Friday, December 30, 2005

Some stuff for the New Year

Here it is coming up on New Year, and this week we’ve watched rabbits in the snow and cardinals in the trees and found this image there.


New years slide along the white frozen snow
arriving with the edge of winter like rabbits near the forest
One minute the red birds are pecking at snowdrops
And then it is new, sunlight banishes blizzards
We blink our wrinkled eyes, make morning tea anew
here is a another gift, another chance, resolve
to take it, you, embrace it.

Last August I posted an earlier rewrite of this poem (dedicated to Ms. Cindy Sheehan). You may compare this version (the latest), with that one. I sincerely desire any comments on the poetics, but I am lately disgusted to death of politics, and will remove any comments which discuss any political views.

(Lament of the Combat Medic)

The men who die in the patriots noise
Are known by the timbre of stirring words

We ... Who caressed their terror
Who packed their hearts into sterile plastic

We know the dead are not words
Hidden behind glittering golden stars

Huddling, a sad-faced family
A woman, a grim father, other children

Who know the terror of seeing a face
Suddenly among platitudes

Love them all, dead wounded and living
And weep for their sorrow.

Love them more for their honest tries
At hiding grief ... we all hide grief

Bring them home in public, let the children see
Stop hiding the cost and heroic loss

Remember their sweet young faces
Who stood for what they must, who did.

As I said, the rough stuff, but it occasionally gets smoother. Here is another which was listed below, and has now fallen under the rewrite trap.


Sand and bombs and ugly little
desert spiders and a rancid smell

death on the street or fear in the locals?

Sitting in the waiting room at the VA hospital
spinning the new wheelchair smells like a new car

no spiders here no locals and maybe no bombs

but we still watch with the good eye
Talking to the new wounded and comparing

wheels like high school kids.

To be honest, I like the run of the words, but am not sure what structure to impose. I think both this and the one below could use different tools to make it work. Now, here is a new long one, about the old and young wars and who gets to practice what ... Needs a title. For now the working title is


Bits of color flash in the palm, fingers tighten, loosen twist and twitch in nervous candor
Something in brown and tremulous hands held airily or softly or in fear of breakage
Hands sit, not quiet in the lap, the nails white, now moving over a silver chair arm
One to reach past the stumps and test the black wheels, gripping chrome and squeezing
Power in the tendons, but one to stay and squeeze the bits of color paper
Now, the wheels move in arcs the arms in piston pumps and here the paper falls
We run to catch it – pick it up, give it back - the chair is circling and we see it as he speaks
Drab and wretched persons near a wall, children in the dirt and soldiers tall, smiling, armed
A wartime thought that looks like every grey miserable abject sorry picture of a war
Two soldiers, proud, brown and khaki clothes that say America, smiles proclaiming youth
Our acquaintance in the chair is tall, ignoring the people and the children, but happy.
The chair has found its power sliding graceful to our feet, and not reaching but speaking
It is a test, how can we learn to move but never walk, to ride the arms and scorn pity
It is a test to learn acceptance and every day I print a new copy of the old picture........
The chair it spun agile and adroit – we gasped and then was gone in bright daylight
We continue walking shamefully, sunlit skies are not the color of awkward guilt
At home we find we lost the picture, oh well, no sepia war here. White wine, blue fish.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

some new images and a dirge

Enticing, a response to a poem

words try to run away
you seem to have
if not their number
their names.

Oh, there we are…..

Sometimes in the morning we are walking
together with a poem
and only later
it wakes up so we say
thank you!

They are Only Boys, They are Always Only Boys

The men who died in the patriots noise
are known by the timbre of stirring words
But we, who caressed their terror
packed their hearts into sterile plastic
Know the dead are not words or threats.

Know that hidden behind
Glittering gold symbolic stars
Huddles a bare-faced woman
a grim father, who know the terror
seeing that boyish face suddenly
in dreams, and among the platitudes.

I love them all, dead wounded and living
and weep for their sorrow.
I love them the more for their honest tries
At hiding the grief
In social silence, we hide grief.
Bring them home
Remember their sweet young faces
Who stood for what they must, who did.

For Cindy Sheehan, and all the mothers who disagree or agree or simply share her pain. We medics, graves registration techs, and other bearers of the souls of war also feel..


When I was first in China, and then Japan
and other Asian galleys
I, so well beloved of western words
and literary intellectual smug-uggery
couldn't read .... couldn't write
and a preliterate
slave at least had a home.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Well were at war again

Well, we’re at war again....................

Sand and bombs and ugly little
desert spiders and a rancid smell
death on the street or fear in the locals?

Sitting in the waiting room at the VA hospital
spinning the new wheelchair smells like a new car
no spiders here no locals and maybe
no bombs but we'll still watch
with the good eye

Talking to the new wounded and comparing
wheels like high school kids.

Do we only write what we know? And is this effort poorer because of that?

I find it terribly absurd to think that all my memories are real, especially those dealing with the times of war.  I can remember when I would put on a 50 pound ruck and move through the most dense jungle on earth, cautiously and with much labor, traveling with young men like myself, moving less than a kilometer a day in search of ways to kill other young men.  Daily, we would move against this oppression of infinite hardship, killing and destroying, being killed and destroyed in turn.  Endless weeks of vicious boredom marked by a minutes horrible agony.  How we joked of the ways we could suffer, and loved one another with a mean affection and a deadly touch.  

Soldiers and fighting men we were, all from the ancient ages of 18 to 23, except the platoon sergeant, he was old, almost 30, and the Captain only a year younger.  We had seen more violent death on our walks in this country club than most cops could claim; and in the third world squalor of the villages, more disease than most doctors even imagined.  We had illiterate privates who could diagnose malaria, plague, and 3 or 4 malnutrition diseases.

It comes down to whatever we could handle
All the late hours of hanging out in our own skulls
Strolling carelessly to the sounds of hidden memory
Denying whatever might cost.
Most of the books deal with coping
With being able to handle life
With belief and ability and desire.
I think in terms of energy.
Is it worth it any longer
To expend energy to achieve a lie?
Once, we celebrated Ho Chi Minh‘s birthday.

Here I am going home to my father
Over vast clouds and mountains
His voice is calling to me
Soft with the light of summer.
He used to rest outside for a little hour
On a Sunday after Mass.
He has been my granite wall
And hard fought friend
He has worked
And raised a dozen or more children.
In his rest the machines
keep breath in his tired lungs
I owe him.  More then the earth.
I want him to breathe softly
To know we love him deeply and then
Like the autumn we never suspect
Fly away with the winds of summer

(The ground which forgives all our sins
And loves us dearly in the end)

Among the story of my father are the unwritten letters to Lowell, David, Joe, Patience, and all the others, they stand accusing.  Sometimes there is a striving for beauty and for the pictures of the things and the emotions.  Sometimes all this longing is paralyzing and the soul writes the letters but never sends the words.

I do not want the politics and the purpose.  What I need is the expression and beauty, and deeply, the showing of humanity as human.  Not as dogma, not as that thing which is politically right or judicious; but as that thing which is humanly felt, born of care and love and longing.  Expressed not efficiently or out of correct purpose, but expressed cleanly out of beauty and spoken with a lovers touch.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005





Cinnamon tea is a warming sound,
Softly dressing a silken minute
Delicious is such a pretty color
Lightly wrapping the quiet hours

It was 120 degrees under a hellish sun
And the dull blue cigarette smoke
Hung in a haze around our heads
On a hillside smelling of death
Which is the only smell in war
And you get used to it
On the day I packed
Most of my friend Michael
Into the bright green body bag.

I still see you in the chair
Your face a quizzical mystery
A shy smile asking do you do this often.
Felt worse than a penny dreadful
Wanting to hide among cheap novels
OH! Could I have run, I would
Damn the marriage,
To find affection on barstools
With desperate peoples.
Instead to face your friendship
That was a light to blind my whimsy
The memory cuddles like affection
Thinking of
Kansas, sweetness, and you.

Monday, August 22, 2005

small thoughts on language

One of the reasons for creating this blog is to show some of the things we go through to take an idea from basic words to a finished poem.

Usually, the rough drafts, as shown below, are filled with the language as it originally expressed the idea. Sometimes this language really overflows and fills everything up, and covers or drowns the original thought.

Sometimes, we just cannot get past the beautiful words, phrases, images, little songlike patterns, and lovely laughing clauses. When we get so caught up in this the poem gets lost but the language is lovely, and that often makes for poor poetry, but really nice sounding daydreams.

We have found that the best way to pare the lines down to the core is to have the family dragon burn all the fluff away. We can then rebuild from that to make a clearer, if somewhat more astringent creation, dedicating the rebuilt phrases to the spare but now well defined poem.

If you don't have a family dragon, well, you need to use a different metaphor, then, don't you?

Poetry On Line


Beijing is only a little hustle
But every morning government house
And all the other big brother buildings
Remind you
There‘’s more muscle here
Than Shanghai.


The place to shop here is the Bishop Tutu Mall and occasional revolutionary parking lot
But in the heat, the slow pace of afternoons outside cemeteries
(New Orleans copied these, they are the Caribbean standard
almost Japanese with crowding)
hectic tourists chase all the birds away, swarming the best headstones.
I flew in from St. Croix, before that Tortola, San Juan,
Some sweet line of sea and perfect blue
And never rode a cruise ship so stood out among the tourists,
Who never entered any other way, they only ever cruise
Also, had more than four......hours to stay so I saw the place
Driving to Megan‘s Bay where the ships have (damn it) sailed
filled the sand with the smell of booze, retirement, and coppertone,
It is somewhat sobering to contemplate what was
Frenchman’s reef could conjure a storm of pirate tales
lost now under a concrete walk behind the glass hotels
where mountainous canoes spew forth money, jobs,
the lesser hope of sharing has cast lots for stripping riches
from the shills.


Here, I didn’‘t see any Iguanas, but on the road
Horses bloomed like magic