Friday, April 4, 2008

My Son, the Poet

The Ancient One's #1 son over at BillyBlog is celebrating April as National Poetry Month by highlighting a poem (or volume) each day of a different poet. Being a proud and dutiful father, I thought I might recognize the month by offering up one poem; one written by Bill in the wake of the violence that shook Los Angeles following the 1992 acquittal of police officers accused of beating Rodney King. [This poem was published in the San Fernando Poetry Journal, (Vol. XV, #4, 1993, Northridge, California).]

First, the poem :


by William Dickenson Cohen

Echoes of baton blows
resound though the hills
as thousands of poets
and scramble for their pens.
And I drive along
the Los Angeles River
and see
scrawled on a wall
in brutally honest
thin black paint

The fires are out,
and a smoldering silence
mocks the politicians
as they smile
and make trivial statements
resonant of droll fortunes
in stale cookies.
But Anger still soaks up the sky,
chews up the smog and
spits it into the ocean.
The Madness has slithered away
into invisible cracks
that no one seems to notice
and life returns to normal
only for those that were merely
Those who live among the ruins
know only that Anger does not die,
It does not go away
It will not go away
And soon,
It will rise from the ashes
and the world as we know it
will crumble again
under Its
fiery gaze.

Second, some backstory:

When I saw this poem written by my then 25 year old son, I was so impressed that I put it up on my office door at the university where I worked. A colleague from the English Department saw it in passing and asked about it. When I told her who wrote it, she first wondered out loud where Bill developed the sensitivity to understand the depth of feelings in the devastated communities. I told her I didn't know for sure but, possibly, the fact that he grew up as a haole in Hawaii, allowed him a deeper understanding of minority communities.

Her praise of the poem did not end with her admiration for what was written. She took it one step further and asked if she could use it as an assignment in an English class she was teaching. Bill agreed and it was used for several semesters.

So, my salute to National Poetry Month is to present this one poem written by "my son, the poet." Thanks Bill. Who knows, I may later publish other poems of yours here, if you allow such license to "dear old dad."


Bill Cohen said...

I'm honored that you chose to grace your space with my words. Thank you tremendously.

Your Son, the Poet

Poetikat said...


I have been directed to your blog by Cameron of the Living in the Woods blog.
This poem captures expertly the atmosphere of that time. I'm a Canadian, but I remember well, the aftermath of the Rodney King beating. We were glued to CNN for days.

Your son is now, I'm sure, an even more developed poet and I would be pleased to have the chance to read more of his work. Thanks for sharing this.

I am a poet as well. If you should be inclined to check out my work, it can be found at

I'm so glad that Cameron gave me your link.


Kat of Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes

Eric Valentine said...

Leon, I remember the Rodney King beating and saw the actual footage.

The poem by Billy is a magnificent tribute to the event of the times. The pride you feel for your son cannot be expressed in enough words. Thank you for sharing this experience my friend.

My thanks go out to Billy also for pennimg such a wonderful poem.