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 16)

 


Day 16 prompt: write a poem of over-the-top compliments. I added my apology.


To all the men and women, to the heroes and heroines
in worlds of history, art, literature, lifestyle, and character;
in science, medicine, and defense, like beacons of hope for humanity
you have been, each individually, a bright star in my sky.
By your exquisite example of perfection personified,
with wit, wisdom, and humor, you were my compass.

I was blinded by your brilliance, deaf to your depth,
ignorant of your veracity. Forgive my foolish denial of
truth by seeing you only as god or goddess, only as
a sunny day with never a shadowed soul, never a flaw,
never as another frail human being. When I placed
you upon pedestals and you proved me wrong,
we both cried.


Look both ways with discernment toward others.
Mind the gaps in every life as perfection is not what we think it is.

NaPoWriMo: 30 poems in 30 days (day 8)

Day 8 prompt: Use a portion of a poem from a twitter bot as seed (inspiration) to write a poem.


Confession: I dislike the words twitter, tweet, and bot. It’s getting late. I need a poem. I’ve read nearly all of Anne Carson’s “The Glass Essay” searching. I considered her “Where does unbelief begin?” and discovered her phrase, “That was the night that centered Heaven and Hell,” which I may use later. I pondered Richard Siken’s words, “Let’s admit, without apology, what we do to each other” and “This has nothing to do with faith but is still a good question.” I did the perusal work of reviewing several twitter bots. Nothing worked.

Then, as I was re-reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (1990), I found it. I try to do “optional” prompts. I hope I semi-followed the elective prompt with a twist.

My poem is based on a scene from O’Brien’s book, specifically from the chapter, “On the Rainy River.” Tim writes of sitting in a small boat 20 yards from Canada while facing his inner dilemma of doing what he thinks is morally right and what his family and most people (at the time) thought he should do: to accept his draft notice and fight in the Viet Nam War.


The Embarrassment of Tears

It was a moral freeze,
part hallucination, he supposed,
as paralysis took his heart,
a tightness he wants me to feel.

He could swim but he saw them,
a blind poet scribbling notes, people,
his past and his future, and mine.

His conscience lost the battle in a war
it could not win. He would do it.

He would go to the war –
he would kill, and maybe die
because he was embarrassed
not to. That was the thing.

And so, he sat in the boat,
and he cried, but he did not die.
Not a happy ending, his war,
his book, our war. He went to the war.

He was a coward, he claims,
because he stuffed it for them,
for their love, which he carried then,
and carries today. I disagree.

He asks me, and you,
would you cry? The scene jerks
my tears, not for Tim, or the war,
but for me. I was not in his boat.


Sit in your boat and look both ways, to Canada or to home.
Mind the gaps, there may a book or a poem in them.

Poetry: Deep Cuts


I’ve noticed within you
dormant dark ironic
meanness which,
aroused by stress,
fueled with fear,
ushers in you a strife
emblazoned with virulent rancor,
etched with vitriol and venomous
words more harmful than
some source
of your frantic painful sputum.

You strike
like a cornered dog
or captured snake seeking vengeance
without sense of reason, cause, or goal,

neither coherent illumination nor purpose
tempers or dulls your slashing fangs.

Let lost conscience be not your guide,
nor grief and guilt become your
warrant.

Count to ten. Then count again.
Nothing can be unsaid,
unheard, or unfelt.


Look both ways when emotions rise.
Seek the mindful gaps of calmness and search for love.

Poetry: Back in the Day


House lights were off, back in the day.
A tinted eerie black and white glare,
as the boob-tube illuminated
white nicotine-laced clouds,
cigarette smoke from lit ends of
Camels or Pall Malls, unfiltered butts crowded
many ashtrays, back in the day.

Like ghosts sucked into dying lungs
of people I loved,
alive, back in the day.

The smelly, wispy, floating clouds
rolled and twisted or waved
as we passed through,
back in the day.

Forbidden addictions, I then, not yet
old enough to kill myself,
back in the day.

Second hand was for used,
not smoke.
Sickening smokers,
plus all who breathed in,
nicotine laced habits, back in the day.

Born into our rite of passage.
Now sick and dying, smoking goes on.

Never allow science to invade
personal stupidity.
We’ve always done it this way.
Back in the day.


Look both ways but stay away from back in the day.
Discover progress through science but mind the gaps to fill as we learn.

Poetry: Survival

What was the most tired you been?
Slept standing or fallen down tired?
Been so dizzy? I hallucinated.
At POW camp they
would not let us sleep.
Peed in a #10 coffee can,
locked in cell, both overflowed.

To learn how to survive capture,
being treated beyond awful, we endure
such misery; to live it, feel it, survive it.
I thought I would not. Might never try.
How did they survive not knowing;
forsaken and forgotten?
Many decided to die. Too awful
to live. Most decided otherwise.

Sometimes, dancing in the rain,
or walking through the fire
are both hard-learned lessons.

Look both ways for light at both ends of the tunnel.
Mind the gaps in the dark until you can see.
Find life. Love freedom.

Prose Poem: Sammi’s Weekender – Devour


Need of Greed

This economy lies with deceptive pleasure – destruction, pending one hell of a bill to pay. We suck and devour the heritage of descendant’s gifts, their demise through our greed. When the well runs dry, the piper calls for payment, recovery of burnt offerings to self without gods who care for a prayer. Easy plunder blinds our need for air, water, food, and fire. Misery awaits death and disaster, sending ignored warnings past personal pleasure.

It’s not yet too late to reverse unwanted ends with the wisdom of science, we can turn the page. What higher cause to save humanity, perhaps the planet, our tiny corner of the universe?


Look both ways to past mistakes, future consequences,
bookends for today’s wisdom.
Mind the gaps in human psyche for sources of timely recovery.

Poetry Report: November Poems + Ann’s

I’ve written that the best thing about August is September. Not this year. September brought several personally stressful events into my normally complacent private world. October was a month for healing and action. Gradually, recovery unfolded as those things apparently changed to my favor thanks to the efforts of a few loving people.

I did not win the lottery, but I began to relax. November was the best of the three months—not exactly perfect, but the worries from two months earlier seemed controlled. I’ll take it.

Thanksgiving Day is the traditional time our immediate family gathers. It is our time. Indeed, we had a house full, but I put in my notice for next year. We’re too old for that shit. It was fun and we are all grateful for how things have turned out so far. But there are people out there trying to make a living fixin’ turkey, giblet gravy, cranberry whatever, and all that stuff. I should help.

This poem was written about me writing a poem each day by a friend from my writers’ group. After Ann, who I like to call Barbara Ann (not her real name – long story: Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann and the Beach Boys), read it during one of our poetry sessions. I requested, and she gave me, permission to post it here.

One Poem A Day?
By Ann Bordelon

“A poem a day?” That’s quite a task!
I say that’s wa-a-a-a-ay too much to ask.
One a week might be realistic,
But one a day is too optimistic.
They don’t have to rhyme, you say,
But still, one every single day?
There aren’t that many words in my brain,
I’ll run out in a month, what a strain.
Please tell me that this is a sort of a joke
And the reality is that you misspoke.
Instead of “one poem a day” you meant,
“One poem a week is what we should invent.”

Thanks, Ann. Wonderful poem. I’m honored.

I don’t know if I could cut back to less than one poem a day, much less to one a week. On this coming New Year’s Eve, I will complete my mission of composing at least one poem each day during 2019. After that, who knows?

The titles/topics of the daily poems I wrote during November were:

  1. Dying Dignity
  2. Ineffable
  3. First Reading
  4. Finding Treasure
  5. Poets are Dying
  6. Editing
  7. Don’t Bite Me
  8. Natural Brutality
  9. Liminal
  10. Some Cussing Required
  11. Precious and Rare Days
  12. To PC or not to PC, a Question
  13. Thoughts
  14. Imagined Solutions
  15. Muse Berries
  16. Draconian
  17. Up Your Rolex
  18. My Colorado Morning
  19. Extraordinary Knowing
  20. Lie to Me
  21. Dear Deer
  22. The Gap is Gray
  23. I Hear You Died
  24. The Final Week
  25. My Twilight Swim
  26. Ignorance is not Bliss
  27. Expectations
  28. Cowboys 2.0
  29. Body Gremlins
  30. Morphology

As we enter the last month of the year, I look both ways—to future months
as I wonder what’s next with a curious fantasy about the advent
of a new time and age. I think about past months
with more satisfaction than I’m entitled.
I shall mind the gaps in my life, one day at a time.

Poetry: Sammi’s Weekend Prompt: Draconian

***

My heart sank into deep depression when I saw
sitting in front of me, blocking my way,
between self, freedom, and happiness,

Draco, the symbol of inequity, of unfair
rule, of the man, of draconian reality,
life dulls when the dragon appears.

He has all the power. I have none.
Draco must be who and what Draco is,
a cancer, a deadly error of nature.

The dragon does no harm, it looks
without emotion or caring, without malice,
Draco kills from silent idleness.

Nature serves an onerous messenger—
truth, there is no life without death.
The dragon cares nothing about how I feel.

***

Look both ways and mind the gaps, but
if you see the dragon nothing else matters.