Road went silent
and dark as some lonely,
hopeless Nebraska highway.
A character confidently
searching for a better life
in the form of rock and roll
and a Dodge Challenger
he built himself to pull
out of the town full of losers.
 
But hard times and reality
struck, as they often do.
The wheels fell off his ambitions;
the Challenger had to be sold.
The dream died,
but the dreamer didn’t,
resulting in another, yet familiar,
tale of tragedy.
 
Then Springsteen became a star
instead of a heartbroken wanderer
like his unlucky protagonist
who can charge hundreds for tickets
and own as many muscle cars
as he pleases.
 
Meanwhile, so many others
couldn’t even afford the parts
to build half a Challenger,
let alone the time to assemble one:
too many responsibilities,
too few opportunities.
Is it really more sad to experience
the loss of the American promise
than it is to not have a chance
at it in the first place?
 
Truth is, I’m happy for Bruce
and the hope he gives to millions
but every once in a while,
I get a little sad when I’m reminded
that while he gets to be The Boss,
we were dreamers too,
but we’re all still living in
that town full of losers;
we’re the employees,
and we always will be.

Downpour

An upward glance revealed
clouds hovering in from the west;
a terrible downpour was upon us.
It made my arthritic joints pop,
and an old, familiar sadness set in
as I thought about the families,
the children,
who only hours ago were basking
in the warm summer sun,
obviously planning picnics,
bike rides, and
play dates in the park:
 
the kind of day I remembered
so often with my parents and siblings
before the divorce,
before having to spend sunny days
mowing lawns and
behind cash registers,
trying to save for that Mustang
that I never could afford.
Before the war took my brother,
and the bottle took my sister,
when I was forced to reckon
with the fact that we’d never play
one more game of catch.
 
Outside, neighbors scurried like squirrels,
packing up their backyard barbeques,
hoarding delicious t-bones and Ball Parks.
And then, I saw children skipping home
to escape the marble sky,
finally tripping, falling
into the loving arms
of their mothers and fathers, protectors.
Too bad, I thought,
they should have checked the forecast.
 
Then, I thought of that last childhood summer,
that last game at the park,
when I dropped that can-of-corn fly ball
that would have given us the game.
“Don’t worry,” my brother said,
“we’ll get them next time.”
But I was too busy blaming the drizzle
that started to fall from the sky
in the last inning
(it caused the ball to slip out of my mitt!),
too angry to appreciate the moment,
the final moment,
for there was no next time.
Why was I so naïve?
 
I should have checked the forecast.
 
Rain needled the roof and windows.
Life was absent from the now-silent street,
reminding me of the emptiness within,
and I felt every bit 80 years old.
Sitting beside the window,
I prayed everyone would make it home
through the storm
so they could enjoy one more day in the sun,
one more game of catch.

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