Sunday, February 16, 2014

My Papa's Waltz - What Does It Mean?



My Papa's Waltz

By Theodore Roethke

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

   The speaker’s usual stance suggests that waltzing with his drunken father before bed time is a common occurrence; in fact, to go so far as to appoint his father his very own waltz further suggests that his father may have been drunk more often than he was sober. The boy has no clue that what his beloved father is doing is wrong.

Happy Readings,

Monday, February 10, 2014

Well, Here I Am

Good day everyone,

   Just so you are tracking, I will soon be leaving the Army after seven years of honorable service. The reason is not by choice: unfortunately, I suffered a serious back injury during an airborne accident while I was going through the Civil Affairs Q-Course. After many months of treatment, Army doctors decided that my injury would not improve over time, and I was recommended for a Medical Board. Shortly after, I was found unfit and am now waiting on administrative stuff so I can begin to final out. Heck, I already turned in all my Army-issued gear. That was a sad day.
   At first the news was devastating: I worked so hard for so long to get to where I was in the Army. Not only was I close to earning my rocker (SSG, E-6; I would have been promoted upon graduating the Q-Course), but my dreams of becoming a Special Operations Soldier was in my grasp. Also, I was shooting for my 20. I had planned to retire in 13 years!
   But after several months of waiting in limbo, I'm now beginning to get over the shock of everything and am ready to move on with my life. My short-term plans are to get out of the military, move my family and our household goods to our home in Florida, and to find suitable employment. My long-term goals are to continue to adapt to civilian life and to continue (more aggressively than I have been) to write and market my books. All of this being said, I have a lot on my mind.

   Key take-aways: You can't change what you can't control, and everything happens for a reason. If you find yourself in a similar situation, just remember that you ARE NOT alone. You ARE NOT a failure because you can no longer do some of the things you used to enjoy. And most importantly, you ARE NOT a failure because you are unable to continue your military service. I have to remind myself these things every single day. There are many important things in life which need your attention, like your family, friends and YOURSELF. Take care of yourself--body, mind and soul.

   That's all I wanted to say for now. Hopefully someone out there will find this inspirational.

   By the way, I'm going to take this opportunity to show off my Army awards and achievements. ;)

My Digital Shadow Box (as of Feb 2014)

Thanks for reading,
SGT Harmon

Is Langston Hughes’ “Song for a Dark Girl” a Religious Poem?

Song for a Dark Girl
by Langston Hughes 
Way Down South in Dixie
 (Break the heart of me)
They hung my black young lover
 To a cross roads tree.
Way Down South in Dixie
 (Bruised body high in air)
I asked the white Lord Jesus
 What was the use of prayer.
Way Down South in Dixie
 (Break the heart of me)
Love is a naked shadow
 On a gnarled and naked tree.

Is Langston Hughes’ “Song for a Dark Girl” a Religious Poem?
by Casey Sean Harmon
In Langston Hughes’ “Song for a Dark Girl,” readers are given the opportunity to experience the aftereffects of a tragic situation through the eyes of an African-American girl during the days of slavery in southern America. Many believe that the author’s use of religious-themed allegories suggests a likeness between the incident and the tragic death of Christ, although the author’s intentions are not clear. One thing that is clear: it is very difficult to ignore the pain felt by the speaker, or to disregard the grief felt by the African-American people as a whole.
            Readers can see by the title that the poem, or “song”, is for “a dark girl.” The title may not only be referring to the dark color of the girl’s skin, but also the darkness, or sadness, felt by the girl, as the word “darkness” is commonly used to describe a state of unpleasantness. The speaker may also be trying to reach out to anyone who has experienced the grief and suffering bore by so many African-Americans in the days of slavery.
            The first line of the poem, “Way Down South in Dixie,” inspires thoughts of the American deep south, and comes from the upbeat pro-slavery anthem, “Dixie.” (The ever-controversial song was meant to poke fun at the African-American slaves, insinuating that they “loved living on plantations, and preferred slavery over freedom;” it was also a rivalry tool against the north, who sought to end slavery.) But it is made clear by the second line, which is emphasized by parenthesis to represent an internal emotion, that this poem is no “ode to joy.”
            The narrator reveals the girl’s distress by saying, “Break the heart of me,” followed immediately by the girl’s cry, “They hung my black young lover to a cross roads tree.” Readers are now shockingly aware of the tragedy at hand: the girl’s lover has been hanged—and, as was common in those days, more than likely for no reason.
            The first possible representation of Christ is the fact that the girl’s lover was hanged “on a cross roads tree.” Some believe that this is a tree located on the corner of a four-way intersection, where people passing by can see and mock the dead body. However, it is curious why the author spells “crossroads” with two words instead of just one, which is the customary way of spelling it. Perhaps the author is trying to emphasize the word “cross” in hopes of bringing to mind a crucifix—which, according to the Bible, is where Jesus was hanged, also for no reason.
            The fourth line repeats the first line, “Way Down South in Dixie,” to again remind readers of the pro-slavery song. By now readers can easily see the irony in the author’s decision to include the line, which is that “Dixie” is not the slave-respecting place it so arrogantly claims to be. The sixth line, “Bruised body high in air,” (which again is in parenthesis to represent internal emotion) places the girl’s dead lover at center stage. Now readers are given a bit more insight into the wicked nature of the slave’s murderers: not only did they hang him, but they first beat him until he was covered in bruises. What’s worse is the realization that the young girl probably witnessed the whole ordeal.
            The final possible implication of Christ is also presented in the sixth line. For those who are familiar with the Biblical account, it is hard to read the line without thinking of Christ, bruised and bloody, hanging on the cross.
            The seventh and eighth lines reveal the hopelessness, as well as the anger, of the speaker: “I asked the white Lord Jesus what was the use of prayer.” This is powerful in two ways: the apparent Christ-believing speaker has fallen so low that she now doubts her religion, and the fact that she refers to Jesus as “white Lord Jesus” is a further indication that she has lost all faith in white people. She must be thinking, “Why would I want to pray to someone who is white, just like those who have brought so much pain to my people?”
            The ninth and final paragraph reminds readers one last time of the infamous song that was a slap in the face to all slaves: “Way Down South in Dixie.” Immediately following is another reflection of the speaker’s inner emotions, “Break the heart of me,” which now seems much darker and maybe even revengeful. Readers are also now able to understand the speaker’s pain at an all new level; the word “break” suddenly stands out as something much more forceful, like a crash or explosion.
            The author uses the final two lines to sum up the poem: “Love is a naked shadow on a gnarled and naked tree.” That is, her “lover,” dead and exposed for the world to see, is hanging on the tree. This could also mean that this is how the speaker now views life: people live, suffer, and ultimately end up as a “naked shadow” on an ugly, “gnarled tree.” Again the speaker is asking with much dismay, “What is the point in living?”
            The possible religious implications of this poem have been challenged since its conception in 1927. Regardless of the author’s intentions, by use of irony and deep emotions, Hughes certainly succeeded in helping generations to see slavery from a different point of view.


Casey Harmon
Literature Class
February 10, 2014

 Copyright 2014 by Casey Sean Harmon.

Kickstarter Campaign Discussion for "My Daddy Has PTSD" Book by Casey Sean Harmon

What do you think? Would you be interested in supporting a Kickstarter campaign for this book? Details below. (I will be hosting a Facebook event this Sunday at 6:00 pm EST to answer questions. Click HERE to RSVP.)

Awesome news! I just finished my next book. This one's an illustrated children's story book about Soldiers dealing with PTSD--or Post-Thematic Stress Disorder, also known as shell shock and battle fatigue. Tate Publishing has agreed to publish it with full perks, including full color interior illustrations, an audio book version, a televised commercial, and it will even come with its own coloring book! Production will begin soon. However, in order for this book to be a success, I need to raise money to cover marketing costs. ON THAT NOTE, I am thinking about doing another Kickstarter campaign. (I did one back in 2012 for my book "The Everafter Chronicles", which was a HUGE success!) The mission of this campaign is to bring awareness to the civilian sector about the difficulties of PTSD, particularly the impact it plays on military and veteran children. The story is presented through the eyes of a young child, and includes the confusion, as well as the coming of understanding, many military children today face.

Before I put in a lot of work to begin another Kickstarter campaign, I would like to know what you guys think. Is this something you may be interested in supporting? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Just so everyone knows, I was diagnosed with PTSD and am very familiar with the difficulties it presents. This cause is very near and dear to my heart. I would greatly appreciate your feedback. Thanks!

Must read article about PTSD:

Additional information about PTSD:

Happy Readings,
Casey Sean Harmon