Monday, December 17, 2018

Poetry from the Light
Dedicated to Our Trauma Volunteers 
Christmas 2018

Compiled and Formatted
by Anthony Servante


Our poetry selections for the 2018 Christmas column has been filled with poems by our volunteers from the Trauma & Therapy Updates 1-9 (I am entry number 6, the writer). My only instructions to our participants was to write what they felt this Christmas holiday. One entrant withdrew their poem at the last minute. Thank you to the other eight for braving this first time venture into sharing your thoughts in this strange format. I took the liberty to edit the poetry for grammar and spelling. Nothing more. I'd also like to thank Martin Ryan, the only non-trauma volunteer, to submit poetry.

I did not use the names of the participants (as I did with the Trauma Updates) and instead used their vocations (in some instances, their former vocations). I also added information about their trauma experience and applicable therapy very briefly.

Now, let's get to the poetry.

The Poetry and The Volunteers (Bless you all).*

1. Barista: Witness to bloody aftermath. Workaholic, fatigue. N/A


I went to England for my vacation.
Saved up from my vocation.
From LA to the UK
I wish it were one-way.

I visited museums and sites
By day and evening lights.
The winter there chilled my pores;
I warmly dressed to stay outdoors.

I flew back home for Christmas time,
I left behind the land sublime
But here with friends and family
I am again where I should be.

2. Instructor: Hands held in ice. Loss of faith, agoraphobia. N/A

Two-Sided Knife in the Road

You know when you forget your lunch 
inside the kitchen
and have to return to retrieve it, 
that you've entered another dimension.
You are no longer you

YOU didn't forget anything 
and are now in your car 
headed for the beach. 


if you hurry, you can still catch up to YOURself, 
pass him, and beat him to the beach.
Then he'll be fated to pick up 
where you left off - heading for work 
without the paper lunch 
that you forgot. 

But in all likelihood, he has foreseen your detour 
and consigned to kill you 
before you could get in your car, 
brown sack lunch on your lap.

It is not his first time, YOU know. 
YOU've detoured off YOUR own course
countless times before.
Sometimes you reach the fork in the road
and create new dimensions.

Other times you reach the knife
and kill yourself to unsplit the road
and unify the course
between back and forth
and back and forth
back and forth.


3. Driver: Trapped in darkness. Homeless, shoplifting. N/A

My Christmas Coat

My Christmas Coat has many pockets
inside and out;
some you can see,
some you must figure out.

The plainclothes Santa's helpers
scurry 'bout the store;
they look for forlorn faces
in the crowded store.

But they do not see me,
though my pockets are full;
for I am smiles and toothy,
a frantic shopping fool.

Or so they think--Santa's elves
as one eye feigns interest in toys
and one eye follows the forlorn;
yet I am hidden in happy joys.

My pockets fill with goodies
deprived of UPC surprise;
I rip the seal off in cheer,
and squish them into pies.

Then ho-ho-ho I go,
my pockets full of wares,
eager to find a Christmas home
in pawn shops here and there.

4. Public Service:  Deprived of sleep. Manic-depressive. Counseling

Christmas Comes at Night

It's Christmas Eve again
No family or friend
The night is dark and cold
The routine's getting old.
The check is late, you slob,
My ex yells at the mob
As I walk away;
How'd she find where I stay?
Who's watching the kids?
I hid here in the skids.
How'd she find me here?
Kneedeep in wine and beer.
But that was yesterday.
Christmas Eve today.
Free dinner served by stars.
Dollars handed from passing cars.
But now it's time to go inside
The hotel where I hide.
At midnight the lobby will be full
With Christmas songs and bull.
Sermons sweet as candy canes,
Eggnog spiced by purple veins.
Finger sandwiches and bible books
Wrapped with ribbons for us crooks.
By 12:15, it's back to our rooms;
The staff retrieve their mops and brooms.
From my window the sirens blare.
Into Black, Black Christmas I stare.

5. Private Work: Trapped with broken bones. Born Again Christian. Religious

I Saw the Light

I saw the Light inside the Dark
I felt the Lord inside the Dark
I smelled the pine behind the sulfur
I tasted Jesus's flesh in the wafer
I heard the song of Christmas born
Inside the Dark, Inside the Dark,
I sensed the Glory of the Light.

6. Writer: Witness to ??, Amnesia. Loner, anxiety. Psychiatric Care

Brothers, It is Time

My hands were held in fire
But I had FAITH and did not burn.
The flames bit my flesh
But I did not scream.
And round and round the horses rode
Against the wintry wind of hell;
Flames of ice, and icy fire,
A clime for undead celebration.
Demons press their faces to mine,
But I did not cry.
For I was being tested,
Was I. Fear was not my sibling there,
Nor Terror, Horror, or Death.
I had thee FAITH,
God Bless The Dammed,
Forgive the Fiends,
Melt the fire,
Light the ice.
I placed my hands into the white flames
And held them there myself.
Merry Christmas, Demons of Hell,
My Brothers, it is time to gather
Ourselves for Xmas Eve;
The horses ride round and round.

7. Maintenance: 80% loss of sight. Alcoholic, divorced. AA

Poem withdrawn by contributor. 

8. Public Service: Severe burns on arms. Schizophrenic onset. Outpatient care

Christmas Heals All

Christmas will heal all the scars on my arms
Christmas will cover all the cuts on my legs
Christmas will take me far, far away from the pain
Merry Christmas, for it heals all.

9. Law Enforcement: Unknown, due to Possible Clinical Denial. Counseling outpatient

The Spilled Milk Blues
I have seen better days than Christmas Day itself:
The wedding to my wife.
The birth of my son.
The grandkids first Xmas Morn.
The snow on the mountain tops.
The cops busting the drug dealer.
The kind man who took me home.
The stranger who returned my phone.
The second chance my ex gave to me.
The smile my son had when I came home.
The warm bed at the new hotel.
The Christmas card from my PO.
The first and last Christmas card from my son.
The new shoes the hotel clerk gave me.
The day the cops caught the robber.
The day I sobered up for the trial.
The day he got sent away.
The victim fund in time for Christmas.
The baseball glove I bought my son.
The letter saying, I'm grown up, Dad.
The day my son was all grown up.
The Christmas Day I remember all this.
The Christmas Day I remember every year.
I've seen better days.
And I'll see them some more.

10. Martin Ryan

Christmas Mourning

Around the house, crisp white snow lay
The place oddly silent for Christmas day
Tommy dared not speak nor cheer nor cry
For fear the old man might die
In the wreckage of his humble sleigh.

It had been Tommy’s cunning plan
To prove Santa was no ordinary man
He devised a trap from wires and cans of coke
His father thought it just a joke
But Tommy was a smart young man

Tommy’s family died in the blast
Now Santa is breathing his last
With Blood oozing from every pore
Santa’s dying on the kitchen floor
But Tommy tries to remain steadfast

He sniffs back a sob, leans in and with a tear
Asks ‘does this mean I get no presents this year?’

Started 12th November 2018
© Martin Ryan

Precious Christmas

Squeals of laughter ring through the classrooms
As the school bells rings its last.
Even teachers are caught up in the frivolity
As their merry charges rush on past.

Free at last they run for home
Not a care for the cold and the wet
‘See you after Christmas,’ they shout to their friends
‘Don’t forget to DM me what presents you get!’

Images of gifts wrapped in shiny paper
Beneath trees glistening with tinsel and lights
Games and food and fun all day fill their minds
And a chance to stay up late at nights.

Sammy avoided all the talk
Of gifts each more expensive than the next
And crowds of horrid relatives with sweets by the bucket-load
His Christmas would a little less – complex

He lives on the other side of town
Where no-one has cash to spare
Their only gifts, Pandora’s boxes
Filled with exhaustion and despair.

‘Happy Christmas, Sammy,’ Mrs Johnson calls
‘You too, Mrs Johnson,’ Sammy waves back with a wide grin
He wonders what her Christmas will be like
As he pulls his thin jacket tight to his chin

There is no tree in Sammy’s home this year,
But Sammy doesn’t care, too much
No bucket loads of sweets and fancy fare
Sammy has no time for such.

Yet he walks slowly home
With a smile on his lips as he feels the whisper soft kiss
of the first snowflake on his cheek
Sammy makes a Christmas wish.

He breathes deep the warm tang of smoke
from a log fire, carried on the still air
and wishes for warmth in his life
and a life without care.

Putting off going home,
Sammy knocks on the doors of all his neighbours
He often does, to ask if they have any jobs need doing
Tonight he just wishes them Christmas favours.

‘Is that you, Sammy love?’
His mother calls excitedly when he gets in
He follows her voice into the kitchen
Lit by the light of a single gas ring.

Smells of sweet deliciousness
Fill the air like never before
His mother, beaming, wraps him in a hug
As soon as he steps through the door

‘All this is for you,’ she points to the table
Laden with small treats and gifts crafted with care
And handmade thank you cards
From the neighbours he’s helped through the year

It is a meagre affair
By the standards of his friends
But the hand-made toys and clothes from wool scraps
Are more precious to Sammy than all their expensive odds and ends.

‘But they have no more than us,’ Sammy says
His mouth watering for the pudding on the hob
‘They can’t afford to give us all this,
We must give them back,’ his voice breaking on a sob.

‘Don’t you dare,’ his mother glares
‘All year you help them out with errands and chores
This is their way of thanking you
For raking leaves and painting doors.’

On Christmas morning
after sweeping snow from old folk’s drives
Sammy and his mother snuggled together
For one of the best Christmases of their lives.

20th November 2018
© Martin Ryan


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers. Please continue to support our trauma participants and all sufferers of trauma. And don't look at this as a negative experience. When a trauma victim opens his heart for all to see, it is always a time for joy and relief. 

See you all soon. 

*All the poetry was submitted in paragraph form or as notes. I was entrusted to format these notations into poetic form. I did not change any word or phrase. I merely gave the words poetic form (stanzas, breaks, rhymes where they fit, etc). Sometimes first time poets have the words in their heart, but need an assist to find the form to make the words shine. I hope I helped capture your thoughts and poetic musings. 
Anthony S. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Greta Van Fleet 
Is Rock and Roll Making a Comeback?

An Appreciation & Review
Anthem Of The Peaceful Army (2018)
Anthony Servante
Assisted by Omar Jauregui

Greta Van Fleet, Front to Back 
Brothers Vocalist Josh Kiszka, Guitarist Jake Kiszka, 
Bassist Sam Kiszka, & Drummer Danny Wagner

Another Sold-Out Show for GVF


Since the 1950s, Rock and Roll has been on a roller coaster ride of survival to keep its legitimacy alive. From radio play, record sales, and concert attendance, the music born of Rhythm and Blues (R&B) has struggled to stay relevant while under fire from overprotective parents, civic leaders, and music industry executives who have tried to silence the rebellious songs or change them into family-friendly melodies. But Rock was born of rebellion and made its name indulging themes of sex, drugs, and youth. Rock and Roll itself is a euphemism for the motion of making love. 

Alan Freed, a radio disc jockey in 1951, is credited with coining the phrase "rock and roll" as a faster variation of R&B. Early on he plugged Black R&B artists like Little Richard and Chuck Berry as rock and rollers and White rockers Bill Haley and Elvis Presley soon joined the ranks of this new music trend. 

But as youngsters bought the records that they heard on the radio and danced to the music, attending radio sponsored concerts by these rock and roll bands and artists, there were those who fought to squelch the music and its alleged immoral and corrupt influences. 

And the fight began. Every decade or so, Rock and Roll in one form or another sparks a new rebellion for a new generation to dance to and claim as their own. Elvis Presley lays claim to the title King of Rock and Roll in the 1950s. The Beatles dominated the radio waves in the 1960s with the new British Pop Rock. Black Sabbath thundered into the radio stations with Heavy Metal music. Metallica took Metal one step further with Speed Metal in the 1980s. In the 1990s, Nirvana took the radio by storm with the birth of Grunge Rock.  

But the Nineties also saw Rap Music evolving into Hip Hop, a radio friendly sound that competed with Rock for the top spots on the spin list of hits and potential winners being pushed by the music industry for the top 40 on Billboard. Thus, in the 2000s, Snoop Dogg was vying with Indie Rockers like Linkin Park for record sales, radio play, and concert venues. 

For the first time in the history of Rock and Roll, Hip Hop was the new music of favor for the masses and the new music for the burgeoning millennium.  

But that's not the end of the story. The 2010s has introduced Quasi Rockers, Greta Van Fleet, and they just may be the kick in the ass that Rock and Roll needs right now to take back its place in the evolution of Rock music. 

The New Greta Van Fleet Recording (click here to purchase
the CD, MP3, or Vinyl).

Anthem Of The Peaceful Army (2018)

Greta Van Fleet is like a magic mirror. Every fan looks in it and sees something different. When you listen to the music of GVF, you hear the past and the present. Ask anyone who's heard the music of GVF, and they'll say that they hear R&B influences, the rebel Rock of the Rolling Stones or the Pop Rock of the Beatles; they'll insist that GVF sounds like Journey, Styx, or early FREE, the Paul Rogers band. They'll hear Alternative or Indie Rock, Grunge influences, or something altogether new. In either case, Rock and Roll has a second chance. After decades of placing second, GVF is leading the way for Rock to overtake Hip Hop on the charts, in the industry, and with fans. And to lay claim to the new Kings of Rock. If what you hear sounds familiar when you listen to Greta Van Fleet, it is because you're listening to the Future of Rock and Roll. 

As such, when music echoes Rock and Roll from its inception in the 1950s, through every decade to our own, we can safely call this new style Quasi Rock, for no two fans will hear it the same way upon multiple listenings. 

Let's take a look at some of the tracks on the new Greta Van Fleet recording to get an idea how their sound echoes so many other Rock and Roll legends. 

1. Age of Man The opening track of the album is a cross of melody and hard rock. It sets expectations high for the rest of the lp. It's reminiscent of New Wave fluff with Metal guitar work.

2. The Cold Wind combines elements of early Journey when Steve Perry took the progressive rock band into Top 40 Pop Rock with overtones of bluesy Rock from bands like Black Oak Arkansas. 

3. When the Curtain Falls suggests Rock that is too raw to be called new, but new enough to plant seeds for fresh directions for rock. It's like music we've heard before that opens the door for something better to come. 

4. Like Age of Man, Watching Over shows what this young band is capable of when they don't try so hard. When I hear this song, I think of GVF. without the allusions of other Rockers. It points to a direction the band can take with a new style of Rock all their own.

5. Lover, Leaver wants to be loud, but doesn't want to stray too far from their bread and butter delivery. This song needs to ratchet up the Metal and ease up on the pop rock. Almost there, but the band needs to get their hands dirty in the music by going all in with the source music. It's okay to step away from the traditional Rock sound and blow up the amps a bit. 

6. You're the One is GVF being cautious again. Let that guitar loose, cut the bass some room to boom, and give the drummer more to do than just follow the vocals. This is what the Greta Van Fleet sound can evolve into if they eliminate the safety net of traditional musings. 

7. The New Day echoes the Progessive stylings of bands like YES and ASIA, melody with majesty. One of my favorites. Again, the band can duplicate Rock leanings with style, but more GVF is needed here. It's okay for GVF to do Progressive, but don't let Progressive do GVF. 

8. Mountain of the Sun shows the band's strength when the music leads them, and not the other way around. Another song that is all GVF. More of this on the next LP would be nice.

9. Brave New World works because it is a good song. I can't imagine anyone but GVF doing this song. It captures that essence that the band needs to explore more. Highs and lows balance the diversity of sounds. All the instrumentals and vocals harmonize here beautifully in the tradition of early Uriah Heep. And I mean that as a compliment. 

10. Anthem relies on that overtly controlled sound they seem to like a lot. It's a song that requires some raunchy punch, lyrics, and guitar wails. This is Trans Siberian Orchestra turf. Christmas music with Rock aggression. It a commonality that GVF has with soft/hard Rockers like Savatage

All in all, Anthem Of The Peaceful Army reminds us that Rock and Roll is back to stay. It promises optimism for the future of Quasi Rock, the sound of nearly seventy years of R&B, Pop, Psychedelic, Hard, Heavy Metal, Progressive, Indie, and Alternative. But in between the songs, and in at least forty percent of the music, there is a NEW style of Rock music emerging. Is Rock and Roll making a comeback? If we don't get caught up in all the influences that shine in the sound, we just might get a front row seat to see the dawn of Rock Music's rebirth in Greta Van Fleet.