NaPoWriMo April 2022 (Day 11)

Click the graphic to see the prompt, other poetry information, and links to more poems.

Today my Monday NaPo challenge was to “write a poem about a very large thing:” a mountain, whale, skyscraper, planet, or … an airplane.


B-52 BUFF

I was in uniform when I first watched, from a safe distance,
100-yards away from the air base runway, standing out
among the brown shin oak, scrub-brush prairie of west Texas,
by then the second largest US state in size, while
dozens of B-52s took-off separated by mere seconds.

Wider and longer than half a football field,
each lumbering silver giant powered by eight jet engines
seemed to groan as it gradually lifted
its 450-thousand-pound gross payload airborne,
mocking gravity while ostentatious clouds of black smoke billowed,
a roaring thunder shattered my ears as earth trembling
vibrations shook my entire eighteen-year-old body.

My friend scoffed when I said I would. But later,
as a less young crew dog at the heart of the beast,
I flew the Big Ugly Fat Fucker, affectionately BUFF.
The B-52 bomber set at my fingertips unnatural
science-fiction levels of destructive power
unknown in all the wars throughout human history.

The BUFF leaked fluids, stank of puke and piss,
was cramped and uncomfortable, dangerous
even to us, who both loved and hated her. She was old,
ugly, unglamorous, and deadly. However, together
with us, the whole was greater than the sum of parts.

Eventually hundreds became few. Only bones
and a few isolated squadrons remain today,
approaching 60 years hence.
The missions were long, tough, and thankless,
and occasionally as scary as hell itself.
So, why are my memories framed with such palatable pride?


Look both ways and all around for enigmatic things great and small.
Mind the gaps but ignore the flaws.
Anybody can do the easy.
Embrace the suck.

B-52s launching at minimum intervals of 12 seconds. The black smoke is created by water being injected into the engines and stops after a few minutes.

 

Essay: Neither politics nor religion

I had started a different essay for this post when my wife informed me that our 43-year-old daughter asked this question. “How can these people talk so calmly about nuclear war?” Calmly? I needed to get caught up on the news. Who is calm?

As we discussed our distant past, Yolonda said, “You know, when you would go for a week of nuclear alert, I never thought much about it. It was your job. Nuclear war was simply your job.” She’s right. I was the Radar Navigator (bombardier) on a nuclear armed B-52D either at Carswell Air Force Base (AFB), Texas, or later at Andersen AFB, Guam (and at other “satellite” locations).

At that time, we were in the midst of the “Cold War.” If Russia (or any country) launched a nuclear attack against the United States, my crew would be in the air within minutes, turning north to strike pre-determined targets in the Soviet Union. Basically, WWIII.

I told her, “I know exactly what damage nuclear bombs (or missiles) can do.” For eight years, it was my profession. For one week each month, it was my life: 24/7. The concept of nuclear war was real, possible, conceivable, but even then, somehow unthinkable. We did not believe it would happen because we would retaliate in kind. That was called second strike and we had plans for a third. The strategy was called mutually assure destruction (MAD). It was real. It was then.

Through my elementary and high school years (Cuban Missile Crises), through Viet Nam, and on up until my first day of pre-flighting and “cocking” a loaded B-52, the threat of nuclear war was impressed upon me repeatedly. Doomsday was both a reality and a joke.

Today I read that Vlad P. has threatened the world with nukes if anyone interferes with his war on Ukraine. The no love lost between Russia and Ukraine goes way back, but the point is the threat. He could nuke any nation in the world—and certainly in Europe.

I’ve also read that Russia may use nukes against Ukrainian resistance. These people are fighting for their right to exist. The only thing Ukrainians want from Russia is to be left alone and to live in peace. But Russia does not care. Their excuse? The Ukrainians don’t like them. Dah?

While it would be unprecedented for nukes to be used in such a limited conflict/war, Ukraine lacks the wherewithal to assure Russia’s destruction. We, on the other hand, in conjunction with our allies could provide such assurance. I would like them all, especially Vlad P., to believe we would.

On the lighter side, in 1964 (age 18), I sat in a theater on a Strategic Air Command base, and I watched this movie (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb). Little did I know my future would not be so funny, although I confess, I did my best to make it so.


Look both ways and take a side.
Mind the gaps between the wars and push for peace.
Morality is not a spectator sport.

These four clips from he movie are short.

Sammi’s Weekender #217 (requisite)

Click to go to Sammi’s blog.

Tread At Your Own Risk

American men and women at war,
fighters. May I call them warriors?
For their military service
we want to thank them.
Combatants
share experiences
only they understand.
Only they feel it.

Requisites are hated enemies,
courage, weapons, desire for glory, fear,
comrades, pride; and a cause
to die for, one worth killing for.

There’s more.
Much more.
They carry much.

To fear death, or not? To love
and despise simultaneously?
Is war forever part of humanity?
Are we the only creatures
that kill our own for no reason? Just to kill.
To cause death unnecessarily?
Is that combat?


Look both ways for glory and dishonor.
Mind the gaps between mind, heart, and soul.

 

Poetry: Thanks, Mom (MIL, Grandma)

I came across this, so I tweaked it a bit for Mother’s Day. At the time, I didn’t agree with Mom about my decision. But I now realize that she was probably right.


Combatant

It could have been me.
A nod, a blink, or an “okay”
and the next forty-five
years …

(Had I not been killed, maimed,
or driven insane,
as so many young men were.)

… would not have been anything
like the memories I have today,
fifty-seven long years hence,
with contrition, feeling a strange
impersonal loss mired in guilt.

Personal, hidden, illogical
survivor syndrome. I can’t
make sense of it. The feelings
of a warrior, but who wasn’t.

Life choices are often made
thoughtlessly, in a blink.
I could be dead. Change the past?
Not on your life. Or mine.

And Mom would have been
so pissed at me, Jack M.,
and the entire fucking Corps.

Thanks, Mom.


Look both ways at guilt for life:
fortune or folly.
Mind the gaps in the mindless wars with reality.

Poetry: How did it feel? (NaPoWriMo day 23)

This morning, NaPo challenged me to write a poem that responds to another poet’s poem. I chose one titled “Natural History” by Leroy V. Quintana, one of five of his Viet Nam poems featured on PBS. But I could have responded to any, or all, of the five.


How did it feel?
To know you must go to Nam, to maybe die,
or go to jail, or to Canada?
To go there to kill any enemy, VC, NVA, or…?
To be overcome by fear, and to be forced
To kill anything that moved?
You’ve felt such fear I’ve never felt.
Not just some fight or flight twinge,
but big, sweaty, trembling, shit-your-pants fear,
both rational and sometimes crazy,
a fear that never goes away,
fear mixed with phenomenal anger,
when everything slows down, or stops,
where all you see, hear, feel,
smell, or taste wants to kill you, to maim you?
To suck the blood from your body?
And you can only live by killing him first,
or by not fighting, or shooting into the darkness,
or not, for fear of being exposed, or by tossing
grenades, or by friendly artillery fire so near you,
it may kill you? And most of all, how did it feel
to leave your comrades behind, to fly home
to clean clothes, a steak dinner, and
a thankless nation ignoring you,
wishing we’d all just go away? Trying to forget?


Look both ways along the path of a warrior,
that person sacrificed for the good of some system
like Capitalism, Communism, or Catholicism.
Mind the gaps for the fears and tears of real people,
both the living and the dead.

Poetry: Siege by Stone (NaPoWriMo day 22)

The Napo challenge for today was to write a poem that invokes a specific object as a symbol of a particular time, era, or place. The trebuchet, mangonel, or catapult sling was a siege weapon of choice against castles and enemies during the Middle Ages (500 to 1500AD). I like the sound of the word, trebuchet, especially when pronounced in French.

Other rabbit hole excursions while working on this prompt included diaspora literature (poems), mango, metonym, and 7th Century classic poetry compiled by Confucius. But what the Hell? I had all day (sarcasm).


A sling toss of a single stone
When David slew Goliath, made
Profound religious history, in theory.

Rome grew in a millennium,
Then died. Dark times rose
From those civil ashes, a beastly age.

From the hands of naked boys
To the age of sling-shot artillery:
The trebuchet. A French feast of fright.

Stones and bones, living or long dead,
Fodder with missiles from mangonel
Machines to crush citadel and castle walls.

Thunder carriages bring down life
With strikes of slow siege and certain
Pillage, rape, death, and lifelong slavery.

Now ancient artillery, the trebuchet pales
Beside man’s modern tech-machines of death.
Is cold hearted mankind the final stone?


Look both ways to war,
that human endeavor we can’t seem to stop.
Mind the gaps, the sound of peace is often war at rest.

 

Poetry: Sammi’s Weekender #175 (megalith)

 


Megalithic monuments to our past.
Cold stone can’t heal broken hearts,
replace shattered dreams, give life
to memories of the dead.

When will truth
replace our human greed, when
will we ever learn? We see and hear
what we want
with blind eyes and deaf ears.

Why even ask?


Look both ways for life.
Mind gaps in memories, lest we lose what we have.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial with the Washington Monument Washington, D.C.

Poetry: Another Morning


Awakened hours before sunrise,
he must guard, lest they come and kill;
this boy filled with fear and shock,
barely 19, taught to hate and kill,
now loyal to his clan, this new family,
his only friends, his only protection
as war has become his real world.

Miserable, hardened in every way,
unsympathetic, unimaginably deadly,
drawn to flashing light, learning
what he never wanted to know, addicted
to the battle, to the intoxicating fight.

He celebrates life with death, seeks random
revenge where none is possible,
has forgotten questions, never asks why,
lives in his personal accepted hated hell.

Sunrise lifts despair from his soul.
He smiles, alone, at the light of life,
happy to survive one more night.
He looks for answers, for that part of him,
now dead because he kills without a care.
Can he ever again be who he was born to be?


Look both ways to find another view.
Mind the gaps where questions decay away.

 

Sammi’s Weekender #159: Intrepid


Alive in Manhattan

Conceived in infamy, born of the Essex clan months later, that Intrepid warrior,
called the Fighting I, she of the seas; Pacific, Atlantic, one vet of two wars.
I walked your decks, thought about men who died there.
Torpedoed. Kamikazied four times.
Now you survive, tall on the Hudson, alive in Manhattan.


Look both ways, from bow to stern, port to starboard.
Mind the gaps for a time to reload.

Essex Class WWII Aircraft Carrier – USS Intrepid

NaPoWriMo: 30 poems in 30 days (day 12)


Day 12 prompt: write a poem in the form of a triolet, which is fixed and straightforward: the first line is repeated in the fourth and seventh lines; the second line is repeated in the final line; and only the first two end-words are used to complete the tight rhyme scheme.

Thus, the poet writes only five original lines, giving the triolet a deceptively simple appearance: ABaAabAB, where capital letters indicate repeated lines. According to Lewis Turco in his classic, The Book of Forms, every line of a triolet is the same metrical length.


this is your nightmare I keep on dreaming
at my best doing that terrible war
don’t lie to me when I wake you screaming
this is your nightmare I keep on dreaming
the death of love for hate’s dreamy feeling
oh, nothing like this have I seen before
this is your nightmare I keep on dreaming
at my best doing that terrible war


Look both ways in war and dreams.
Mind the gaps for traps and schemes.