Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Poetry: The Spielberg Incident

This poem was included in an annual anthology published by Scribner, "The Best American Poetry 2003, " guest edited by Yusef Komunyakaa. The poem is about the media event that followed an incident which occurred in Oakland in 1994.* It was written by my husband.

By the way, the high school was actually
Castlemont High School. George used the term “Oakland High” so that he could get the poem to scan and rhyme more properly. I hope the Wildcats will understand.

by George Higgins

(Spielberg visited an inner city school in response to a class of black students who had laughed inappropriately at a showing of his movie about the holocaust Schindler’s List.)

When Steven spoke at Oakland High
A custodian swept up the shattered glass,
replaced the broken clocks to satisfy

the Governor, who was preoccupied
with becoming President, with covering his ass
When Steven Spielberg spoke at Oakland High

the District found diminishing supplies
of disinfectant and toilet paper stashed
away, so they replaced the clocks instead to satisfy

the cameras and the press that they had rectified
the deficiencies among the underclass.
When Steven Spielberg spoke at Oakland High

the students didn’t seem dissatisfied
about the cover up, just happy to be out of class.
The custodian replaced the broken clocks to satisfy

this need we have to falsify
the truth in subservience to cash.
When Steven Spielberg came to
Oakland High
the custodian replaced the broken clocks.

You can read more about the incident by linking to the New York Times article, “Laughter at Film Brings Spielberg Visit” (4/13/94).

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