This poem was rendered to meet today’s dVerse challenge offered by Paeansunplugged from Delhi. We are to write about the good and evil in mere mortals, the good in evil and/or the evil in good. For me, at no time is that enigma more profound than in times of war and battle.
One story I’ve never told,
if evil were evil enough,
if good were good enough,
I would simply tap a secret reservoir of courage…
but courage, too, has finite quantities,
yet it offers hope and grace to the repetitive coward.
I can’t fix my mistakes.
Once people are dead, I can’t make them undead…
killing and dying are not my special province.
Am I too good for this war?
Too smart, too compassionate, too everything?
I’m above it. It’s a mistake, maybe.
Look both ways at good and evil or take Hamlet’s advice and think it so.
Mind the gaps between and within our perceptions of what is better and what is truth.
Since the American government still had an active conscription/draft system, I enlisted during my senior year in high school (1964). I eventually went to college after four years in the U.S. Air Force, which would later result in my first of three closely related “career” choices.
In May of ’66, I married Yolonda. More than half of our first two years together were spent as 20/21/22-year-olds living and working in Ankara, Turkey. I was not sent to Viet Nam. Happy Honeymoon.
I started college in September of 1968, as one of what would become known as Vietnam Era Veterans. I registered as a sophomore transfer from the University of Maryland, Overseas Division.
The Viet Nam War was raging and nearing its high-point years. LBJ was about finished. The Tet Offensive had hardened much more of U.S. public opinion against the war. While not ambivalent, I disagreed with both sides of the argument at that time. I was confused, as were many Americans. I had two short term goals: graduate and get a job. Yolonda was the Brazos County Attorney’s Secretary at the time. Every cop in the county knew her.
We lived in “on campus” student housing. Our “home” was a small one bedroom, one bath, unairconditioned apartment in southeast, central Texas. We eventually bought and installed a window a/c unit.
The campus library was my retreat, a place to read, study, and to people-watch. At the time, everyone exiting the building was forced to have their possessions searched to prevent theft.
One evening, Yolonda waited for me at that library while I was part of a psych department research study. I found her waiting in our car. She asked me if I would know if my penis was exposed out of my pants. She had been cock-flashed by a student employee. The perv got busted, and we’ve been sharing the experience for fifty-plus years. They are everywhere.
I’m writing this while sitting comfortably, sipping coffee, and eating a pastry from my public library’s coffee bar. These days book checkout is on the honor system, and nobody is searched.
I still like libraries. I am not a prodigious reader, although I read every day. Libraries are strangely comforting to me even though everyone has access to the facility, library card or not. Libraries are what they are and do what they do. The same is true of people.
My first library from childhood was in an old, mid-19th century, church building and still is. I also like old church architecture. Maybe there is a reason for my library/church juxtaposition of interest. I recall no pervs in the stacks from back then, but if those books could talk… (wait, we have talking books nowadays.)
It seems like it began for this boomer with the assassination of JFK. My first ten years after high school, the sixties, and early seventies, were a coming-of-age time for me and a tumultuous period in American History.
More than fifty years later, I still like to sit in libraries and write, read, search for books, people watch, and sip coffee. I may ponder what others say or claim. I think about how differently we all see the world and each other.
But at this point in my life, I really don’t give a shite what anyone thinks of me, except for Yolonda and our three middle-aged kids; less so, a few teeny-bopper or early 20s grandkids.
So far, I think I pass muster. Sort of.
Look both ways for what is right. Arguing does little good.
Mind the gaps lest they become crevasses of civil division.
Find your tribe and take a side. Keep trying to understand.
Support public libraries, not book bans or burns.
Mistress Rochelle gave us a double dose of reality today as she announced her recovery from the dreaded COVID CRUD with one of her photos. Nothing can keep her down for long. But the lovely flowers and get-well balloon should inspire us to find the words to tell our own story.
Click on Rochelle’s bouquet for a lift to her page to scope out the rules and regs of the game.
Genre: Military Fiction
Title: Friendly Enemies
Word Count: 100
Timo and I were life-long enemies. We always argued and fought. Didn’t know why.
Fatefully, after graduation we ended up in the same platoon. One night on recon walking about ten feet behind the point man, Timo shoved me and whispered, “You’re too close. Spread out!”
Just as I put distance between us, the point man tripped a mine. I remember the flash and loud blast.
I awoke in the hospital to a bouquet of flowers: yellow carnations, white snapdragons, buttercups, purple and violet petunias, and orange lilies.
The card read, “Keep friends close, enemies closer. Get well soon. Timo.”
Look both ways for friends and enemies, discernment is key.
Mind the gaps, it may not be what you think.
What would you send your enemy? To know why I used those flowers, click here.
I’ve decided to kick the Monday Rune a week down the road because today is Memorial Day in the USA.
My mother still called it Decoration Day even long after 1971, when Memorial Day was declared a national holiday. If you want some good information and background on the day, click HERE.
On this and every Memorial Day, I hope Americans remember what it’s factually all about. It is a day of memorial, a day to honor and remember people who died in service to the country.
Saying happy Memorial Day is inappropriate, but curbing that gets more difficult every year as more people lose sight of the purpose, which I consider unfortunate, if not sad. While it may never be incorrect to thank a veteran for their service, this day is about the dead, not the living. Veterans Day in on November 11th each year and it is totally correct to say happy Veterans Day, which is also a national holiday.
There are entire vet organizations set up for exactly this purpose: to get it right on Memorial Day. While there is a lot of hoopla, sales, and military prominence on this day, the purpose is still to memorialize the dead. I hope we don’t forget that.
Hurry up! and then wait
might be a cliché to some.
Army’s GI Joes claim it
as their own,
but we’ve all been rushed
and rushed, hurried along,
forced into quick-step like
anthropomorphic white rabbits
through Alice’s wonderland story
(not Arlo’s restaurant one)
and Grace’s slick psyche-song.
Rushed to somewhere
only there to wait,
and wait some more,
and then wait longer.
(‘twas no rarity, either.)
On top of that,
just like the mad hat,
they’d (we) add five minutes,
and then five more,
(if not ten) minutes early.
A military obsession
greater than want of
or crazy-ass war.
Embrace the suck
if it makes it
better how ya feel,
about it all,
was not late,
but had to wait.
We’ll all be early
for our own
(not Tulsa) time,
when late is just fine.
Look both ways if you’ve had “some kind of mushroom.”
Mind the gaps and “remember what the dormouse said, feed your head.”
Today’s prompt was to write a concrete poem. I wanted to do all 30 prompts.
What I did instead was intended to be a black out poem in lieu of the prompt, I’ve done concretes before. Not today.
I decided that rather than black out unused text to create the poem, I would extract the lines from the first few paragraphs of a longer story. If I had more time, I might have attempted some art to overlay the blacked-out area.
If I included the entire narrative, it would have been too long with entire paragraphs blacked out. So, I extracted the parts/words/sections that made up the poem.
one story I’ve never told,
it would only cause embarrassment,
makes me squirm,
I’ve had to live with it, feeling the shame,
it’s a hard story to tell.
if evil were evil enough, if good were good enough
I would simply tap a secret reservoir of courage…
Courage, comes in finite quantities,
it offered hope and grace to the repetitive coward.
I was drafted to fight a war I hated.
(You can’t fix your mistakes. Once people are dead, you can’t make them undead.)
…I assumed that the problems of killing and dying did not fall within my special province…
The draft notice arrived on June 17, 1968.
I was too good for this war.
Too smart, too compassionate, too everything.
I was above it. A mistake, maybe…I was no soldier.
Look both ways for reasons why and why not.
Mind the gaps. That’s where the booby traps hide.
Today’s NaPoWriMo.net four-part prompt was borrowed from poet Betsy Sholl. This assignment tasked me to write a poem within which I recall,
someone I was close to, but I am no longer,
a job I no longer do, and
art that I saw once and that stuck with me.
I was to close the poem with an unanswerable question.
Side by side in many ways
our lives were intwined by profession,
friendship, and meaning. Only now,
looking back do I see that when
you went right, I vectored left,
fast friends now virtual strangers.
Maybe I no longer do those things,
I don’t walk or talk the same,
my goals and purposes are past,
yet my butt is a branded identity.
From that long ago past, my dreams
are still me then, me when I was
part of a thing bigger than myself.
I saw the cowboy of a distant genre
who rode one horse of divergent
color, who ranged and wrangled west.
I’m unlike him; no horse or saddle
sits beneath me. I’m just a deliberate, defiant,
dying breed with a protective attitude.
He sits, and stares. I wonder where.
Why the tie? Is the past part of me?
Am I still part of the past?
How do those people and things
have me in what they are today?
Does any of it matter?
Look both ways, but juxtapose the past with the present,
especially if both are greater than the future.
Mind the gaps because memory is notoriously unreliable.
To balance my blogosphere life, I shall henceforth post my unprompted poems (or prose), called runes, on Mondays (formerly Thursday) so I can plan to post about every other day.
I claim King’s X for April because I hope to be working my way through 30 poems in 30 days with National (Global) Poetry Writing Month (napowrimo.net). I try to write to the daily prompts/assignments (it’s optional, I’m not that masochistic).
Thus, I shall post every day in April. When possible, I will combine or do a second post on Friday Fictioneers and Sammi’s Weekender. I will also try to read and comment on those challenges when I can.
Why Can’t We Be Friends?
What is the difference between
genocide, slavery, life,
It’s war. Granted. War is bad.
It’s literally hell on Earth.
Innocents and soldiers are killed.
War’s destruction is
without logic or proportion.
But pacifism is worse.
Evil cannot be appeased.
War is the symptom.
Humanity is the cause.
Hate is the disease.
Choose well but take a side.
Peace is a dream guarded
by nightmares. History proves
we always get the war we want.
There may be no winners in war,
but there are losers. I’d rather not.
Look both ways in the real world.
We must always fight for what is right.
Mind the gaps for seeds of hate and find the first casualty of war: truth.
My Dog was a big, ugly, fat fucker (BUFF),
boasting an un-pavonine but prominent
painted a horrid unreflective tar-black; likewise,
his underside, from empennage guns to radome nose.
Chemical odors inside mixed with piss and puke
fouled the air; noise enough to deafen,
disaster and destruction filled his big ebony belly.
On command, my camouflaged killer would ‘Cry Havoc;’
wreaking horrible death and terror onto the earth below.
Now, we haunt display grounds at air museums across the country.
Look both ways.
What you don’t see can kill.
Mind the gaps and don’t be a target.
Note: Allusion is to “Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war,” spoken by Mark Antony in Act 3, Scene 1, line 273 of Shakespeare’s history play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.