Today is the fortieth anniversary of John Lennon’s death.
Forty Decembers, forty agos are gone
since an assassin’s senseless gunshot blast.
Aghast and gasping, grasping for breath, clasping his chest,
the working class hero dropped to the dirt and died,
his body stilled, his blood (from the kill)
redly spilled upon the snowy white fields forever.
Years before that deathly eve of a deadly winter’s night
when his widow grieved, his fans mourned, five mates formed
a band, took off abroad for Hamburg to play
in Germany eight days a week seven nights a day.
These sons of Elvis—John was one, Paul another,
George the third with Stu their friend and Pete on drums—
these lads from Liverpool learned their Rock ‘n’ Roll trade
as they played a mach schau raucous roar in the caverns and clubs of the Reeperbahn,
their northern song sound a revolution such a revelation that
when they returned to the hard streets of home, though they returned without
Stu, the dreamer who did not return, they returned
a name soon to be written deep into the snowy white fields forever.
But Pete was out. His beat was not what the band was about.
With a Ringo from the Dingle for a drummer,
these Scousers made the Nashpool city walls shake.
The four young Merseyside friends ferried merrily cross the Mersey
and set out on a long and winding road across the universe
to become the Beatles they were born to become.
1964, it was only months since Oswald blew the President’s mind out in Dallas,
a blue funk of a time when the Blue Meanies in their pinstriped suits
and their pop singer wannabees ruled the whole of Pepperland,
for Rock ‘n’ Roll was dead,
Chuck Berry in jail, Elvis making his millions making movies, Buddy Holly gone,
his chartered Beechcraft crashing into an Iowa farm field five Februaries before,
and those blue suede shoes, semi-retired, covered with dust.
“Yet, in Pepperland,” John was heard to sing, “anything is possible.”
Even Rock ‘n’ Roll. “So, let’s brush off those shoes and give the world a bit of a rush.”
“The British are coming! The British are coming!”
read the headlines everywhere on the planet
as the Four touched down and landed in New York City, a British invasion
ready to conquer America from Boston, Mass to ’Frisco, C A,
from Ed Sullivan’s Really Big Sunday night CBS Show to Shea
Stadium’s screaming crowds screaming their screams of delight
for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
and the footprints they left in the snowy white fields forever.
But the music was lost, couldn’t be heard,
crushed by the sound of the fame and the fanysteria,
the helter-skelter of that Fellini Satyricon the press dubbed
Beatlemania. Seeking a little sanity inside the inanity,
George turned east to Krishna, the sitar and Monty Python,
Paul went walking barefoot, wearing no shoes,
and Billy Shears? He remained an unchanged Ringoesque—
with a little help from his friends, of course.
On a Day in the Life of a Beatles Man, John,
restless, struggling with his struggle within and the loss of his Julia twice,
once as a boy, again when his mum was struck down by a car,
motherless, fatherless John, entered the Indica
and encountered Yoko’s inscrutable oriental smile.
“A Yes on the ceiling,” he said, dropping his Elvis Beatle to reveal the real John Lennon,
“is a no where, man, on the floor, goo goo g’joob.”
The Rumours announced: “Paul is dead.
Perhaps John is in bed or in France, and Yoko his spouse.”
From Mendips to Yellow Submarine ships,
from Strawberry Fields to the Walrus Watching the Wheels,
the man who became John Lennon after the booze, the drugs and the women
–and the lost weekends too and whatever got him through—
flew west for Toronto and peace. But, Christ, you know it ain’t easy;
Nixon was out to crucify him.
Then, on April 10, 1970, the sixties ended.
The Beatles were to Beatle no more
nor come together on the snowy white fields again.
But it was not in the nature of Lennon not to Lennon,
and Lennon John did, kicking the world in its pretty
with Two Virgins, acorns for peace and his brand of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Jumping from therapy to therapy until his therapy was done,
he bid his monsters a rest-in-peace fare-thee-well.
In New York City at the Dakota, a Double Fantasy
of a husband, and the dad of a beautiful Sean, and Yoko his wife
one moment, the next a bullet slammed him into forever.
Now John goes walking on the snowy white fields again.