Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Random Comments About Terror, American Childhood and Publishing

During World War II my young father was afraid of German paratroopers landing in his Indiana back yard. "Life was tough for nervous children during World War II," my father quips. The apple not falling too far from the tree, I remember the 1970s and 1980s as a time expecting the Big One to go off without warning, ripping the weather away from the sky in a great flash of megatons. The attitude of my teachers at the time was one of laughing dismissal, that such a thing could never happen. Why worry? And of course you can't just go worrying at all hours without losing your sanity, though you might develop an ice-cold sense of humor,--along with its peculiar insanities--in order to deal with the threat. Whatever my fears or humorous burial of them, I remember being mostly alone and feeling neurotic in their shadows.

The American child has for the most part been spared the actual terrors of war, as has the American adult. In their place we have put an act of imagination more or less indulged. The more nervous of American children, such as myself, have endeavored to make art out of this imagined terror. It is a luxury we can afford and that we somehow hope has a kind of value stacked next to the accounts of real survivors of physically present terror. Such an act of imagination informs my account of the Cuban Missile Crisis and other works.

This is an unusually fertile time for my writing, but I'm increasingly wary of publishing on the blog. At least one journal I've looked into will publish nothing that has appeared online anywhere in any form. So I hold out blogging in hopes of publishing elsewhere while I have little optimism of success. My rate of acceptance in journals was about one a year in my heyday using what methods I knew. Extrapolating, I could expect to publish about a score more poems in my life. Should I just go ahead and publish it all here given the stark probabilities?

It's almost a rhetorical question.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Stevenson At The UN*

[Enter U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, Soviet Ambassador V.A. Zorin, other ambassadors, translators and officials.]

STEVENSON
I have with me ample evidence.
It is incontrovertible and it's clear.
Soviet missiles now lie in Cuba.
Let me say something else: those weapons must
not remain on that neighboring island.
You, the Soviet Union, placed missiles
in Cuba. You, the Soviet Union
conjured this danger, not the United States.
Finally, Mr. Zorin, remember
that the other day you did not deny
the existence of these dreadful weapons.
Today, if I heard you right, you deny
these missiles exist... and our evidence.
  Alright, sir, let me ask you one question.
Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny
that the Soviet Union is placing
medium- and intermediate- range
nuclear missiles and sites in Cuba?
Don't wait for the translation. Yes or no?

[Laughter in the assembly.]

ZORIN
I am not an American on trial,
sir, and I will not answer questions
put to me from a prosecutor.
In due course, sir, you will have your answer.

STEVENSON
You stand in the court of world opinion,
so answer yes or now as if on oath.
You have denied that the missiles exist.
Have I got your testimony correct?

ZORIN
Go on. In due course the answer will come.

STEVENSON
I am prepared to wait for my answer
until hell freezes over if you will.
I can also present my evidence.

[Reveals photos of missiles. Assembly stirs.]

This short piece won't make the cut for the final "Cuban" project, but it demonstrates the form for what I'm calling the dramatic parts of the final product. Other parts will appear as fairly normal contemporary lyric poetry. This terse portrayal of a famous exchange during the Cuban Missile Crisis relies a little too much on direct quote, but it also provides a taste of the artificial flavor it will have, being written mostly in ten-count syllabics.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

There Was Hair All Over The Place (part 3 of 3)

On television was "Dagon Live!" the Saturday night show from the Philistine Temple of Dagon, whose location in the desert was a closely kept secret even from the show's contestants. There, in the ancient, subterranean temple of fertility, ordinary Philistine citizens competed for cash prizes by fighting political prisoners in boxing matches. The prisoners were always drugged or otherwise handicapped, so no Philistine ever lost an individual match. The challenge for the contestants was to knock out as many prisoners as they could in a limited number of rounds. The more prisoners felled, the more money for the contestant.

The opening shot of the show framed a beautiful spokes model who stood before two closely erected and ornate columns, each carved in the image of Dagon: a half-goat-half-fish entity. "Good evening and welcome to 'Dagon Live!'" the spokes model piped.

Delilah mouthed the word "bitch." She knew the spokes model. She had beat Delilah in an audition for the part on the popular show.

"Here," the spokes model continued, twisting in her sparkling dress," in the super-secret temple of our Lord God and Benefactor, Dagon the Bountiful, Philistines will compete for cash and the glory of God!" The emcee took over and introduced the first contestant, who entered between the supporting columns of the temple. Afterward he motioned the contestant to the side as a file of slouching prisoners marched in, also between the pillars.

Delilah closed her eyes. She felt like she was closing her eyes on her own life.

The door the the motel room opened. "You like mushrooms? Hope so." Even the powerful Samson appeared burdened as he balanced pizza boxes and liquor bottles in his mighty arms.

"Yeah," Delilah muttered.

"You watching that show?" Samson said. "Ain't no show for a girl like you to watch." He set down the food and undid her bonds. "'Course, I watch it pretty regular myself."

"I auditioned for it once," Delilah said.

"What? You were going to fight? Were they going to let you use your whip? You've got the fighting spirit, honey-lion."

"No, I wasn't going to be a contestant. I was going to be a spokes model."

"Well, you're pretty enough, too."

"I'm really not hungry," Delilah said.

Samson sat on the springs,opened a pizza and a bottle. "How can you watch this? All them people getting hurt."

Delilah laughed nervously.

"What? That tickle you a little?" he growled.

"It's just that after all the people you hurt, after today, you worry about people getting hurt?" Then she felt the anger coming back. "I guess if the dead are Philistine, it doesn't matter."

"You shut up!" Samson said. "How do you turn this damned TV off? Give me the control." He turned off the TV and downed a third of a bottle. "You ain't got no idea what I've seen."

"What have you seen?" Delilah asked as a sarcastic challenge. Would the man ever stop talking about his homicidal self? She tugged at her leather corset, aware that her skin stank beneath it.

"What have I seen?" He chuckled then drank deeply again. "Well, I defeated an entire army of your kind. Had some help from the Lord and a few of my good buddies, though." He shook his head and smiled. "And all throughout that battle I had the jaw bone of an ass in my fist. I shit you not. I busted their heads left and right with that bone." He paused and said as if uttering something profound and mocking it at the same time, "With the jawbone of an ass, I whooped their asses!"

"Yeah," Delilah groaned. Then she discovered that sometime during this repartee Samson had untied her. She rose to a standing position for the first time in hours, wobbling. "I guess you've seen some big stuff, alright."

"Oh," Samson said, "I guess you've seen stuff too, huh? Impress me with your life."

Delilah walked to the window and peeked through the curtain. She was too tired to be startled at the sight of a SWAT team member just outside glaring back at her. She knew that she would never subdue Samson. No one could. "I'm dead," she whispered.

"What are you talking about, hun? This'll all work out. The Lord closes one motel room door, and then he opens another motel room door. Now why don't you come over here and tell me what you're worried about."

She sat again next to him. "Are you going to kill me?"

"Shut up. I just wanted some fun."

Delilah suppressed a spasm that was a sob and a laugh at once.

"Yeah, baby. Why don't you tie me up once again? For old time's sake?"

"I hate to tell you this, Samson, but tying you up is a waste of your time and mine. Besides, all I've got to tie you with that's long enough is the laces of my corset. You'd break them if you sneezed."

"Just do it," Samson said. "You're right that nothing can hold me. And it's true I got the strength of the Lord upon me that will never, ever let me be harmed or taken prisoner. But I know how to make it work. I promise."

"You promised before." She tied him down even though the laces were barely long enough to knot around his massive chest.

"Do stuff to me."

"I can't."

Samson sighed. "It's okay, I suppose." He stared off toward the blank TV. "You know where that Dagon temple is? I'd like to get there between them pillars and mess the place up some, maybe bring down the roof. You know, it'd be a good feather in God's cap and all."

"No," she sniffed. "I've never been there.I auditioned somewhere else. The only way someone like you could get there is if you were a prisoner for one of their shows."

"Delilah, you'd be surprised what can happen."

"Samson," Delilah said, thinking of the new attack the police were preparing, "I have to tell you...."

"You know, hon, I seen lots of shit. Lot's of it. I'm a real strong guy, but I got this, you know, tired streak growing in me. I'm real tired from what I done and what I seen."

"Yeah. I think I understand."

"You know what they done to my girlfriend, these Philistines?"

"No."

"They burned her."

"My God."

"I busted them back real good. I took my revenge, but it wasn't enough. Never will be."

"I'm sorry."

"Nah. You was right. I'm just trailer trash. My folks wasn't even sure who my father was. Some guy who wondered into town. An angel? Who knows?"

"What are you talking about?"

Samson said dreamily," That guy who came through town. He said I would be a judge of Judah, a Nazarite, and that no razor should touch my head."

"What?" Delilah said, and then, feeling a sudden concern for him, "No!" She stood up. A tear ran down Samson's cheek and got lost in his long, long hair.

"Ask me, honey-cat. Ask me how I can be restrained."

"No, I won't." She looked nervously toward the window and the broken door.

"It's the only way, Delilah. It's the only way for both of us. You'll hand me over to the police. No fuss, no muss. You'll be a hero. Me, I'll be a prisoner who can bring down the house of Dagon."

"Be quiet, you piece of shit." Now she cried.

"Ask me."

"How... oh, God... how do I make you powerless, Samson?"

A few minutes later she held the straight razor Samson had provided her. She held it loosely having completed an awful task. They both cried, and a single knot in a single lace held the strongman down. There was hair all over the place.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Random Breezy Comment on the Freddie Mercury Biopic

It looks like the Freddie Mercury biopic really will come out next year, and Rami Malek will play Mercury. Rami Malek may seem to be a sad choice of an actor after Sacha Baron Cohen was originally set to play the part, since Baron Cohen bares more resemblance to Mercury. But Martin Sheen played Robert E. Lee okay in the Gettysburg movie. You'd hardly think of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Truman Capote in the same moment if it weren't for the fact that Hoffman played Capote very well in the eponymous film. I would have voted for Baron Cohen myself, but I look forward to this movie even if it's a dud. If it is, it shouldn't be the fault of the talented Rami Malek, whom I've enjoyed in Mr. Robot and The Pacific.

Mercury
Malek
Baron Cohen




There Was Hair All Over The Place (part 2 of 3)

It was night. Samson, now dressed in jeans and with his locks combed straight down his back, moved a dresser up against the broken door. "Ain't the first time I dealt with broken hinges," he said. Delilah shook as she found an electric terror being replaced by a milder, despondent terror that came with the realization she was Samson's hostage.

"Hey, honey, cheer up," Samson chided, then took a slam of whiskey from a bottle. "I been in worse jams than this. Here. Have some."

Delilah took the bottle and drank. "What are you going to do to me?"

Samson looked incredulous. "Do to you? Baby, I ain't going to DO nothing to you. I'm full of the love of the Lord. I just want to have some fun like we was going before we was so rudely interrupted."

Delilah began to cry. "How can you say that? God, how could this be happening? Why did I get into this mess?"

"I know, honey," Samson said as he inspected the action of a pistol. He let the slide click shut. "I know. A class act like you ought to at some Dead Sea resort soaking up rays, not a care in the world. Here you are with some poor boy from down home who don't know caviar from sardines." He turned to look at her with his close-set, piercing eyes atop a mountain of muscle and framed by that long, black hair. He smiled and lay the pistol on the nightstand. "Honey, I ain't got nothing but love, and that's all the class anyone needs."

"But you... killed those men. And I'm... I'm a Philistine, too."

Samson rose and moved next to her on the floor where she had sat since the violence. Her body curled in fear. Samson put a hefty arm gently around her. "Honey, my first girlfriend was a Philistine," he said in a soft tone. "She's dead now." Delilah's body spasmed tighter. "But," Samson continued wistfully, "it was all part of the Lord's big plan. And," he whispered, "it wasn't me who killed her. It was her own kin."

The last words turned in her mind. What would police do with her if she got out of this room alive? Would they thank her for her work, even if it was a botch, or would they brand her as a conspirator with this outlaw? Was there really a way for her to leave this stinking pit with a life worth living?

Samson abruptly rose and fetched a book from the nightstand. "You ever read this?" he said holding the thin book up so she could read the cover.

"It's a Bible. I read a little bit," she said, some annoyance piquing through the fear.

"Look at the last page. Go on. Just open the back cover and see what it says there."

She had to force herself to concentrate on the words printed on the last page. She read out loud from it, shaking. "Coming soon is the next installment of this biblical epic: The Book of Judges." She looked up from the book to her captor, not knowing what she was supposed to make of this publishing teaser. He grinned. His eyebrows arched in pulses. "I don't understand," she said.

"The Book of Judges. It ain't in the Bible yet cause it's happening now. I'm Samson the Nazarite. Hero of Judah. Judge of Israel. King of Rock'n'Roll, baby! It's all coming to pass and being written in God's living history. I'm part of it. You're part of it. Course, they'll cut out the really fun stuff for the final version, but they'll leave enough in so you can get the gist."

Delilah felt the terror in her ebb, felt the dominatrix in her come back a little. She managed to object, "But this book, it's all just stories. It's rebel propaganda. It isn't real."

"Oh, honey," Samson said sadly, "It's real. Yes, ma'am, it's the real low-down. And I'm God's judge on this earth." He sniffed and scratched himself. "Yeah, well, I gotta get me some pizza and something to drink." He picked up some of the broken thongs from earlier in the day and began to bind Delilah with them. "I don't appreciate this reversal of roles any more than you do," he apologized, "but the situation calls for it. You need anything when I go out?"

"You're going? Aren't you afraid?" Delilah asked, surprised to feel some concern for the ruffian.

"I don't expect any more trouble for a while. Philistines always act all high and mighty, but they never got their shit together. No offense, hun. But even if they''re out there, I can handle them. I've got the strength of the Lord upon me, and ain't no one going to touch me as long as that's true. Here. Take the remote. Watch some TV. Won't be long. And don't try to mess none with the guns if you get loose. They're dangerous."

He slipped the pistol in his pants and then a wad of cash. He moved the dresser from the door as if it were a toy. When he left, Delilah realized that anyone could come through the wrecked door now that it wasn't blocked. What if police came for her as a traitor and not as their agent? Samson the mad rebel would not be there to fight them off. Then she wondered just how many kinds of bad she could learn about in one day.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Haunting Ending Of A Poem By Frost

In Robert Frost's poem "The Bonfire," an adult with decidedly creepy tendencies tries to talk some children into starting a dangerous fire in the woods near a town in order to "scare ourselves." The children ask why they should scare themselves, and the firebrand suggest it would be good preparation for war. Children, they object, don't go to war. Then the creepy incendiary says:

                      Haven't you heard, though,
About the ships where war has found them out
At sea, about the towns where war has come
Through opening clouds at night with droning speed
Further o'erhead than all but stars and angels, --
And children in the ships and in the towns?
Haven't you heard what we have lived to learn?
Nothing so new--something we had forgotten:
War is for everyone, for children too.I wasn't going to tell you and I mustn't.
The best way is to come up hill with me
And have our fire and laugh and be afraid!

The italics are in the original.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

There Was Hair All Over The Place (part 1)

The motel room tank of cigarettes and booze. A mattress leaned against the wall and Samson sat naked on the box springs amid a mess of broken black leather thongs. Delilah wore full dominatrix regalia and sat in a chair sipping a highball.

"You make my job hard," she said. It had been her third attempt to subdue the brute in bondage. A grin cracked Samson's face. "Yeah, baby, but you make something hard for me, too. Besides, you just had me tied with them flimsy straps. Now if you was to tie me down with them chains, I'd be at your mercy, baby."

Delilah sighed and walked over to the pile of chains Samson had provided that lay by the window. She peeked out the curtains, squinting into the smoking beam of sunlight.

"You expecting someone, sugar? Let's get down to business," Samson said.

Delilah reached deep within herself to find her dom-lady steel. How much longer before the SWAT team arrived and this charade ended? "Okay, you bad little boy."

After she secured him to the springs with chains and padlocks she lit a gold-filtered lavender-papered cigarette and sat next to him. She ran a red-lacquered fingernail across is ribs and said, "Alright you trailer trash piece of shit, are you ever going disobey me again?"

Samson shook his head vigorously.

She took a drag from her cigarette then held its lit end close to on of Samson's nipples. "Really, slave, do you promise?"

"Yes," Samson whispered.

Delilah brought the ember closer. "Louder."

"Yes!"

"Yes, what?"

"Yes, MA'AM!"

"All that pretty hair of yours'" Delilah crooned. "It's like you want to be a girl. Do you want to be a girl?"

"No, ma'am."

"Ah, don't lie to me,slave. You want to be a girl."

"No, ma'am."

Delilah's face flashed with pure hate. She slapped him across the jaw. "You want to be a girl! You little bitch!"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Hmm? What was that? Did my little girl say something?" She slapped him again.

"Yes, MA'AM!"

"Better." Delilah walked over to the door to allow herself a moment of weakness. Being a dominatrix was hard work, but this Samson job wore badly on her, made her not only tired but afraid of him and the forces who knew must have, please, surrounded the motel and readied themselves for the takedown. She went to the window again and peaked out the curtains. Twice. This was the second time she had flashed the signal to let the commandos know that Samson had been rendered immobile. But how immobile? His strength wasn't just legendary.

"I'm a girl! I'm a girl!" Samson chanted on the springs.

With her back turned to him, Delilah cringed in anticipation of what would happen next.

The motel room door instantly crashed open and three commandos rushed in. Delilah ran to the corner of the room.

The three gunmen stood in full body armor, their laser-sighted weapons painting red dots on Samson's chest. He looked up at them, his eyes full of sadness.

"Looks like you boys finally got me," he said. "Well, here I am, and I guess ain't nothing I can do all chained up here buck naked." The shoulders of the soldiers relaxed a little. One commando began to sidestep around the bed.

The chains binding Samson did not break. They exploded from his body. The commandos flinched at the chromium-plated shrapnel. Delilah shrieked. A fist smashed the helmeted head of one intruder. A foot crumpled the body of another man who crashed into the last standing commando in the room. Samson picked up a dropped automatic weapon.

"Philistines," he said in quiet contempt. "They ain't never got their game together." He aimed the weapon at a commando who scuttled backward toward the door. Delilah buried her face in the crook of her arm. Then shots rang out in short barks turning to echoes as he took the fight outside against the remainder of the team that had come to abduct him.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tamerlane*

The sight of our nation's flags lining the streets around the courthouse still hits me with a momentary fear that we are at war again--that is until I remember that today happens to be a day of national remembrance, of mourning or celebration. This visceral mistake of fear comes from my first experience of my nation at war, a brief and relatively bloodless affair that nonetheless manifested itself on the home front as this very display of banners sponsored by the town's merchants and philanthropists. That war was not long ago in my old memory but happened while I was still impressionable so that I was schooled to take neurotic fright in such innocent activities as strolling to the local coffee shop.

Who wouldn't laugh at me among those busy young people lounging outside the café this morning with their laptops and lattés, their new vehicles parked nearby with their tell-tale golden fish on their bumpers? They would chuckle and kindly pat me on the back and remind me that life may indeed be tough, but the world is ours to celebrate. And I would nod. And I would wholeheartedly agree. And their eyes would once again fix upon the colorful screens of their computers.

Yet with all the abundance of their lives, their very existences of frantic transfer of ephemeral communication, who of a certain reflective mien would not fear for them and their naiveté? What do they know of our nation's history, its origins in legend, the overthrow of its monarchy by zealots, the civil wars that established a wealthy democracy, its subsequent depressions and flirtations with the institution of slavery and the glory of its upper classes that his created this fine day full of promise that they, these innocent coffee drinkers, only acknowledge through a kind of rote optimism? But who could blame them and their necessarily short, click-bait-trained memories?

And yet they all remember Tamerlane.

The videos of his atrocities originated after the nativity of these enfants and many of their cohort who donned uniforms and took up the bulky rifle in order to track down Tamerlane and his murderous coterie. Bandwidth filled, weighed with videos the new soldiers sent back of their humanitarian efforts, such as hospitals and schools built in his native province as well as the pyramids of skulls Tamerlane erected on mountain roadways as warnings to the infidel. They remember the images of Tamerlane's face, its creases carved by a fanatical dedication to our annihilation, his eyes focused in the single-pointed desire for our defeat and the defeat of all we stand for.

Yet I still despair that none of these events made much of an impression upon these young people apart from their memories, that they all became a part not of their physically-tried knowledge but instead became more images in their digital reality. Even the casualties among this generation were few, and the heroic stories of their survivors, broadcast 24/7 on the web, kept any feelings of despair at bay, those stories and these many flags we see today. Still, somehow, our virtual Tamerlane forged our will through the terror, however muted, of his acts. which, after all, consisted events writ in fire and torn flesh at their origin.

War in the highlands brought us to a pique of action, decisiveness that instantly halted Tamerlane's blood-curdling raids and monstrous acts of remote-controlled terrorism. Today we bear the burden of his displaced countrymen, those innocent refugees who escape the mountains to drive into our town in their filthy trucks and assemble their squalid suburbs of tents. Sometimes in favorable wind you can smell their alien cooking and their unsanitary open tranches. The years and money their eviction will squander from our government has yet to be calculated. I hear they have collaborators among us--but I count it as gossip--that the refugees, in their machinations for survival, silently bend our people's will to their ends.

I continue my walk past the café and around the corner to the courthouse square. I calm my neurosis, console myself with the truth of this war: it concluded in triumph, testimony to the fortitude of my people. And why do I worry about this generation and their sense  of reality when their self-sacrifice has fetched us victory in the form of a truth so plain that any child could see it? There, over the stately double doors of the court, I see the end of all our fears, this trophy of war. Who am I to make light of this generation's sacrifices when they lead to what's holy? From the first news of Tamerlane's furtive bombings the fruit of our devotion was inevitable. How can I disparage these people? There, on the flag pole over those doors I see it: Tamerlane's head that gave birth to our trials, severed, brought home and embalmed as a real reminder.

*This is a draft of short piece I wrote in 2011 at the news of the killing of a famous terrorist. In 2013 someone named Tamerlan bombed the Boston Marathon. The coincidence horrified me and doomed this bit of writing, which was an attempt to view the reality of our current wars through a Borgesian lens of nightmare and stilted language. It actually sounds too overwrought to me today. Still, I like the way it steps just to the side of our world. I hope its gawkiness does not turn anyone away.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Fragments Of Another 90s Poem*

In a flat land, if you get tired of sky,
you part the blades of grasses and look hard.
You tap at the part you've spread back, knock
at the roots packed as if to shut you out,
then drive hours and miles to spot another driver.
Just drink coffee and keep driving until Iowa
fades out and Wyoming in. Maybe someday
hills will shut out the sky, leave you buried
in their shadows. Cars with black windows,
blank like eyes pass you head-on and slip
back into where and when you ever were.
The sky gets worse at high altitude.
You put on sunglasses and buy more gas
from a man whose face looks like your own,
the one you tried to leave in rear-view mirrors.
Ask the snow to feel sorry, and it will turn
passes flat white, a poverty to match your own....

...until you know which roads you ran away on
and who battered you until you couldn't look yourself
in the eye, and drive back down to Iowa,
sun straight behind you until Illinois falls away
to a familiar elevation and everywhere's a sky
you aren't ready for but search for good signs.



*This poem must have been an effort to retrieve my old Richard Hugo voice and reads almost as a pastiche of his work. I was already well into my own voice by the time this appeared in a notebook. But even today Hugo remains a prime source for my writing, even if you can't hear him.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Three Poems From The 1990s

I Was Going to Say Something Important

Be quiet. I have something to whisper to you,
only I've forgotten what it was, how its
seamless story began, perhaps with two words,
and then began to grow and develop
an emptiness it hoped to fill with you
and your listening. And you would have listened,
would have felt my lips at your ear,
whispering as an adult will whisper
so no one else will hear,
so that the story is meant.
It is meant for you from me,
and it unravels for us alone, for
us in the darkness, the whole cloth
of space in which we embrace.
The air becomes darker as I forget
whatever important story it was I'd whisper.
It becomes so dark that for a moment
I considered offering a story to the darkness,
to appease it, to hold it off a moment.
But I am a poor storyteller, and the dark
takes all it can without thanks or deals.
So here, let me take your hand and place it
upon the plate that covers my heart,
and I will rest my mouth at your heart
and my jaw upon the muscles of your shoulder.
In the darkness we should make no sound.
The darkness, knowing every plot, every ending,
would only betray us. Keep touching me,
and I'll be quiet.



What Happened Before the Big Bang?

A boy wondered why he wasn't a man.
An eternity passed. He wasn't a man.
He turned pages and pages of notes
he'd made about himself. Black ink.
Gray blended past into future.
Talk. Talk. Talk. Was that all?
He scratched the wall. Phoned people.
And what could they do? It wasn't their business.
He considered a drunk on a grate,
a drunk looking down the slats cut
in thick steel, down where water runs.
There were cold waters for those
who wondered what happened, numbing
waters in rivers for those who ask,
"What happened to me before I was born?"
A boy wondered why he wasn't a man.
An eternity passed. He wasn't a man.
Talk. Talk. Talk. And then bang,
he throws his door open. Bang. You
wanted an explanation? So did he.
Talk, talk, talk, and then bang.
So many trees. So many stars. So much light.




The Anonymous Poet

He was powerless over poetry.
And he listed all the words
he squandered, each turn
of the "morning breezes" that moved
across his face, and he followed,
while all the time "the sun rose"
bracing the red clouds and "driving
each wind" he absurdly sniffed.

He admitted to the trees,
even admitted to another human,
the exact nature of his body,
how it sagged, how it could never,
ever possibly contained what he needed.
It could never be fixed or whole.
He was powerless over the poetry
over cells that coursed
and died within him nearly
as randomly as his own words
coursed and died across the page.
He wandered. He was
not even a creature, only a shadow
mumbling at its own profound black.
He had become that intoxicated,
that deeply driven away from the human
reason and the human touch.

He no longer questions how it is he wakes
to see the waste of himself,
all the mist of the morning--
what kind of morning is it?
is it cold? is it keen?--
all the mist of the morning
has gone with the shadow of the man,
the shadow of who he had been.
The sun pushes breezes warmer, wilder
around him into the noontime when
trees gather and use the light to grow.
He came to believe in the planet
of blue larger than himself.
Part of it belongs to him.
What part does he carry to others?
What does he say, having awakened?




Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bulk of Research Done

Yesterday I wrote my first "Cuban" poem since finishing the foundational reading research. I thought it would be neat if the JFK inspirational  poster I've been waiting for would arrive and, as you can see, it did.
Credit will have to be given in some way to my sources for helping recreate actual conversations without having to dive into original recordings and transcripts, though so much has been paraphrased or quoted through multiple sources that plagiarism shouldn't  be a problem. If these poems ever become collected, a bibliography will be needed.
For anyone interested in learning about the Cuban Missile Crisis, Robert F. Kennedy's memoir Thirteen Days may seem to be the best account due to its original source close to the crisis, it's brevity and resulting authoritative tone. But according  to historian Sheldon Stern and others such an evaluation is mistaken due to distortions of the role of RFK, as well as other Executive Committee members, in counseling the president. On the plus side, Stern says Robert Kennedy's  quotes by themselves appear to be accurate.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Haunting Quote From Borges

Jorge Luis Borges
A remembered passage from Jorge Luis Borges grows louder in my head as disregard for facts grows in my country's government. This paragraph comes from his story "Deutsches Requiem," as translated by Julian Pelley. The words are spoken by a the character of a German convicted of war crimes after the Second World War and is the summation of a fascist and totalitarian worldview:
An inexorable epoch is spreading over the world. We forged it, we who are already its victim. What matters if England is the hammer and we the anvil, so long as violence reigns and not servile Christian timidity? If victory and injustice and happiness are not for Germany, let them be for other nations. Let Heaven exist, even though our dwelling place is Hell.
 I hope this philosophy grossly over-represents whatever philosophy informs the current administration. However, without respect for objective reality, with tightened nationalism and with disrespect of the impoverished, the path to that "dwelling place" looks broad and clear.

Again, I hope I'm wrong.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Progress on the "Cuban" Poems

I posted a teaser poem on this blog to point toward the verse project about the Cuban missile crisis, as well President John Kennedy's address to the nation about Cuba divided into accentual-syllabic lines. Work, mostly research, continues on this project that I intend to publish elsewhere unless no editors care to reproduce the poems.

As far as writing goes, there is a short prologue so far. The overall form of the poems will probably be mixed with lyric, dramatic and persona poetry both formal and free. My first persona poem in a long time (non-"Cuban"), about Freddie Mercury, appears in this blog, and its flaws show me mistakes to avoid in the future. As daunting as the project is I remain excited and hope to make substantial writing progress soon.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Once More I Need...

green cigars and their particulate smoke,
my guitar tuned to D for Dowland
because fantasias circulate the blood.
Once more I need the Brothers Hernandez
and to explore their abandoned spaceships
and villages of true heartbreak and dust.
Once more I need topographical maps
of my region to trace from hills to lakes
perfect symbols of the familiar
wanderings and haunts I had the time for.
Once more I need rumors of tornadoes.
Once more I need us running from thunder
to emerge again by a shattered tree,
even the singed chips and splinters like gifts.
Once more I need to feel assailed by ancient
fears in a brave young body. I need
snow in Iowa, especially snow
crusted from here to Lincoln, Nebraska,
and the flakes that dance in a cold sun.
That's where I meet you in your long red coat,
and there is no future for us, nothing
ever happens after we see ourselves
on that frozen street not looking ahead
but into a store window and slightly pale.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Security Council

For want of heavy water
no atomic slaughter
came from the dark Third Reich.

What would Adolf say?
Did he win or get his way
with Bannon's dark alt-right?

And who sits now like a glutton
toying with the button
that sounds the last "good night"?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Twelve Forty-Two and a Half Cherry Street

Even now I see him there
curled in a shadow beneath dusty
sunbeams. The blinds tilt half open.
He holds himself in his own arms,
brings up his knees, rocks ever
so slowly. Maybe hiding gets
easier. Yes. The sun lowers, dims.
The deep grain of the living room's
thin panels grows. Eventually all
he can see is his own child's face,
barely even formed but able to ask
what the days are like for the living.
The child asks from the darkness
within this address, behind numbers
of gold and black that stick
to the door. The child rocks behind
the porch light. Frantic
moths tick against the glass.
Did I say "child"? There's only
an address with a man
who imagines a child in it
looking over his shoulder
to a partial moon that curls.
He no longer knows if it was
his child who died or if
it was the moon, just the moon
that casts light without sound.

Tonight I look back at him,
I see the man paying his rent
and closing the blinds.
The moon sets. I see his future.
I feel no pity even though
one night the moon doesn't rise,
and he no longer has an address,
only a street where turns
the shadows over with his shoes.
I don't give him one splinter
of pity. The moon began again,
just a fraction. HIs next address
was a whole number where he kept
curtains open to the noon. But that's
not why I don't pit him. That's just
how the numbers fell, the hardness
 of what happened. I remember how
even back then, every day
I checked the mailbox, hoping.

Monday, January 16, 2017

From John Kennedy's Address to the Nation, October 22, 1962*

Good evening, my fellow citizens: This Government,

as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance
of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba.
Within the past week, unmistakable evidence
has established the fact that a series of offensive missile
sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned
island. The purpose of these bases can be none other
than to provide a nuclear strike capability against
the Western Hemisphere. Upon receiving the first
preliminary hard information of this nature last
Tuesday morning at 9 A.M.,
I directed that our surveillance be stepped up.
And having now confirmed and completed our evaluation
of the evidence and our decision on a course of action,
this Government feels obliged to report
this new crisis to you in fullest detail.
The characteristics of these new missile
sites indicate two distinct types
of installations. Several of them include medium
range ballistic missiles, capable of carrying
a nuclear warhead for a distance of more than a thousand
nautical miles. Each of these missiles, in short,
is capable of striking Washington, D. C.,
the Panama Canal, Cape Canaveral, Mexico
City,or any other city in the southeastern
part of the United States, in Central America,
or in the Caribbean area. Additional sites
not yet completed appear to be designed
for intermediate range ballistic missiles –
capable of traveling more than twice as far -- and thus
capable of  striking most of the major cities
in the Western Hemisphere, ranging as far north
as Hudson Bay, Canada, and as far south
as Lima, Peru. In addition, jet bombers,
capable of carrying nuclear weapons, are now
being uncrated and assembled in Cuba, while
the necessary air bases are being prepared.
This urgent transformation of Cuba
into an important strategic base -- by the presence
of these large, long-range, and clearly offensive
weapons of sudden mass destruction – constitutes
an explicit threat to the peace and security of all
the Americas, in flagrant  defiance of the Rio Pact
of 1947, the traditions of this nation
and hemisphere, the joint resolution of the 87th Congress,
the Charter of the United Nations, and my own
public warnings to the Soviets on September fourth
and thirteenth. This action also contradicts
the repeated assurances of Soviet spokesmen, both publicly
and privately delivered, that the arms buildup
in Cuba would retain its original defensive
character, and that the Soviet Union had
no need or desire to station strategic
missiles. on the territory of any other nation.
The size of this undertaking makes clear
that it has been planned for some months.

Yet, only last month, after I
had made clear the distinction between any
introduction of ground-to-ground missiles and the existence
of defensive antiaircraft missiles, the Soviet
Government publicly stated on September eleven
that, and I quote, "the armaments and military equipment
sent to Cuba are designed exclusively for defensive
purposes," that there is, and I quote the Soviet Government,
"there is no need for the Soviet Government
to shift its weapons for a retaliatory blow to any
other country, for instance Cuba," and that,
and I quote their government, "the Soviet Union has
so powerful rockets to carry these nuclear warheads
that there is no need to search for sites
for them beyond the boundaries of the Soviet Union."
That statement was false. Only last
Thursday, as evidence of this rapid offensive buildup
was already in my hand, Soviet Foreign Minister
1Gromyko told me in my office that he was instructed
to make it clear once again, as he said his
government had already done, that Soviet assistance
to Cuba, and I quote, "pursued solely the purpose
of contributing to the defense capabilities of Cuba," that,
I quote him, "training by Soviet specialists of Cuban
Nationals in handling defensive armaments was by no
means offensive, and if it were otherwise," Mr. Gromyko
went on, "the Soviet Government would never become
involved in rendering such assistance." That
statement also was false. Neither the United
States of America nor the world community
of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive
threats on the part of any nation, large
or small. We no longer live in a world where only
the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient
challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum
peril. Nuclear weapons are so destructive
and ballistic missiles are so swift, that any substantially
increased possibility of their use or any sudden
change in their deployment may well be regarded
as a definite threat to peace. For many years,
both the Soviet Union and the United States,
recognizing this fact, have deployed strategic nuclear
weapons with great care,never upsetting
the precarious status quo which insured that these
weapons would not be used in the absence of some
vital challenge. Our own strategic missiles
have never been transferred to the territory of any other
nation under a cloak of secrecy and deception; and our history –
unlike that of the Soviets since the end of World
War II -- demonstrates that we have no
desire to dominate or conquer any other
nation or impose our system upon
its people. Nevertheless, American citizens have become
adjusted to living daily on the bull's-eye of Soviet
missiles located inside the U.S.S.R.
or in submarines.  In that sense, missiles in Cuba
add to an already clear and present danger
although it should be noted the nations of Latin
America have never previously been subjected
to a potential nuclear threat. But this secret,
swift, extraordinary buildup of Communist missiles –
in an area well known to have a special and historical
relationship to the United States and the nations of the Western
Hemisphere, in violation of Soviet assurances, and in defiance
of American and hemispheric policy -- this sudden, clandestine

decision to station strategic weapons for the first
time outside of Soviet soil -- is a deliberately
provocative and unjustified change in the status quo
which cannot be accepted by this country,  if our courage and our commitments
are ever to be trusted again by either friend
or foe. The 1930's taught us a clear
lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go
unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war.
This nation is opposed to war. We are also
True to our word. Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be
to prevent the use of these missiles against this
or any other country, and to secure their withdrawal
or elimination from the Western Hemisphere. Our policy has been one
of patience and restraint, as befits a peaceful and powerful
nation which leads a worldwide alliance. We
have been determined not to be diverted from our central
concerns by mere irritants and fanatics.
But now further action is required,
and it is under way; and these actions
may only be the beginning. We will not
prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide
nuclear war in which even the fruits
of victory would be ashes in our mouth; but neither will
we shrink from that risk at any time
it must be faced.

Acting, therefore, in the defense
of our own security and of the entire Western Hemisphere,
and under the authority entrusted to me by the Constitution
as endorsed by the Resolution of the Congress, I have directed
that the following initial steps be taken immediately:

First: To halt this offensive buildup a strict
quarantine on all offensive military equipment
under shipment to Cuba is being initiated.
All ships of any kind bound for Cuba
from whatever nation or port will, if found
to contain cargoes of offensive weapons,
be turned back. This quarantine will
be extended, if needed, to other types of cargo
and carriers. We are not at this time, however, denying
the necessities of life as the Soviets attempted to do
in their Berlin blockade of 1948.

Second: I have directed the continued
and increased close surveillance of Cuba and its military
buildup. The foreign ministers of the OAS,
in their communiqué' of October 6,
rejected secrecy on such matters in this hemisphere.
Should these offensive military preparations
continue, thus increasing the threat to the hemisphere,
further action will be justified. I have
directed the Armed Forces to prepare for any
eventualities; and I trust that in the interest of both
the Cuban people and the Soviet technicians at the sites,
the hazards to all concerned of continuing this threat
will be recognized.

Third: It shall be
the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear
missile launched from Cuba against any
nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet
Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response
upon the Soviet Union.

Fourth: As a necessary
military precaution, I have reinforced our base at Guantanamo,
evacuated today the dependents of our personnel there,
and ordered additional military units to be
on a standby alert basis.

Fifth: We are calling
tonight for an immediate meeting of the Organ of Consultation
under the Organization of American States, to consider this threat
to hemispheric security and to invoke articles six
and eight of the Rio Treaty in support of all
necessary action. The United Nations Charter
allows for regional security arrangements, and the nations
of this hemisphere decided long ago
against the military presence of outside powers.
Our other allies around the world have also
been alerted.

Sixth: Under the Charter of the United
Nations, we are asking tonight that an emergency meeting
of the Security Council be convoked without
delay to take action against this latest
Soviet threat to world peace. Our resolution
will call for the prompt dismantling and withdrawal of all
offensive weapons in Cuba, under the supervision
of U.N. observers, before the quarantine
can be lifted.

Seventh and finally: I call upon Chairman
Khrushchev to halt and eliminate this clandestine,
reckless, and provocative threat to world peace
and to stable relations between our two nations.
I call upon him further to abandon this course
of world domination, and to join in an historic effort
to end the perilous arms race and to transform the history of man.
He has an opportunity now to move the world
back from the abyss of destruction by returning to his government's
own words that it had no need to station
missiles outside its own territory, and withdrawing
these weapons from Cuba by refraining from any action
which will widen or deepen the present crisis, and then
by participating  in a search for peaceful and permanent solutions.

This nation is prepared to present its case
against the Soviet threat to peace, and our own
proposals for a peaceful world, at any time
and in any forum – in the OAS, in the United
Nations, or in any other meeting that could be useful –
without limiting our freedom of action. We have
in the past made strenuous efforts to limit the spread
of nuclear weapons. We have proposed the elimination
of all arms and military bases in a fair
and effective disarmament treaty. We are prepared to discuss
new proposals for the removal of tensions on both sides,
including the possibilities of a genuinely independent Cuba,
free to determine its own destiny. We have
no wish to war with the Soviet Union -- for we
are a peaceful people who desire to live in peace
with all other peoples. But it is difficult
to settle or even discuss these problems in an atmosphere
of intimidation. That is why this latest Soviet
threat -- or any other threat  which is made
either independently or in response to our actions
this week—must and will be met with determination.
Any hostile move anywhere in the world
against the safety and freedom of peoples to whom
we are committed, including in particular the brave people
of West Berlin, will be met by whatever action
is needed.

Finally, I want to say a few
words to the captive people of Cuba, to whom
this speech is being directly carried by special
radio facilities. I speak to you as a friend,
as one who knows of your deep attachment to your fatherland,
as one who shares your aspirations for liberty
and justice for all. And I have watched and the American
people have watched with deep sorrow how
your nationalist revolution was betrayed -- and how your
fatherland fell under foreign domination. Now
your leaders are no longer Cuban leaders inspired
by Cuban ideals. They are puppets and agents
of an international conspiracy which has turned Cuba
against your friends and neighbors in the Americas, and turned
it into the first Latin American country
to become a target for nuclear war -- the first
Latin American country to have these weapons
on its soil. These new weapons are not in your interest.
They contribute nothing to your peace and well-being.
They can only undermine it. But this country has
no wish to cause you to suffer or to impose any system
upon you. We know that your lives and land are being
used as pawns by those who deny your freedom.
Many times in the past, the Cuban people
have risen to throw out tyrants who destroyed their liberty.
And I have no doubt that most Cubans
today look forward to the time when they will be truly
free – free from foreign domination, free
to choose their own leaders, free to select
their own system, free to own their own
land, free to speak and write and worship
without fear or degradation. And then shall Cuba be welcomed
back to the society of free nations and to the associations
of this hemisphere.

My fellow citizens, let no one
doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort
on which we have set out. No one can foresee
precisely what course it will take or what costs
or casualties will be incurred. Many months
of sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead –
months in which both our patience and our will
will be tested, months in which many threats
and denunciations will keep us aware of our dangers. But the greatest
danger of all would be to do nothing.
The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards,
as all paths are; but it is the one most consistent
with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around
the world. The cost of freedom is always high,
but Americans have always paid it. And one path
we shall never choose, and that is the path
of surrender or submission. Our goal is not the victory
of might, but the vindication of right; not peace at the expense
of freedom, but both peace and freedom,
here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around
the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.
Thank you and good night.

*This is a versification of the actual text of the address with, I hope, only minor errors. This is an example of presidential discourse in an era when facts were assumed to exist.