During this time in November of 2005 I communed with a Great Horned Owl and a Red-Tailed Hawk each who each resides in Forest Park. One evening I was meant to take to the hawk, as an act of thanks, a chicken wing and place it upon a particular iron waist-high pole on the edge of the ball fields. It was Friday night. My husband kindly came with me to Straub’s the family grocery where I shop. He hung back a bit somewhat embarrassed. On Friday night the place is mobbed. So, I got in line at the butcher’s counter and waited until my turn. There was a long wait. When it was finally my turn I ordered one chicken wing. Everyone else in line hearing my request went nuts: “one chicken wing!” Well no, actually, “just a half of a wing I did not want the drummie.” People were looking at me in utter disbelief, as though I had wasted their collective time with purpose. Once I had the wing I left for the park. The problem there was that there were police everywhere. It looked as though I was putting some garbage on a post. But, I fulfilled the task and had no encounters with local law enforcement. Aside from my request to God, the other thing that initiated my experience was my long conversation with a Vietnam Veteran.
What this experience in its entirety did for me; was to give to me the actual feelings that many war veterans experience during their times in war. You might wonder: “how could that possibly be?” I suspect that I was meant to feel what many soldiers felt during war, because I would later work with them at the VA. For all of my life, veterans were persons to be thought of on Memorial Day and on Veteran’s day, period. I was conceived immediately after WWII. So, my relation to veterans was not unusual. After my experience in which I sensed the emotional torment of those who have seen battle I was radically changed. I studied war. I volunteered at the VA for several years and I gained a healthy respect and love for our country’s veterans. I might add I truly gained a deep respect and love for Vietnam Vets as they are of my generation. I also acquired abhorrence for war. I truly came to understand “love the warrior, hate the war.” Most cannot enter into that cliché and act upon it. It is very tricky and very difficult for it is so political. But my experience lacked all political thought or sense.
The other thing that I did was write about 20 poems about war, veterans, acts of war … really anything that came out of my experience that year. My first poem titled: “A Certain Madness.” It came about during one particular writing class that I taught at the VA. The poem follows.
A Certain Madness
Each one came, soldier, marine, airman, frog, walking quietly as if wrapped within the cocoon of his own world.
War’s sad energy like a gray, heavy mist lay upon the shoulders of each, reality spiking their dull black piercing shadows.
Each man sat at the table abandoned. “Just a word? Coffee please. May we write yet?”
And then he stood. A large and heavy presence, poorly balanced.
He shouted: “Don’t you see them? There, in the corners … there is one in each corner.”
“How dare they come here? I ought-a know. I was with the CIA.”
Then he sat down defeated, again. He seemed to relax until another stream of madness crept out of his throat.
“I will NOT be giving you a sample today! There will be no writing samples. THEY … are here for that reason you know, to collect them.”
And I thought to myself: “Does the madness hide the pain? Or perhaps this pain drives one mad.”
© Liz Rice-Sosne
LIZ RICE-SOSNE a.k.a. Raven Spirit (noh where), perhaps the oldest friend to Bardo, is the newest member of The Bardo Group Core Team. She is also our new Voices for Peace project outreach coordinator and our go-to person for all things related to haiku. She says she “writes for no reason at all. It is simply a pleasure.” Blogging, mostly poetry, has produced numerous friends for whom she has a great appreciation. Liz is an experienced blogger, photographer and a trained shaman. We think her middle name should be “adventure.”