Polishing the Shell

Photo from HRCR website



















A Tribute to Pete Seeger

The saddest thing is not wanting what the next man has.
The saddest thing is wanting to be who the next man is,
leaving the shell of oneself, cracked and frayed and forgotten,
to languish in the dustbin, buried under withered wishes.

I see those people, wishing to be someone else, hoping for a miracle.
We are those people. We cling to another man’s fortunes like a
sailor grasps the waves, unable to hold on to anything but the anchor,
helplessly following it to the boneyard far beneath the surface.

Once, we ached to burst forth from our polished shells,
investing passion and effort and time, striving for potential.
Somewhere along the way we allowed that promise to become
too little, to dull alongside the brilliance of the man next door.

We no longer compared ourselves to the man in the mirror
but to the man through the window in the house down the street,
the man with the money and the debt and the dinner in Paris.
We fell through the cracks in our own gritty shells.

Holding ourselves to low standards, we weigh the emptiness
of greed against the bedrock of compassion, using broken scales.
The shabby impermanence of wealth permeates our culture,
starving generation after generation who hunger for thought.

I remember when we were motivated by the moon and by Mars,
when the impossible was just an obstacle away from reality.
That was a time in which we made hard choices among priorities,
sacrificing ourselves to our futures, buying hope for our children.

Somewhere, the hope went awry, shifting from tomorrow to today,
changing from big to small, from then to now, from we to I.
Hope changed, from dreams to wishes and from needs to wants.
And, now, we anguish not for a new meaning, but a new car.

But I see the signs and feel the heat of embers growing in the dust.
When we mourn old Pete Seeger, we acknowledge what we’ve lost,
there’s a hole in our conscience where his songs used to rest,
and the worship of wealth is being be put to old Pete’s test.

Now’s the time to bring it out, brush the cobwebs from our minds,
to call up the oldest memories and to recall the fondest times.
Now’s the time to do the things Pete’s songs would always tell,
time to work again, so very hard, at polishing the shell.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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5 Responses to Polishing the Shell

  1. Yes, indeed, Juan…and Trish. He was ours!

  2. juanon says:

    He was the best!

    With respect to Seeger, I always loved the PP&M version, but it was his, and he was ours!


  3. Trish says:

    Its so very beautiful his old recording, and rendition of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore”….so soft and gentle his voice…my, my….


  4. Trish says:

    ~lovely~ tribute…beautifully expressed, John.

  5. joyce says:

    beautiful words and thoughts

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