Ode to the Lost

1972 . . .
High school field trip chaperone
battered yellow school bus,
ear plugs needed.
Kids chatter
shout across aisles.
Loud and louder voices join,
belt out singing, grins on faces

bye bye Miss American Pie
drove my Chevy to the levee
but the levee was dry
and them good old boys
were drinking whiskey ‘n rye
singing “This ‘ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die.”

2019 . . . 11 AM
High school field trip chaperone
battered yellow school bus,
kids plugged in.
Heads down, thumbs fly.
Some lips move
no sounds heard.
Eye contact? There is none.

2019 . . . 5 PM
Commuter rail, going home.
Same scene,
different place.
Heads down, thumbs fly.
Some lips move,
no sounds heard.
Faces never seen.

Don McLean’s American Pie
turned sardine humanity,
schooling no more.


I’m hosting OLN today at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Folks can post one poem of their choice – no particular form, length or topic. By the way, “schooling” is a very social behavior of fish. It requires coordinated body positions and synchronized movements. And for those of you not familiar with the song American Pie, click below for a listen – topped the Billboard charts in 1972. Photo from pixaby.com  Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time. Come join us!

50 thoughts on “Ode to the Lost

  1. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) February 21, 2019 / 2:46 pm

    I wonder so much what a beast we have created (being very much part of it)… I don’t recall the song from 1972 but I do remember it afterwards, and commuting has gone a lot more silent these days… love the contrast between the years…

    The day the music died

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 21, 2019 / 2:51 pm

      …the day the music died indeed. I was riding the subway home from taking my granddaughter to her drama classes yesterday — rush hour still intact for commuters — and literally every person on my subway car was plugged in, device in hand, eyes down. Zero eye contact with anyone. You sometimes see the same thing at a “family restaurant.” Kids sit at the table, heads down, devices in laps, and adults talk to each other — as if the kids aren’t there. Well…in some ways, I suppose they’re not.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jane Dougherty February 21, 2019 / 3:07 pm

    I remember that song! It had catchy words though I hadn’t got a clue what they meant.The power of rhythm and rhyme. I use my phone to make calls…

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 21, 2019 / 3:11 pm

      We heard Don McLean sing it live at a Boston Pops 4th of July concert. As you can imagine, it was a very big hit with that crowd 🙂


      • Jane Dougherty February 21, 2019 / 3:13 pm

        Is that easy-listening pop music? I imagine it would have been 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Glenn Buttkus February 21, 2019 / 3:10 pm

    The kids think of this as “normal” behavior; that’s all they’ve ever known. We older folks do lament the ode to the lost–conversation, social intercourse, eye contact, and humanity. How will it be for our grandchildren? I do agree with your premise; smile.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 21, 2019 / 3:12 pm

      Yes — communication in many venues, in many forms, has become a lost art.
      PS: I still write letters!


  4. kim881 February 21, 2019 / 3:21 pm

    This is hard-hitting, Lill, and I like the format: the contrast with the song lyrics sandwiched between the different generations. I remember the song so well, used to sing it all the time, never mind I didn’t understand what it was about back then. I prefer the chatter to the deadly silence and lack of real communication. I also use my mobile to make phone calls and to send the odd text message. I love the wordplay in the haiku!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 21, 2019 / 3:38 pm

      Actually, when I was googling American Pie I not only came up with you tube recordings, concert appearances, etc….but articles on the meaning of the lyrics! 🙂 I was a high school teacher in the late 60s and early 70s and did the chaperone on yellow school bus thing…and boy was it always loud and fun! So much talking and singing and community spirit. My gut tells me, after seeing adults and kids on the subway etc….that those buses really are quiet now. For me, that’s a loss.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. sanaarizvi February 21, 2019 / 3:28 pm

    And that’s the tragedy of it all that youth these days don’t make eye contact during conversation or enjoy a simple meal at the dining table because they are absorbed in the world of social media. How I miss simpler times. This is a breathtakingly wise and poignant write! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 21, 2019 / 3:39 pm

      Thank you, Sana. And sadly, as Glenn wrote, this is the norm for kids today. It’s all they’ve experienced.


  6. msjadeli February 21, 2019 / 3:31 pm

    our brains are being rewired. i’d be interested in seeing longitudinal eeg studies to see exactly how/where. in the words of Joni Mitchell, “somethin’ lost and somethin’ gained in livin’ every day”

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 21, 2019 / 3:40 pm

      GREAT comment! I’m certain there are folks doing PhD dissertations on the effects of social media, “smart” phones, and our sense of community and ability to communicate face to face.
      PS: I still write letters! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • msjadeli February 21, 2019 / 3:46 pm

        i hope so, lillian, on the studies. letter-writing is a lost art anymore, and that’s a shame. i used to write paper letters to many people, now only a few. i remember a scene in a sci-fi book/movie where a person owned a rare antique: a book. maybe it was a star trek episode…

        Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 21, 2019 / 4:48 pm

      Thanks, Beverly. Glad you enjoyed!


  7. Frank J. Tassone February 21, 2019 / 5:04 pm

    I loved hearing Don McClean’s “American Pie” in High School–in between Iron Maiden and Led Zepplin! Thankfully, I still hear my son converse when he’s with his friends–track, Cross-Country, or his Boy Scout troop. Doesn’t stop his thumb dance across a screen, but at least conversation hasn’t died yet!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 21, 2019 / 9:11 pm

      Your son sounds like a remarkable young man….I am not surprised with you as a father, Frank.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. merrildsmith February 21, 2019 / 5:25 pm

    The song is going through my head now, Lillian. 🙂 I haven’t been a chaperone in a while, but I do remember the noise on those buses when I was. Much to think about.


    • lillian February 21, 2019 / 9:13 pm

      I was a chaperone in the late 60s and early 70s before the days of cell phones. And those buses were noisey with excitement, talking, singing….sometimes 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall….remember that one? My guess is that they are much more quiet now which to me would be sad. There was a sense of community when folks talked face to face and shared stories and hopes and dreams. The times have changed. And as my husband says, I am getting old! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Grace February 21, 2019 / 5:35 pm

    I love that song, smiles. Yes, I see those zombies and note that silence when I ride my commute everyday. Every one is on their books or phones, no conversations. Sometimes it would be the very young kids chatting about, but all the others are just quiet. Hey, we wrote about the same commute train.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 21, 2019 / 9:14 pm

      Hah! That’s what I thought when I read your post 🙂


    • lillian February 21, 2019 / 9:15 pm

      If things could swing back to the half-way point — social media AND face-to-face communication. I’ve read that some restaurants are providing a discount if you check your cell phones at the desk! My kind of place 🙂


  10. memadtwo February 21, 2019 / 9:09 pm

    It’s a bit disconcerting to think how things have changed in such a short time. So rare to even see someone just spacing out…(K)

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 21, 2019 / 9:17 pm

      My husband reminds me that our parents thought the world was “going to hell in a hand basket” when they saw Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show! 🙂 Perhaps it is just the older generations set in old ways, which were the better ways…..year after year after year after generation after generation after generation….questioning the word “progress” every time the world turns????

      Liked by 1 person

  11. rothpoetry February 21, 2019 / 9:30 pm

    I can identify with your noisy field trip! Silence… the upside to digital media!! Amazing.
    Love the song American Pie!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. lynn__ February 21, 2019 / 10:10 pm

    Thanks for the memories of American Pie and noisy bus rides!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. robtkistner February 22, 2019 / 2:43 am

    Oh, this is so potent, and hauntingly sad. Outward expressions of joy and the essence of human contact, are disappearing in the public domain. That is one very big reason why I still love my sporting events, and sports in general. Why I am so thankful my 5-year-old grandson participates in soccer and gymnastics They are raucous and glorious events of human interaction, as is playing music. One alarming side affect of this electro-zombie epidemic i believe is the erosion of participation the arts by young people. But I just old and grumpy, what do I know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 22, 2019 / 11:13 am

      I absolutely agree about youth sports. We went to our grandson’s baseball game and it was really fun to see all the parents chatting and talking to each other and cheering for every hit – no matter the side etc. I’ve been taking my 10 year old granddaughter to a drama workshop class all week (she’s living with us this week so she can attend) and she is learning about improv, building a character etc. Both her parents are musicans, one a successful composer of choral music; the other a faculty member at Phillips Academy Andover High School directing their chorus, musicals etc and teaching pipe organ….so I can relate on the importance of the arts! 🙂


  14. Frank Hubeny February 22, 2019 / 4:45 am

    I like how you present the contrast. At least the chaperone doesn’t need ear plugs today. Nice last two lines about sardine humanity and schooling no more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 22, 2019 / 11:10 am

      Glad you enjoyed those sardine lines, Frank. I’ve been surprised no one else mentioned them! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Gina February 22, 2019 / 6:54 am

    i heard that song years later, in an English class, our teacher used pedagogical pop and i have the song since hen and wanted to come to America and i have now a few times, the song and America still enchants me. its the same here, everyone is glued to their phones and its the cause of increased neck injuries and problems. I like the contrast between the decades, I wonder what another 40 years will look like. a poem with a familiar feel for me, the first I am reading and it feels just great to start my Friday night.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 22, 2019 / 11:09 am

      Glad you enjoyed, Gina. When I was looking for the audio of American Pie, I googled it and actually also found a number of articles written on the meaning of the lyrics. So I’m not surprised your teacher used it!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. V.J. Knutson February 22, 2019 / 9:25 am

    How things change. Love the contrast. What struck me is that when I was a child the emphasis was on “Be seen, not heard” – the pendulum doth swing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 22, 2019 / 11:08 am

      Hah! I’d forgotten that old saying! I’ve always been talkative….high school debater, debater in college, communications major etc….raising our children when they were little and really, through their teens as well, a phrase I often said to them was “use your words”. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Anita February 22, 2019 / 11:59 am

    Smart poem.
    With time so much changes.
    Lost indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 25, 2019 / 11:31 am

      ….yes, and I still write letters! 🙂 And send real Christmas cards with personal notes in them 🙂


  18. Charmed Chaos February 22, 2019 / 12:24 pm

    I sometimes wonder how the generation today fares in job interviews. This is so timely Lillian, and sadly true.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 25, 2019 / 11:30 am

      It’s interesting….I was still on the job when the term “helicopter parent” became popular. I was always amazed to run an information session for graduate school (not college) and see one or two parents come with their kid. And sometimes the parent asked the question….for graduate school! When that happened, I looked at the future graduate student as I answered the question: not the parent. I even had a parent come to an admission interview – for graduate school – and expect to sit at the table with the prospective student!
      So — yes — I wonder how they do in job interviews.
      I also read somewhere that a college offers a course in “dating” and it actually has students role-playing asking someone on a date; talking to a prospective date on a phone; and how to converse on a first date that is a meal. Amazing huh?

      Liked by 1 person

  19. mhmp77 February 23, 2019 / 12:25 am


    kids plugged in.
    Heads down, thumbs fly.
    Some lips move
    no sounds heard.

    The ‘beauty’ of having kids around these days’ Quiet as a church mouse, device in hand. Good in a way as they are not a bother or a nuisance. But in the long run, they’ll be social misfits. No socializing is leading to a negative outcome.


    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 25, 2019 / 11:23 am

      I’d much prefer the chatter and talking than the heads down-no contact behavior! But that’s the communication-degree side of me.


  20. sdtp33 February 24, 2019 / 3:48 pm

    I like the time travel concept here, Lilian, very effective, plus the economy of the writing. Don McCLean was once asked what the song meant and he replied : “It means that I will never have to work again”! JIM

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 25, 2019 / 11:21 am

      Hah! When I googled American Pie to insure I had the lyrics right, I also found reference to a number of articles analyzing the meaning of the song.

      Liked by 1 person

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