The Mocking of the Mockingbird

 “Just like that tune,

Simple and clear,

I’ve come to hear

New music—

Breaking my heart,

Op’ning a door,

Changing the world!

New music!


Hear it forevermore!”

“New Music,” Ragtime

Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens


Was the mockingbird mocking me

as he sang so urgently in the tree?

I awakened from a dream

he seemed haunted,

or was it me?


taunted by a world in change

everything upside down and rearranged

hearing new music in the air

wondering why it’s everywhere–


the sound of marching feet,

syncopated beats, ragged rhythm of the street,

the sound of hate and guns and bombs

oh, merely percussive runs, my darling ones


new music, forevermore

the constant hum of waves, their roar

as islands sink beneath the sea

perhaps the mockingbird sings a ragtime rhythm of nevermore

and the world weeps for what’s now in store–


yet, as I turn from song back to sleep

and wonder what the day will reap–

both dawn and dusk share radiant color and diffused light

but we must determine which we want, and what is right

if the sun will rise or set hereafter

on the sound of birds and bees and laughter




Another much-needed poetry break. I was awakened by a mockingbird last night and listened to it sing. Then I read the news and listened to a bit of Ragtime in the car this morning (gym break!). So, this is what happened.




13 thoughts on “The Mocking of the Mockingbird

  1. Does “Ragtime” have some of Scott Joplin’s music in it? I used to love when our orchestra in high school played his music. Of course, “The Sting” will remain one of my favorite films due to the clever insertion of Joplin into the plot.
    I like your inclusion of “percussive runs” and the “syncopated beats” in your descriptive poem. I know exactly how these sound. Not positive in this poem, as the sound of feet marching aren’t either.
    Islands sinking, as well as other negative outcomes to the recent choice Trump has made, “pains” me. The hurts and damage are nearly irreparable, so far.
    Just think not even six months later of all that has happened. Yet you end, so lovely in the rhyme of hereafter and laughter! Birds, bees and laughter take some of the sting away. Thanks for this, Merril.

    • Thank you for your detailed comment, Robin!
      Ragtime has some ragtime style music. It’s based on Doctorow’s novel. Your library probably has the CDs. One summer, I listened to it over and over again.

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