johns 1960
by Joanie HF Zosike

Uncle Sid and Aunt Lily had a Mom and Pop shop
that they birthed in their garage in 1964 (though it felt
like the 50s) — the slow economy was soon to go BOOM!

In my uncle’s garage, there were big machines that engraved
metal and plexi, and those that printed on khaki and canvas
Not an inch left to park the cars or store ephemera and toys

But times they were a-changin’; troubles were a-boilin’;
the captains of industry wooed the five-star generals;
presidents and pawns came to join the festivities, too

Soon Uncle Sid and Aunt Lily were toasting the local Police,
the Civil Air Patrol and the ROTC, in their shiny new store
They served cheap champagne and signed on the dotted line

Whether contracts for uniforms for nurses or new draftees,
they had ’em in stock. Be it senior exec or boot camp sarge,
they’d engrave a custom nameplate to decorate that desk

This is where I came in, almost 16, growing up, lusting for
pocket change. Sid and Lily had just fired their girl for pilfering
and being too slutty. They needed nice help at the family store

I worked through summer, learning to operate the machines
When autumn came, I agreed to work after school. I knew what
to do. Meanwhile, slightly older boys mastered other machines

I began to march against the growing draft and curse about the
U.S. role in Vietnam, worried for my friends’ endangerment
I would go to work and fill orders, print nameplates and patches

Anderson, Aragon, Buxbaum, Baxter, Conroy, Dunn and Eisner
Farraday, Flores, Gold and Gomez, Harrison, Ikeda and Jordan
Kalama, Lipschitz, Mayuma, Norris, Orbison, Pines and Quincy

Then the R’s, the S’s, the T’s, the U’s and X-Y-Z’s in abundance
As I printed, I saw the young faces; I saw their bravery and their
fear; their unwillingness or full complicity, but mostly, I saw blood

IMAGE: “Order and Disorder” by Jasper Johns (1960).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My first job was as odious as it is memorable. The strands that transformed the thinking of American youth during the late 60s and early 70s are woven through this poem. It was a time when we were happy; it was a time when we were miserable. It was a time when young people were certain; and everyone else seemed confused. But it was not a time of mental chaos. It was a time of fundamental change. What ethics and goodness we have maintained from those times to the present is, alas, more difficult to measure.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR; Joanie HF Zosike’s poetry most recently appears in the publication 11/9: The Fall of American Democracy, Eds. Casey Lawrence and William D. Dickerson, released on May 26, 2017. She is a frequent contributor to  the Silver Birch Press blog as well as other pubs, including Bastille, Heresies, Levure Literraire, and Rabbit and Rose. Her work is also featured in Silver Birch Press anthologies: Alice in Wonderland, Ides, Noir, Summer, and The Great Gatsby. Joanie is a writer, actor, singer, director, workshop facilitator, caregiver ,and activist living in New York City and Manchester, New Jersey.