Memorial Day Post: Red Poppies

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance to honor those who died in battles of all past wars in service to America. A Memorial Day (or Decoration Day) tradition is the buying and wearing of a red poppy.

The VFW organization has had the Buddy Poppy as its official flower for almost 100 years. Profits from artificial poppy sales have helped countless veterans and their widows, widowers, and orphans over the years. The poppy itself survives as a perpetual tribute to those who gave their lives for America’s freedom. That tradition is based on a poem.

This poem was written by Colonel John McCrae, a surgeon with Canada’s First Brigade Artillery. It expresses McCrae’s grief over the “row on row” of graves of soldiers who had died on Flanders’ battlefields in western Belgium and northern France, with a striking image of the bright red flowers blooming among the rows of white crosses.

The poem, “In Flanders Fields,” was reportedly first printed in the British magazine, Punch, in December 1915.


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly.
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by Colonel John McCrae


Look both ways for the reason why, in war some must die.
Mind the gaps and wonder,
“And how many deaths will it take ’til he knows
That too many people have died?”
(“Blowin’ In the Wind” by Bob Dylan)

Poetry: Natural Brutality

Being one with nature,
the coexistence of life on Earth
is such a wonderful concept.

What is more part
of every life than death?

Has anyone told the fire ants,
much less gained the cooperation
of such touchy predators?

Will they forgive my use
of deadly chemicals to remove
a hideous colony
setting up housekeeping
on my back porch?

Will the bite of the rattlesnake
be part of Nature’s
delightful beauty?

I love Nature, but
I know something about it.

It’s unforgiving, painful,
deadly, and indiscriminate.

Natural selection
is Nature’s evolutionary tool
and the reason
ninety-nine percent
of all life types are extinct.


Look both ways,
mind the gaps in everything,
especially where place your body parts,
lest Nature object in some naturally painful way.

NaPoWriMo: 30 poems in 30 days (day 30)

Day 30 prompt: write a poem about something that returns.


No Returns

Metamorphosis allows change.
That second is gone, now that one,
unidirectional time is master
to the second law of thermodynamics.

We see light from stars
dead millions or billions of years,
no star, but what it made, its art
lives on and returns not to its source.

I can return to loves and thoughts.
I find old places there,
remembering, like ifs,
whens and thens.
We can never go back
to the time when entropy began.

Desire to control order creates want
as new appears, nothing comes back.
As replacements appear, they seem
to be returns from when. Chaotic decline
becomes change by hopeful judgment.

A baby cries as a mother sighs
while an old man dies, a widow
wonders why a universe goes by
forever without order or reason.


Look both ways with logic and reason.
The universe makes the rules.
Mind the gaps of chaos to separate truth from wishes hoped for.

NaPoWriMo: 30 poems in 30 days (day 27)

Day 27 prompt: write a poem in the form of a review of something that isn’t normally reviewed. I reviewed my creativity muse.


The Myth of the Muse

Ideas come.
Mousa, child of Zeus,
sky fairy serving maybes
on Ouija boards of art.

Writing, creative inspiration,
poetry. It’s all work.
“Shoveling shit from
a sitting (or standing) position.”

My muse is not out there,
she’s in here (head, heart, soul,
big toe). This is not
Big Magic. It’s work. A job.

Try. Fail. Repeat. Erasing
is creative writing, drawing,
or painting (crafting). We’re all phonies,
and none of us are. Fear makes waits.

New ideas are borrowed reality.
Read, think, write, and a magic muse
will find life. Punch production clocks,
then make words, pictures, pieces.

I must self-muse: love it or leave it.
Buy the damn lottery ticket.
Go for the interview. Sign up.
“God helps those….” Who makes them?


Look both ways for inspiration
but look within for courage to work.
Mind the gaps for your impostor’s syndrome.

***

Note: quotes are Stephen King (shoveling…), and Dad (God helps…).
Elizabeth Gilbert wrote Big Magic.

NaPoWriMo: 30 poems in 30 days (day 26)

Day 26 prompt: write a poem using responses to an Almanac Questionnaire of 23 questions as the basis. My 23 responses follow the poem. Additionally, I used the 80s song, Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears, for inspiration. A video of the younger Fears for Tears group also follows the poem. I selected this version for the sights as much as the sounds. There are several other good videos, including a late cover by LORDE, which is very (scary) different.


Welcome to my life
What’s done is done forever
Even my dreams are unreal reality
Rain, colors, pennies, and cats
Distant mountains, local culture, answers
With no questions, lovers and indecisions.
Do I want to rule the world?

Dragon music in the distance
Mixed with drums of tribal nuisance
But the path to take, I cannot decide,
Is beauty in the freedom of my pleasure?
I fear the pain that lasts forever.
Do you want to rule the world?

Is there life atop the steeple?
As walls and halls crumble, AC to DC?
Can I answer her questionnaire?
Welcome to mi vida loca, a happy
blessed by sad. Does anybody
Want to rule the world?

Married to my convolutions, may
Her memory Bern my conscience,
The alley of answers to many questions.
Can responsibility, freedom,
Or love rule the world?

The headline news is like this:
A virus. We’re all basically screwed.
But nothing is good or bad, and
Nothing lasts forever. Of this
I am certain: I do not want
To rule the world.


Look both ways to answer questions.
Mind the gaps.
One poem, twenty-three answers.

Almanac Questionnaire

Weather: I prefer rain to hot and dry.
Flora: Color variation is good. Green is a favorite.
Architecture: I like old church architecture, both inside and out.
Customs: I’ve never liked shaking hands, I don’t love everyone, and I hug only favorite people.
Mammals/reptiles/fish: I like dogs. I prefer cats. Both are pets. I respect nature, but it’s not safe.
Childhood dream: Hard to say, but I always thought something was not right. Unlimited candy?
Found on the Street: Pennies for luck, treasures no one wants but me.
Export: Wendell Berry prefers local economy. I understand why.
Graffiti: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Lover: Everyone should have at least one.
Conspiracy: There are some, but everything is not.
Dress: no ties, comfort before culture, some sweatpants are nicer than others.
Hometown memory: The distant Poconos.
Notable person: Mom.
Outside your window, you find: Texas
Today’s news headline: The NY Governor is an interesting person. The TX Lt Gov is not.
Scrap from a letter: I wish I still had the letter my father wrote to me.
Animal from a myth: Dragons
Story read to children at night: Once upon a time they lived happily ever after and other lies.
You walk three minutes down an alley and you find: the answer to the question.
You walk to the border and hear: music.
What you fear: mean and stupid in the same person.
Picture on your city’s postcard: Coal miners, cactus, and rivers.


NaPoWriMo: 30 poems in 30 days (day 22)

Day 22 prompt: write a poem inspired by an idiomatic phrase from a different language or culture.


How about both? I selected avoir l’esprit d’escalier (or avoir l’esprit de l’escalier), a French phrase that means to have the wit of the staircase. In English, we say escalator wit or afterwit. It refers to not making a repartee or a quick, witty reply, or clever comeback. The French admire and train for avoir de la répartie (the witty comeback) as part of their national sport: arguing and debating (so said dame de l’enseignement du français, Camille Chevalier-Karfis).

This idiom refers to thinking of your comeback after leaving and reaching the bottom of the stairs. The philosopher Diderot wrote about it around 1775, so it’s not a new thing.

Credit: Jim introduced me to this phrase a several months ago. Thanks hombre.


Right Back

I enjoy arguing. I even took argumentation
in college and I still twiddle with logic. But, I no
longer can find that safe place or person to engage
in a bit of désaccord amical. Is it me?

Am I sensitive to condescension or the ad hominem
manner I dismissed in my youth? Have I lost my edge?
Do I fear my own cuts to the core? I wish no harm.
In the past, I assumed my words were salt seasoned.

Am I more concerned with keeping the peace and less
with truth or finding fact? Can I call it at all, much less
like it is? Can we drink and swear, and point or turn
the voices up, yet go home friends who share more?

Is it my own l’esprit de l’escalier which forces me toward
and another thing … an hour later? Do you mean more to me
now than back then? Am I protecting you from me, me from you,
or is it some witness to the kerfuffle of wisdom and wit?

Or perhaps my heart and soul, my being me has fallen
into an age of mellow. Maybe I am diluted by political
and religious sensitivity, and by correctness of a culture
that wraps truth in euphemisms. Me? No way, José.


Look both ways in the world for cultural differences and similarities.
Mind the gaps, but know we are all connected.