Thursday, July 22, 2010

In Betweener by Collier Todd Hageman

Too old for Generation X, too young to be Boomers,
We were In-Betweeners, heir to ugly rumors.
Intellect a-plenty but still we missed the cut,
Because our minds were lost in space until they rusted shut.
No one to look up to, no heroes for our time.
The oval office lied to us, the gridiron didn't shine.
The Establishment was monstrous, and hippies a joke.
Eighteen to drink, but don't take a toke.
Thrift was a virtue, but money was dirty.
Too young to vote, can't trust over thirty.
When Dr. Hoffman discovered a light,
Leary, Minzer, and Alpert, said it was right,
Huxley, Cassaday, and Kesey, gave it away,
But did us no kindess, that mind-bending day.
When everything is melting, on what do you lean?
Merrily, merrily, Merry Pranksters, life ain't just a dream.
We'd never buy the status quo once we'd walked that edge.
We balanced there upon the brink but backed down from the ledge.
Still the sun rose, birds sang, fields waved,
But wasn't there more from cradle to grave?
We sought relevance in ports of call beyond the farthest field.
When those dreams battered us denial was our shield.
Through bar-rooms, backrooms, alleyways,
We searched for clarity while in a haze.
Surviving brawls, lockups, breakups, beatings,
Pipe-dreams, bottle flu, paranoia, lack of meaning,
Loneliness, pointlessness, fatigue, misdirection,
Disillusionment, foreboding, and flat-out rejection.
Adamantly maintaining we were tough, free, and strong,
And found fleeting beauty between heartache and wrong.
Frustrated, some of us donned uniforms, joined a band of brothers.
Trained long and hard to shed the blood of those who'd shed our mother's.
Tropic suns and salt air made our thick skins peel,
While we cursed and laughed and worked, and fought, and drank until we reeled.
We shouted, made a universal noise: "We still live and here we stand!"
"Bowed but still unbroken, though our blood is on the sand."
And then that far-off home, once boring and colorless,
Seemed so fine we ached for it, but that we'd not confess.
After laying down our rifles and again our lives we owned,
We stayed away because of pride, though once a week we phoned.
We ventured then to stride along the halls of higher learning.
We'd heard this was the path to life, and more important, earning,
Then were rudely disillusioned when the world did not come calling.
It cost a lot but mattered not, a life just begun was stalling.
A sheepskin is no cushion when from the heights you fall,
Or run confused from normal life and run into a wall.
The grey-haired heads of academe taught us facts and numbers,
But not how to have a life, or dreams outside our slumbers.
We were all a little anxious to find a special someone.
We didn't know the words to love songs, but sometimes we could hum one.
We settled in and settled down when it no longer mattered,
Dissolution? Never. But those quaint dreams were shattered.
The sounds of little feet and little children's laughter
Gave a hint of what we'd known and still were chasing after.
The pharmacist became the new distributor of sanity,
And on we went to toil away in apathy and vanity,
There was no joy in Muddville, but also no calamity.
A week per annum for the illusion that "now By God we're making it".
We buy the trinkets and send the cards to prove that we're not faking it.
Every now and then the chuchbell rings and off we have to go,
To mark another ending, be it friend or foe.
We dab our eyes, shake the hands, quote the proper homilies,
Offer up our deep concern while hoping its an anomaly,
Because we fear deep in our hearts a fate that we have earned,
When next those funeral bells sound out that it will be our turn.
A lawn so green, a car so clean,
A football cheer, a weekend beer,
A billion bright computer screens at night year after year,
Connect us, entertain us,
Inform us, isolate us,
Make us cry, make us shout,
Inflame our lust, incite our doubt.
Now we really DO turn on, tune in, drop out.
We carry phones everywhere so we can stay in touch
Because our words are vital and they matter oh so much
But instead of bringing us together they distance us from others.
I can't take the time to drop on by, I'll just call my brothers.
The lessons learned, the bridges burned,
The paths not taken, the hearts left achin',
The God we scorned, the virtue mourned,
The times we cried, the ways we died,
The battles fought, the grace we sought,
The burdens carried, the friends we've buried,
The walls we build, the dreams we killed,
The bliss we tasted, the fortunes wasted,
The home not found, the extra pound,
The truths not told, the growing old.
Our fathers tried to tell us but they didn't know our minds.
They didn't speak our language and they couldn't read our signs.
They had fought the good fight, came home to golden times.
So outward always seeking but never there to find
The happiness we'd heard about, hidden in our minds.
We searched for it in others, or in a drink, a song, a place.
We moaned and cried and tossed and turned, and blamed the human race.
Elusive, reclusive, simple, complex.
I can't pray right now Lord, but I'll send a text.
Dreamed about, fought for,
Lusted after, hated for.
Argued over, lamented,
Cried over, re-invented.
It's where you find it, thats what they said,
So damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,
Not so much hell-bound, more like hell-bent,
And the harder we looked the faster we went.
So when we had exhausted our faith,
And wasted ourselves chasing a wraith,
Simple truth finally lit the dark night,
To win that long battle you give up the fight,
And that happiness comes not from pursuing pleasure,
But from right living, and giving full measure,
Of those simple things that once we treasured:
Your time, love, attention, fair play,
Friendship, kindness, kid stuff you say?
Learning, sharing, giving your best,
Concern, respect, offering rest.
These things we'd always scorned as too simple,
In the end answer that maddening riddle.
So let in the light, take your heart off the shelf,
Unlock the doors and shake hands with yourself.


  1. wow, i have not read a piece of poetry that i liked that much in a long time. thanks.

  2. Todd, you have captured the vital blood of an entire generation! Or is it the last gasp? My God! Let this not be wasted on a younger generation with ears that hear not or eyes that see not!

    1. Thank you Fred! Writing this was a catharsis for me, obviously, and it is a bit frightening to put something so personal in the public eye. Your poem from 1966 inspired me to repost it. Be Well brother!

  3. Simply simply sublime.

  4. OMG! Deep, deep, stuff, I haven't ever read a piece of poetry that affected me as much as this just did. I'm 45 years old and was a combat Marine, and I'm f***ing crying.

  5. I'm a USMC vet also, and I cried when I wrote it. Thanks for your service to our country my brother.


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