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Writing and Poetry by Tom Greening
Poetry about War and Peace
Poetry written since 9/11
Poetry written about Saybrook
POEMS ABOUT SAYBROOK AND ITS PEOPLE
This is a collection of poems about Saybrook and some of the people, past and present, who make it what it is. Some of the poems are serious and some are humorous.
December 28, 2003
A SAYBROOK SONG
Attached are the lyrics to a song first sung at the closing session of the June 1995 Saybrook Residential Conference, plus verses I subsequently added with Stan Krippner's help about Charlotte Bühler, Laura Perls, Ida Rolf and Virginia Satir so as to include some women. The revised version has been sung at subsequent dinners after graduation.
I want to thank Saybrook student Frank Christmas for insisting that I try to fit the words to the beats, and for playing the mellow piano accompaniment at conferences. Frank died in 2003, and I think of the song as a sort of tribute to him. I also thank Sandy Smith for singing the song so beautifully and leading the singing.
Some of you may wish to write additional lyrics expressing your thoughts on "What Is This Saybrook All About?" for singing at future conferences. Perhaps I can help you fit your words to the song. The music is Jelly Roll Morton's "Buddy Bolden's Blues." This is a famous old blues that appears on many records. I recommend the version by Little Brother Montgomery on track #11 of a compact disk called "Rare Chicago Blues, 1962-1968," Bullseye Blues CD BB 9530, made by Rounder Records Corp., One Camp Street, Cambridge, MA 02140. The sheet music is out of print, but I can send you a photocopy if you wish.
What is this Saybrook all about? Well, along with many other things, maybe it is about making music together.
WHAT IS THIS SAYBROOK ALL ABOUT?
Music: F. J. Morton. Lyrics: Tom Greening.
Adapted from "Buddy Boldens Blues"
by F. J. Morton (Edwin H. Morris & Co., ASCAP).
A Russian friend gave Rollo the nickname "Rollushka."
There she sits so old and sad--
Have pity on the poor babushka.
Life is grim in Petrograd,
but she is cheered by our Rollushka
He redeems her Slavic gloom,
and gives her existential meaning,
brightens up her dreary room,
and offers her a karmic cleaning.
Russian nights are cold and grim,
and Russian hearts are plagued with malice,
so she turns her soul toward him--
Rollushka always gives her solace.
When she pines and cries for myth
dear Rollo writes a book about it.
Thus his words provide her with
a faith so strong she'll never doubt it.
Stalin's gone, Krushchev is dead,
and Lenin failed our poor babushka.
Whom should she revere instead?
Let's crown as Czar the great Rollushka!
Read at Rollos
memorial service at Grace Cathedral, October 29, 1994.
The faculty of this famed institute
now finds itself engaged in much dispute
about the proper way to run the place,
and how to do it with some sense of grace.
There are so many groups we try to please--
ourselves, the students, WASC and the trustees--
and thus, to teach psychology it seems
we must resort to rather drastic means.
The outcome of this strife is still unclear,
and this creates an anxious atmosphere,
so while we struggle with unwelcome stress
I thought perhaps it's time that I confess--
My mind is hardly fit for such discourse
and jumps about much like a skittish horse.
Just when my colleagues need me to be sane,
I write these lines that really are inane.
But if my poem lightens up our mood
and makes us somewhat less inclined to brood,
then I will feel that I have done my part
to demonstrate the value of bad art.
To the Dean:
In the service of brevity
and preserving my sanity
I'm sending to you
this succinct self-review.
Here's my attempt at honest self-review:
My virtues are immense, my faults are few.
To list my wonderful accomplishments
would generate great piles of documents
and over-shadow lesser colleagues' deeds,
so why indulge my narcissistic needs?
Thus modestly for now I'll simply state
my contributions once again were great.
Because of me the world's a better place
I'm helping Saybrook save the human race.
But if as Dean you sternly still insist
that I from wretched doggerel desist
just say the word, and I won't question why,
and with more facts will cravenly reply.
Sometimes I find it very hard
to be our Saybrook's merry bard.
The atmosphere is tense and grim,
the prospects are too often dim.
Surrounded by these poor lost souls,
my words are lost on squabbling trolls.
But who am I thus to decry
my colleagues who have gone awry?
At least they are not getting worse,
while I keep writing poorer verse.
Request to Students
Saybrook Planning Conference
For Jim Bugental
Authentic persons everywhere,
Be empathetic, show you care,
Transcend your existential guilt,
Don't let your will to meaning wilt,
Turn off TV, forsake the mall,
Come honor our Jim Bugental.
Though he has been here eight decades
His brilliance never dims or fades.
It's he who guides us straight and true,
Who sees the soul in each of you.
But who's behind those books of his?
It's not some wizard, noit's Liz!
So let us cheer and celebrate
These lovebirds whom we think are great.
For Bill Bruff
As Dean he really knows his stuff
He doesnt con, he doesnt bluff,
he is not mean, nor is he gruff,
but can be tender and be tough,
and when the going gets real rough
he doesnt merely huff and puff,
or shower us with flack and fluff,
or let our sails go slack and luff
Of virtues hes got quite enough,
so lets all hail the great Bill Bruff!
For Don Cooper
Want to see a far out movie,
an esoteric film thats groovy?
Hes the man wholl turn you on
to cinema thats long bygone.
Saybrook students count on him
when their hopes are growing dim.
If your spirits have grown slack
see the man all dressed in black.
He also plays a mean guitar,
and for those of you who are
interested in fine art,
he creates it from his heart.
Hes our super-dooper trooper
Hes our own beloved Cooper!
For Robert SchleyHis Saybrook job is so complex
I have a friend who vainly claims
that he himself is William James.
Now frankly, if the truth be told,
that fact would make him very old.
Two things about him that are weird:
He really does have James' big beard,
and views our cruel world through the lens
of multiple entheogens.
He lives in Cambridge, as did James,
and from his high horse bluntly blames
the sad state of psychology
on lesser beings such as me
because I, beardless, prefer malls
to academia's hallowed halls.
Our Dean Departs and Is Replaced
A fest, a bash, a gala orgy
to honor Amedeo Giorgi!
He has decided he must wean
us from demanding he be Dean.
We'll struggle on without our Andy
while he departs just fine and dandy.
He's leaving us while still alive,
but will poor Saybrook this survive?
True, he's arranged a substitute,
a colleague wise and quite astute,
but who could take Dean Giorgi's place
with equal wisdom, tact and grace,
and help us overcome our loss?
Our future Dean? It's Medard Boss!
A "get well" verse from Tom to Zonya:
I thought at first that I would phone ya,
or maybe send you a begonia.
It's been two years that I have known ya
at least, I thought, I ought to loan ya
some help in case they try to stone ya.
Those doctors act just like they own ya
watch out or else they'll try to clone ya....
Please get well soon, because the strain
of writing like this hurts my brain.
My colleagues think that it's pathetic
and caused by too much anesthetic.
So get well soon, then rescue me
it's I who need your sympathy.
Advice for Zonya
Do not bite the hand that feeds you.
Wait until he really needs you.
That's the time to vent your spite,
time for your ungrateful bite.
Now when he is being kind
hide from him what's on your mind.
Store it up until the day
he needs you in some dire way.
Then attack with jagged fangs
free of any guilty pangs.
Anyone who's dumb enough
to give us love and mushy stuff
merits unrepentant hate
and brings upon themselves this fate.
More Advice for Zonya
Don't discard those opiates--
A drugged out haze well obviates
the harshness of reality,
the facts of life's banality.
Your broken leg's a great excuse
to cultivate your drug abuse,
a most acceptable pretext
to dodge what challenges are next.
You didn't break your leg for fun,
but why not honor what's been done?
Instead of suffering your fate
gulp morphine 'til you're feeling great.
Well, some of you believe that Stan
is usually an honest man,
and sure, you've heard his sad refrain
about his accident in Spain.
The trouble is, it's just a myth,
a tale that he's embellished with
some lurid details so that we
will feel for him more sympathy.
The truth behind this tale of woe
is something else, as I will show.
I've learned from sources in Madrid
that this is what our Stanley did:
One afternoon he got too full
of booze and tried to fight a bull.
The bull fought back, as bulls will do,
and Stanley did not have a clue
for how to dodge, and so he ran.
The bull went roaring after Stan,
who shrewdly climbed a nearby tree
and tried to use psychology.
He said, "I'm not you enemy;
how would you like a Ph.D.?
I am a man of high repute
and teach at Saybrook Institute.
You seem to be a brilliant bull--
I'll find a way to use my pull
to get you in, so you can be
a bull with an advanced degree."
At this the bull knocked down the tree
and said, "You keep psychology--
I'd rather poke my horns in you."
The next thing that our Stanley knew
he woke up sore and badly bruised,
and really not at all amused.
Embarrassed to admit the truth
(a failing that he's had since youth),
he claimed that as he jogged through town
an errant car had knocked him down.
This story helps poor Stan save face
and shield his ego from disgrace.
Let's humor him and act as though
the part about the bull ain't so.
Krippner vs. Spider
Let's honor and applaud brave Stan,
this brilliant and heroic man
who once again has fallen prey
to evil forces sent his way.
A spider managed to outwit him,
and savagely and slyly bit him.
How'd Stan respond to this attack?
Our hero bit the spider back!
For Georgia May
She shines with such a glorious luster
Who is this lass, and can we trust her?
She's robbed no banks like Clyde's girl Bonnie,
Nor is she Nancy nagging Ronnie.
I'm glad that she's not Typhoid Mary,
Because I'd find that much too scary,
And clearly she's not Mata Hara,
With soul submerged in crass samsara.
She's never been assigned a warden
For acting out like Lizzie Borden,
And certainly we can't suppose
She broadcast lies like Tokyo Rose,
Nor is she like Lucretia Borgia
Instead, thank God, she's our dear Georgia.
The Great Melone
When Saybrook floundered, veered and yawed,
And felt abandoned by its Gawd,
Who held the fort sometimes alone?
Our valiant chief, The Great Melone!
A garlic connoisseur and chef,
A mentor, coach, umpire and ref,
He walked on water, showed the way,
He worked all night and saved the day,
He kept us going through tough years,
So all hail Rudy--thanks and cheers.
For Gerry Bush
We are going to miss you, Gerry,
miss your moods, morose and merry,
your bombast and your winsome blarney,
for you could charm us like a carney.
Your Irish temper flared at times,
(I fear you'd shudder at these rhymes)
and though sometimes you had us scared,
still through it all we knew you cared.
You guided us, you gave us vision,
and launched a prayer with each decision,
and when we faltered, thwarting you,
thank God you'd only briefly stew
and grumble for a little while
before you'd bless us with a smile.
Your stay at Saybrook was too brief
Your early death is like a thief,
a vengeful raven, not a dove,
who's stolen you from those you love.
But you're in heaven, making merry
We already miss you, Gerry.
Poem read at the Saybrook ceremony awarding
an Honorary Doctor of Letters to Don Michael:
For Don Michael
The multitudes from near and far
have come to crown him, make him czar,
and he deserves each hymn of praise
for hes the one who lights our days.
He consorts with the Club of Rome,
his name is known from Nice to Nome,
and if you want to plan and learn
this Dons the one who can discern
the path to take from here to there,
and who is who, and where is where.
With Zen-like wisdom and keen mind
he wakes us up and helps us find
the stories that will set us free
and save us from inanity.
A sage we can depend upon
all hail and praise omniscient Don!
Saybrook awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Huston Smith.
For Huston Smith
Hurray and cheers for Huston Smith!
Praise him, fête him, laud him with
yet another high degree,
a party, words, and gaiety.
He helps expand realities
and guides us to the deities.
He understands our holy yens,
and why we use entheogens.
To muddled dark he brings new light,
thus Saybrook honors him tonight!
A Tribute to John Vasconcellos
Assemblyman John Vasconcellos
is dedicated, wise and zealous.
It's clear that he was heaven-sent
to help improve our government.
He's one of those impressive guys
who's both compassionate and wise.
He learned to work within the rules
to upgrade California's schools,
and then somehow he found the time
to look into the roots of crime.
On top of that he had a dream
of ways to raise kids' self-esteem.
His methods are both humanistic
and eminently realistic.
How can we let our John retire,
just when our straits are extra dire?
You've worked to make the world more just
and launched a "Politics of Trust."
We've so much come to count on you
left on our own what will we do?
Still, you have earned the right to rest,
thus will your coming years be blessed.
May you in Maui blithely dwell;
we'll let you go and wish you well.
Poetic comments on student papers:
Not many graduate school professors provide comments on students' papers in the form of rhymed poems. This is certainly not a service I planned to offer when I joined the Saybrook faculty. However, I was reading a paper by Saybrook student Meredith Marsh that must have triggered something in my unstable brain. She acknowledged the high odds that human's misdirected creativity may lead to the annihilation of life on this planet, but did not feel pessimistic enough to "pine for days of yore." At that point I wrote the following poem:
Don't let nostalgia fixate you,
Don't pine too much for days of yore.
It may be sad, but still it's true--
Those bygone times were full of gore.
We're better off in modern times
With science sanely at our side.
We perpetrate more tidy crimes
And hygienic homicide.
On the next page Meredith described a psychotherapy client who had a long history of medical and psychological problems and failed treatments. She approached him with an open mind to see "...whether a close, understanding relationship could make him more at home in the world."
So I launched into the this verse:
As I perused the gloomy paper trail
that marked this patient's lengthy fall from grace
I realized that I would also fail
and write him off as just a hopeless case,
unless I sprung us both out of our trap
and met him in a place we'd never been.
But for this pathless journey there's no map,
and just a rusty gyroscope within.
We wandered in and out the prison gate
and passed each other in the dark unheard,
then met at last before it was too late
and found we did not need to say a word.
In searching for a better way to care
without a ray of hope or guiding star,
the only way to get from here to there
is learning how to be the place we are.
By now I was exhausted, and content to read Meredith's paper with no further poetic excursions. But as Meredith described how she worked with her client she used the expressive metaphor of a painter who concentrates less on techniques and "...more on the dialogue between each new brushstroke and the ever-changing painting as a whole." That led me to write this poem:
Who Is Painting?
When I am in a rush,
a fervor to create,
I grab the nearest brush
And messy is my fate.
But when I slow my pace
And tell my brain to hush,
Thanks to the muses' grace
The painting guides the brush.
To Bob Flax
Huddled there in your gross hovel,
I hope that you will duly grovel,
beg and plead and piteously pray
for me to take your guilt away.
But your sad cries all go unheard,
your hopes for freedom are absurd.
Write the review, and then we'll see
if there's a chance for clemency.
What has made Maureen so miffed she
now resorts to turning fifty?
Was it not enough attention
for the ways she flaunts convention?
She's adept at deconstruction,
blatant and demur seduction,
obtuse and astute critiques,
empathy with kooks and freaks,
serving causes feminist
with a charm we can't resist.
Maybe she has felt neglected
'cause we haven't genuflected
quite enough to show respect--
Let's atone for this neglect!
There is none who can surpass
such a brilliant, regal lass.
I propose we crown Maureen--
make her California's Queen!
Here are three poems for Sabrina Zirkel, on the
her marriage to Chris and the births of their two children:
Congratulations to Sabrina
That Turner gal by name of Tina,
the soulful singer known as Lena,
in Italy the gorgeous Gina--
None can compare with our Sabrina.
Let's celebrate, let's all take pride
in Saybrook's lovely blushing bride.
Her marriage on her month's vacation
is cause for heartfelt celebration!
Let's drink a toast, let's guzzle, gorge
to celebrate the birth of George.
Here's our excuse to act like kids,
to sing and dance, indulge our Ids.
But waitwe ought to act mature
so by this means we can insure
that George soon learns to be adult
and promptly joins the Saybrook cult.
Let's tell his mom it's only fair
that he takes on the job of Chair,
or if we're really feeling mean,
let's draft young George to be our Dean!
Here's a poem, short and silly,
honoring the birth of Lily.
Life unfolds quite willy-nilly
with plateaus, but often hilly.
As she gets her act together.
may she climb in sunny weather.
May she charm her older brother
and her father and her mother.
Will she join the ranks of scholars
scribbling away for dollars,
or become a movie star
cast in roles that are bizarre?
To such questions I say "maybe."
Let's just let her be a baby.
Trust our valiant, loyal Hallie
to harness the dark might of Kali.
She tames the vagrant imps and elves,
and saves us from our very selves.
She cheers us up when we are blue
Our thanks to you for all you do!
I had a crisis, had a fit
when I learned you plan to quit.
Few minds there are quite so perverse
as to applaud my clumsy verse.
Life for bad poets is quite scary
we fret and whimper, always wary.
We count on people like you, Hallie,
to help us pick up pen and rally.
If you're not there, I'll soon be mute,
no longer daring to write cute.
The academic life is harsh
sometimes it seems like just a farsh.
So if you leave us, we'll recall
the many times you cheered us all.
Paean to Deanna
Lets all praise Deanna Large
shes the one whos been in charge.
Saybrook needs a saint to run it,
but somehow Deannas done it.
When shes gone what shall we do?
Well just grumble, fret and stew,
thrash about in dark despair,
lose our wits and tear our hair.
Calm Pacific will be stressed,
all of us will be depressed,
faculty will have it bad,
staff and students will go mad.
Please, oh please, you cannot leave us
Try for now just to deceive us.
Promise us youll soon return.
Tell us we can somehow earn
your undying loyalty,
then go, but temporarily.
For Colton Jaffe
Lava when it's hot is molten,
But it quickly cools back down.
How about this baby Colton?
He's the hottest kid in town!
He's the pride of San Francisco--
Broadcast it on radio,
Spread the word to every disco,
Put him on a TV show!
Cynthia and Dennis Jaffe
Ought to get a prize for this--
When young Colton drives them daffy,
They think it's parental bliss!
For David Lukoff
Lets give three cheers and take our hats off
to celebrate with David Lukoff.
We all think its really nifty
that at last youre turning fifty.
We know youre very spiritual
and live on planes quite virtual.
Aikidos taught you how to go
just like the river with the flow,
but we dont think that youre all wet
youve got some good years in you yet!
So heres a toast and all the best,
and blessings on your mythic quest.
For Donald Rothberg
I must admit I stand in awe
of you who will submit your jaw
to surgeon's skill to be repaired,
while I, who must admit I'm scared
to let the dentist clean my teeth,
and breath a sigh of great relief
when told I have no cavities,
attempt to hide in levities
from any sort of mortal pain
and frantically attempt to feign
embodiment without a flaw
while clenching tight my fragile jaw.
Welcome Tarafina Marie
Oh how Jeannette's warm heart did leap
when reunited with Philippe,
and just imagine their shared glee
in greeting Tarafina Marie.
May they now pause and rest a while,
while basking in her infant smile.
They've struggled hard with matters weighty
distressing their beloved Haiti.
Beset by loss and harsh defeats,
the world much needs some swinging beats.
Let's welcome this petite newcomer--
she's sure to be a different drummer!
The Roots of Saybrook
The roots of Saybrook are obscure,
but I'll say this, they're less than pure.
Some claim it is a commie front,
or else a sick, misguided stunt.
Perhaps it is a mafia plot,
a symptom of postmodern rot,
a travesty of Western thought,
a place from which degrees are bought,
a sinkhole of obscure research,
a den from which wild theories lurch,
a wily plagiarist's delight,
a sordid source of mental blight.
I've read some dissertations there
and found they gave me quite a scare.
The human race is in a fix
and all the evidence predicts
that scholarship is on the wane
and Saybrook is just one more bane.
But don't despair, we shall rebound,
we'll turn this sorry place around.
In spite of all the evidence
I'm drunk with manic confidence
that somehow we can still succeed
and meet the future's urgent need
to put an end to war and greed
and all the starving masses feed.
We'll valiantly this madness stop
and Saybrook will emerge on top.
Ode to Eugene Taylor
Tinker, Taylor, soldier, spy—
whom can we count on to decry
the foibles of psychology?
There's no one does it quite like he.
We look to our astute Eugene
to root out thinking that's obscene
and ways of being Pleistocene
that our true nature so demean,
that portray humans as machines
and denigrate what real life means.
He champions old Willyum James
and holds us to our higher aims.
Whenever I am prone to be morose
and all my colleagues diagnose
as hopelessly reductionistic
and with bad theories quite sadistic,
our brave Eugene takes on our foes
with rhetoric and deathless prose.
Let's keep this just twixt me and you–
I dread my faculty review.
Through yet another year I've fumbled,
too many weighty tasks I've bumbled.
My peers all tried to be supportive,
but my best efforts were abortive.
I waste my time in writing drivel,
when criticized I whine and snivel.
I quickly get on the defensive
and make remarks that are offensive.
Diversity eludes my brain
and tolerance I find a strain.
When talk with colleagues gets too deep
I cannot help but fall asleep.
I've tried to remedy these flaws
but constantly more self-doubt gnaws
away at what was once my pride
and I just want to flee and hide.
To keep my tattered record clean
I guess I'll have to bribe the Dean.
Thomas Greening, Ph.D.
1314 Westwood Blvd. Suite 205
Los Angeles, CA 90024
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