Time Travel, Letters, and a Poem

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This week I found three brown plastic file boxes. Inside my garage, and unopened for years. A literal treasure chest of stuff. Much of which I had forgotten about, or thought I had lost.

I found my press pass from when Ronald Reagan came to town, Kodachrome slides, my discharge certificates from the Army and the Navy, and letters. A huge pile of letters I had written to my Grandfather at P. O. Box 261, Sturgeon Missouri. I am actually thinking about writing and seeing who answers.

The letters were unbelievable. Evidently while stationed at Ft. Riley, and living in Manhattan, Ks., I was dating a “cute girl,” named Debbie who was under five foot tall, and we went to a Buddy Rich concert.

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I went to a Buddy Rich concert?

I don’t remember her or the concert. I do remember watching Buddy Rich play the drums on the Johnny Carson show. The letters cover all three years from my first days in basic training at Ft. Dix, to medical training at Ft. Sam, to my permanent duty station at Ft. Riley, Kansas. There are even some letters from Germany when I went there for training. There were also some letters to my uncle Bruce who lived with them. As you can see they were written on the stationary they used to sell at the PX.

In honor of my Grandfather, and all of my family members that have passed – especially my father. I offer it as a tribute to those “working class” people who lived decent lives and worked harder than they should have, for less than they should have made. A tribute to the struggle of the working person. I offer up this poem written in August of 2013 and published by The Poet’s Haven in December of that year along with another poem called Flight.

All My Relatives

I see them
in the small
secluded places
outside of office buildings
alone or
in small groups
smoking
listening to music
on their phone
or even reading a book
taking a break
whatever it takes
to escape
from their waged
slave labor
where they must
comply
with a smile
and a thank you
to the humiliation
of being
captured
and incarcerated
in a system
where they are used
and then discarded
at will
when they are
bent and broken
but before that
they stand
they stand on
the small corner
of the tiny
nation state
of their existence
where they can
enjoy
the diluted freedom
allotted to them
I see them
in the still small
secluded places
outside of office buildings
all my relatives
living on the reservations
of capitalism

It is sad that nobody writes letters anymore. Or reads poetry. When my two youngest girls went to camp I wrote them, but they never wrote back except to ask for money.

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A poem, perhaps a dirge, for our times.

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The Children of Hegel

Whoa...

I need to catch my breath
as I look out the window of an ancient childhood
take inventory of the moment ponder the question:
what is this world we have become?
as we wound our way through
the serpentine flow of history
which started as a clear stream, with direction
only to slow to a trickle
then halt in a moribund morass of sludge
which has ground we the people to a halt, and history no longer flows free
but threatens to backup like a sewer
and we the children of Hegel are stranded stuck
stuck
in an eternal synthesis
in a fused bipolar cycle which is the
worst of both worlds
no thesis, and no antithesis
Marx, Hegel, and Fukuyama never saw it coming
the sucker punch of technology - Heidegger’s enfolding
and we have become the slave of it
what we failed to envision
is the possibility that good might fail
and that in the end, before the end of times
that evil would prevail
fed fat on the cancer of malignant capitalism
we descend anew into the Dark Ages
the questions remains...

Will we emerge or destroy the very foundation 
of the earth we stand upon?

Two issues. Heidegger warned that technology might not be what it seems.  He sensed something sinister in it, and wrote about it in The Question Concerning Technology. He called it an enfolding. I hope to have a lot to say about that later in future posts.

The second issue.  A nation of vision, strength, and no little amount of moral integrity has become a debauchery of greed and indulgence, and we are ruled by a plutocracy.  Reagan’s light on a hill (say what you want at least he was no cynic and believed the rhetoric) is now a dim, and flickering, flame.  We are fading, and the grand experiment in democracy is in peril.  Oh, I know, we were never perfect.  Far from it.  But we thought we could be. We had that audacity.  God bless us for that.  We believed we could become something good, and better all humankind.

I must say a word about capitalism.  Note I used the term malignant capitalism which I want to define rather narrowly.  The one lesson America has not learned is moderation. Everything is supersized, everything is breaking news, everything is over the top.   Capitalism in and of itself is not malignant.  But, when it becomes the focus, and when the business of America is business (or making money – there is a difference and that is our present state) something bad happens. Unchecked, and monitored it becomes grotesque, and the traits of it that were virtuous become a vice. Just like the hunting rifle of old has turned into a weapon, and dangerous parody of what it once was.

 

 

Time

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Funny thing about time isn’t it?  We enter time  from eternity and then return to the infinite when we are done here.  In time are all born, and we all die.  Also, here in Missouri the Indian people lived before the time when white men came and drove them out.  I knew I was Native American on one side of my family, but was surprised to find out, from a surprisingly detail genealogy, that I was native American on both sides. I am 1/16th to the tribes reckoning, and they think I  had a great grandmother who was “full blood” but they couldn’t prove that at the time. 

These poems are from the time in my life where I was searching the nooks and crannies of my Native American relations. Time for some poetry with a little Indian flair!

My Death Song

as I face death
I ask You 
the Great Mystery
grant me the kindness
of no fear
that the final moments
are not seized by terror
but grace and good will
with someone to hold my hand
that is not paid 
to be there
and that my relations 
come quickly 
to greet me as I
step out into
the next journey 

Going to Water

(based on the practices of Cherokee Medicine Man Rolling Thunder)

my favorite way
to go to water
is when it is raining lightly
just above a drizzle
then the water is more powerful
the medicine quicker
as the current foams white
upon the higher rocks
in the small creeks and streams
that are common here in Missouri
you wade shoeless into the water
and face downstream
then will pray to the Great Mystery
that the water will carry away
the debris 
I like to raise my hands as I begin
but that is optional
just watch the ripples and currents
carry your burdens away 
leeching the salt 
from you wounds
you will feel
the water pulling away
what you don't need

A Picture & Two Poems

UntitledPoetry, at least in large part, is about the sound.  Years ago I started a poem that consisted of words that just felt good when you said them.  They are also words which are a bit dusty from lack of use.  That is the first poem.

The second poem is about the semi innocence of youth.  Awkward moments learning the dance of love, feeling your way through, and around, relationships.  I am still kinda working on that.

As, is so often the case with this blog, the photo has little to do with the content. Or does it?

 

 


Words That Feel Good to Say That You Do Not Get to Say Often Enough

Thingamajig
Fandango
Scintillating
Imbroglio
Magnanimous
Thingamabob
Gizmo
Gargantuan
Geranium
Whirligig
Lollygagging
(this is a work in progress)

Sixteen

In the yellow incandescent light
of your back porch
we were semi innocent

Memory Lane

windowMemories are windows to the past but sometimes the view is out of focus, and you are not sure what you are looking at.

Here are two poems from adolescence.  A sometimes painful, but ALWAYS interesting time.


 A History Lesson

my grandfather
always had a storage building someplace
which he filled
with all kind of miscellanea
always on the main street
in deserted, dying, downtowns
where the rent was cheap
in little towns that refused to die
but would not grow either
just shrivel down

the last was in Sturgeon, Missouri
in a building that had housed
a funeral home
that had left
some of the equipment behind
including a tilting narrow stainless steel table with gutters and drains
as well as other macabre
before that
the storage building was in Clark, Missouri

General Omar Bradley
was born just outside of Clark
a small town
of about 300 people
we drove there one day to visit
that storage building and
retrieve something or other
he had squirreled away there

as we drove into town
we passed a bum
who probably looked older than he was
because of that weathered look
drunks and homeless get
dressed in white dungarees and ragged white t-shirt
walking alongside the road
my grandfather waved at him
from the front seat
of his dark Olds Delta 88

“Fuck you.”
was all the guy said
my grandfather laughed
one of those soft big bellied Buddha laughs of his
He said: “That guy used to be the best house painter in the state.”
I asked:
“What happened?”
he answered:
“He became a drunk.”
as if that said it all

which it did

I think about that day
a surreal scene
which I replay in my mind
the thing I remember most is the laugh
a Zen koan chuckled rather than a spoken Jesus parable

Grandfather’s laugh was
an acknowledgment, a resignation,
with a dash of rancor directed toward something inside himself as well
with which he wrestled
but would not name out loud

The Little White House

there was anger there
in that little white house
and the scent of the household
was unfamiliar to me then
such that it took
many years to realize
who was responsible
what went wrong
when it started
how the clammy hand
of helplessness
held everyone down
such that some resigned
others raged
or went AWOL
and then you fought free
like a wild animal
that chews their own leg off
mad to escape the trap
there was anger there
in that little white house
but the odor was of fear

The Last Poem

Among other things I will be previewing poems from my new chapbook  After the Flood. As the good book says “So the last shall be first, and the first last….”  So it is here.

The Last Poem

who will write
the last poem?

will anyone read it?

perhaps it will just remain
behind
abandoned as
an unread artifact
that will never be
recited
or, for that matter, rejected
by editors – a defacto still birth

for this last poem we should hope
it has the élan
to be composed
in pica or elite
typewritten
with mechanical keys
rhythmically striking
a staccato tatoo
a bell sounding
at the end of the line

or better yet
written with a freshly sharpened
yellow wooden pencil
with that schoolroom smell
scribbled on real paper peppered with shavings