This poem or ode of mine was inspired by the fun and funny fact that, for many years, whenever I heard the American national anthem, thought it started with, José. Not, O say. . .  Not so funny after all.

“Stars SpankMe Banner” is my response today, reflecting on Jasper John’s iconic flag and the current show at the Broad Museum, “Jasper Johns: ‘something resembling truth,” which runs until May13.

“Stars Spankme Banner” showing spelling and punctuation set to the music of a British drinking song from Francis Scott Key’s manuscript in the Maryland Historical Society 2018 Collection.

José can you see by the dawn’s early light piercing through the holes in the curtain

What so proudly we hail’d from near and far at the twilight’s saga last gleaming

Whose broad stripes and bright stars is an object that stands off the wall a few inches. It’s canvas that’s on top of plywood. And so, it is this slightly shallow box-like form. And if you look at the surface it’s really heavily worked. And it’s not traditional oil paint or even the more modern acrylic. This is something that’s called encaustic, which is an ancient Egyptian painting technique that Johns revived. And it’s translucent and it’s lumpy, but it also allows you to see through it. And when you look through this sort of lumpy surface of wax what you see are strips of newspaper. It’s sort of torn up. So, you really can’t read it. There’s not a continuous story, but it is clearly this pigment, this wax, on top of the debris of our political life. A conversation between Salman Khan and Steven Zucker through perilous fight.

O’er the ramparts – José, a rampart is a defensive wall. You see. It’s right here in our national anthem. Can’t make this shit up. We keep watch. No more gallantly streaming, swimming, walking, flying, sneaking in

And the air-to-air, air-to-surface (Tiny Tim. Don’t let the name fool you!), anti-tank, tactical, anti-submarine, and training rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, 26,171 dropped on lands around the world in 2016 alone

Gave proof through the nightmares that our flag was still there

José, does that stars spankme banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave? Does it?

Refugees on the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep

Where the foe’s naughty host in dread silence reposes of the sheep

What is that which     

the breeze o’er the towering steep

As it fitfully blows, half conceals violence, half discloses love

Now it catches the gleam of morning’s fist of beam

In full gory reflected now shines in the stream?

What is that? What is that which? Any guesses? No?

‘Tis the stars spankme banner. JOSÉ! PAY ATTENTION – O long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave

In dust and doom be it never when freemen shall stand

Between their lov’d home and desert sand

Blessed is our victory and peace deployed over seas and land

Praise the power that preserves us a nation

Then conquer we must, when our cause is just or unjust,

And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”

José can you see?

The stars spankme banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the lands of the once free and the home of the brave.



Note: “Stars SpankMe Banner” is illustrated with Jasper John’s iconic flag. The current show at the Broad Museum, “Jasper Johns: ‘something resembling truth,” runs until May13. 221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012 Phone(213) 232-6200