Honeymoon’s Over

Spring’s promise of high summer

has passed, the lush greens gone,

and now less vibrant. Parched.

Stale somehow. Disappointing.

The promise so much sweeter

than reality; the heady warmth;

sun filled days and mirage haze

the balmy heat, hot naked nights.

We should enjoy this time, by rights

but if it brings us closer to the fall;

the Autumn of our life, if that is all

then can we not enjoy the cooling

promised winter chill, another world,

its yielding to the blacks and whites

mysterious greys, the icy haze,

the freezing hibernation, preserving.

But no. An early Spring, that comes

too soon, and sooner still the melting

Arctic ice. One day, there’ll be no more

dreaming of a summer honeymoon.

© 2017 John Anstie, All rights reserved.

Refugee blues | W. H. Auden


Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there’s no place for us, my dear, yet there’s no place for us.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
Every spring it blossoms anew:
Old passports can’t do that, my dear, old passports can’t do that.

The consul banged the table and said,
“If you’ve got no passport you’re officially dead”:
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.

Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year:
But where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?

Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said;
“If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread”:
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
It was Hitler over Europe, saying, “They must die”:
O we were in his mind, my dear, O we were in his mind.

Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,
Saw a door opened and a cat let in:
But they weren’t German Jews, my dear, but they weren’t German Jews.

Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,
Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:
Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.

Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
They weren’t the human race, my dear, they weren’t the human race.

Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors:
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.

© W. H. Auden estate

The Hands Off

Bosses walk past the wounded
on the floor as its care

in the community that’s needed.
Others should help the homeless.

Care on the ground. Bosses should
be less involved. People look after themselves.

Bosses are not nannies. Don’t console
with unhelpful hugs and resources.

We need a hands off society. Folk
Don’t need to be molly coddled.

It is the right kind of neglect.
Bosses apologise if it affects profits.

© 2017, Paul Brookes

The Stricken

Godstricken
Hellstricken.
Heavenstricken
Dualitystricken.

Heartstricken
Homestricken
Devilstricken
Moneystricken.

Lifestricken
Parentstricken
Carestricken
Wildstricken.

Woundstricken
Lovestricken
Luststricken
Bloodstricken.

Tonguestricken
Awaystricken
Earstricken
Skinstricken.

Tonguestricken.
Rainstricken.
Guststricken.
Breathstricken.

Warstricken
Touchstricken
Peacestricken
Tastestricken

Noisestricken.
Hopestricken
Deathstricken
Griefstricken.

© 2017, Paul Brookes

Three men

I will not use your name

I listened when you spoke for so many

You were a child in Auschwitz-Birkenau

You spoke of how you survived

Brief references

No details

You spoke of your grief

The overwhelming feeling of numbness

To the brutality

The realisation that death was imminent

Every second minute every day

Because you were a Jew

The tattooed numbers remained

You became a psychologist

You taught me how to reach

The young who felt lost.

 

You have no name

I knew it once

I worked with you in a steelworks

I didn’t understand your accent

Your way of speaking

You explained you were a child in Birkenau

Taken there from Belgium

After telling me of your life

A day or so later you disappeared

No reasons were given or left.

 

You were an old quiet man

I sat with talking over quiet pints

Stanislaus your father was a baker

And you delivered bread to the SS

And smuggled what you could

To the Jews facing the risk

On discovery of certain death

After liberation the communists took over

And you fled to make a home in this country

Late in your life you were honoured

By Poland for your heroism

Your humbleness weighing each word

What choice do you have

You can’t do nothing

So many did they have to live with themselves

And the choices they made

Once for a year you pretended

To be my father

So that we could have free coal

When we had no money coming in

You died a decade ago

I honour you and our quiet talks still.

 

© 2017, Rob Cullen

Measuring the Weight of Clouds

Measuring the weight of clouds

He stands watching steam rise
from the boiling water of the open pan

He clasped his hands together
to catch a cloud of steam somehow

And it is moments like these
men in their madness dream
of measuring the weight of clouds

He stood his mouth wide open
and tried to catch a cloud of steam

And it is at moments like this
that large bellied men scheme
to measure the weight of clouds.

A black blind owl sits in a tree
listening with care to the words of the man
standing above the boiling pan

This wise bird could clearly hear
each movement the man made
to grasp and gather a cloud of steam

And it is at times like these
that earth becomes more dangerous.

On the mountains top
the child lies on his back in the grass
watching clouds stream past
the effortless changing forms
and sees too the time ahead
when ice a mile thick
will cover the land again.

Men stand watching steam rise
from the boiling water of the open pan
and see nothing, hear nothing
not even the sound of time
breathing hot breathed
at the back of their necks

And it is at times like these
that earth becomes more dangerous.

© 2017, Rob Cullen

I Didn’t Apologize to the Well | Palestinian Peace Poet, Mahmoud Darwish

Palestian Poet, Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008)
Palestinian Poet, Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008)

With the largest number of migrants the world has ever seen – 244 million in 2015 – people who are displaced by exile, violence, poverty and environmental issues resulting from climate change, it’s hard not to think of poets like Darwish who lived or live large portions of their lives in exile from their homelands.

“. . . he says I am from there, I am from here, but I am neither there nor here. I have two names which meet and part… I have two languages, but I have long forgotten— which is the language of my dreams” Mahmoud Darwish’s farewell to Edward Said (1935-2003), professor of literature at Columbia University, a public intellectual and founder of the field of postcolonial studies. Said was educated in the Western Cannon. He was a Palestinian-American born in Mandatory Palestine and a citizen of the United States through his father, Wadie Saïd, a WW 1 U.S. Army Veteran

Born in Mandated Palestine, Mahmoud Darwish has been called a poet of peace in times of war. He was regarded as the Palestinian national poet. Darwish used Palestine as a metaphor for the loss of Eden, birth and resurrection. He wrote of the anguish of dispossession and exile. He has been described as incarnating and reflecting “the tradition of the political poet in Islam, the man of action whose action is poetry.”

You can hear the lovely lilt of Arabic even in the English translations of this internationally know and recognized award winning poet. His awards included the Ibn Sina Prize, the Lotus prize from the Union of Afro-Asian Writers, France’s Knight of Arts and Belles Lettres medal, and the Prize for Cultural Freedom from the Lannan Foundation.

—Jamie Dedes


I Didn’t Apologize to the Well

I didn’t apologize to the well as I passed by it.
I borrowed a cloud from an ancient pine and squeezed it
like an orange. I waited for a mythical white deer.
I instructed my heart in patience: Be neutral, as though
you were not a part of me. Here, good shepherds
stood on air and invented the flute and enticed
mountain partridges into their traps. Here, I saddled
a horse for flight to my personal planets, and flew.
And here, a fortuneteller told me: Beware of asphalt roads
and automobiles, ride on your sigh. Here, I loosened
my shadow and waited. I selected the smallest stone
and stood wakefully by it. I broke apart a myth
and got broken myself. I circled the well until
I flew out of myself to what I’m not. And a voice
from deep in the well spoke to me: This grave
is not yours. And so I apologized. I read verses
from the wise Qur’an and said to the anonymous presence
in the well: Peace be with you and the day
you were killed in the land of peace and with the day
you’ll rise from the well’s darkness
and live…

© estate of Mahmoud Darwish

Photo credit: Mahmoud Darwish at University of Bethlehem in 2006 by Amer Shomali under CC BY-SA licence.

gods of our making

Ares_Canope_Villa_Adriana_b
“And Caesar’s spirit, raging for revenge,
With Atë by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.”
Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 1

we have need of gods
an ancient irony
like blood that needs heat
to sweat out the mysteries
to rage in revenge
to reconcile sacrifice
to repel condemnation
to simmer our gratitude
for the many wonders
as misunderstood
as all the horrors

relieve us we pray
in our righteous moments
from the sins of others
their guns, their bombs
their swords of hate
lives and livelihoods cut short
in genocides renamed –
semantics play large
in wars of loathing and
vile justifications

relieve us we pray
from children killing children
from executions in the street
from brothers killing brothers
from sisters unleashed
like the dogs of war
like a belly full of cancer
like an aorta bursting

our gods cry ‘Havoc!’
in traps set by rulers
by teachers at schools
and in places of worship
by parents at dinner table

our legs immobilized
like wolves ensnared, we chew off our feet
attempts at freedom cripple and break us

and everywhere
mouthing lies
groaning in denial
bowing to gutter rats
scraping to vultures
the false gods of our making

© 2012, poem, Jamie Dedes; Photo credit ~ Ares, the Greek God of War and Bloodlust (couldn’t find Atë) via Wikipedia by Ares Canope Villa Adriana under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.  

let us now praise peace

IMG_0695

let us now praise the peace

after Pablo Neruda

let us sit
without movement, without words

harmless
not trampling the ant
or butchering the steer

neither selling nor buying
no birthing, no dying

fisherfolk transfixed above the wave
carpenters silent by the bench

. . . . . poet

lay down your pen
let every hand be still ~
slow the racing heart,
the speed-demon thrills

stop!
no movement, no words

now, let us praise the peace

© 2015, Jamie Dedes


Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about…

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with
death.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Extravagaria : A Bilingual Edition
by Pablo Neruda (Author), Alastair Reid (Translator)
Noonday Press; Bilingual edition (January 2001)
ISBN: 0374512388

do not make war

View of Cliff House from Ocean Beach
View of Cliff House from Ocean Beach

1.

it must be painful for them to write, those poets in tough-times and hard places
where blood and tears and poverty contaminate the air, stain the sidewalks, and consume the people

the blood must be soul-sick and rusted and tasting of acid, not salt,
and the poems meant to heal the writer and stroke the cheeks of the wounded,
to dry their eyes and gently kiss their gray heads

to poem in such places must be like walking shoeless on glass shards

perhaps the most sacred thing in the dream-time meadow of poets’ desire is Light ~

can you awaken to meet the Divine on the battlefield, in the camps, in government housing or in the ghettos?

if so, you are a saint, not simply an artist

2.

in my small world, my civilized world, people fall asleep reading or after making love or playing in the yard with their children

if they wander, it is through books or planned travel

there are luxuries
there is food
there is cleanliness and paper on which to write
no bombs are dropping to scorch and scar the Earth
there is a certain dignity

3.

in San Francisco we walk along the beach at night, near the Cliff House
we walk to the sound of the waves, the song of the Earth chanting its joys
our feet are bare and relish the comfort of cool sand

the air is clear and cold and easy to breathe, tasting of salt and smelling of sea life ~
here is a pristine moment of peace

i want to bequeath this peace to you, to everyone,
as though it were a cherished heirloom
it is really a birthright

i want to plunge into the waters and gather the ocean in my cupped hands, to offer it to you as sacramental wine

i want to form seaweed into garlands for all of us to wear, to hang over our hearts, a symbol of affection

i want to collect pine cones from the trees that congregate along the coast and feed them to the children to remind them to cherish this Earth and all its creatures, themselves included, and to say …

do not make war in your heart or upon your mother’s body

© 2016, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reservedPhoto credit ~ BrokenInaglory via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

Pigeon dreams…


Lives built on pigeon dreams
structured by Madison Avenue
calculated by Wall Street
beribboned by Hollywood
We take them: these manufactured dreams,
one-size-fits-all, straight off the rack . . .
And damn cheap too!
Mad, cannibal pigeon dreams
turn good minds and whole hearts into mince
We pray to false economies,
seek deliverance from Cheap Jack
We buy one, get one free –
And fetch and fetish youth eternal
from face-lifts, Botox™, and boob-jobs –
Exit here:
drugs, alcohol
sex-a-PEAL
en-ter-TAIN-ment.
Get a house, a car, a jewel –
Be the first on your block.
Buy now. Pay later.
Filling the empty with nothing more,
something less . . .
and warehousing our souls, they
gather dust in public storage . . .
the first month free.
Poems unwritten. Songs unsung.
Chumped. Stumped. Petrified.
A gullible human Pigeon Pie,
neatly boxed
and wrapped to go.

© 2017, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Photo credit – Lars Konzack, Public Domain Pictures.net.

Visions Then and Now / Again

mud dug out of holes
where concrete constructions
                              soon poured in safe
strong-posts

little pink running shoes splattered in puddles

a fence wrapped around my yard
the gate high, the latch out of reach
my daughter said she thought
                            "…real hard.  Why we have fence?"

later

the tv showed us The Magic Flute
ashes on the steps of the administration building
a bent sign "I hate CIA"                   discarded in the bushes

voices said  "There is no justice here"

I read the Salvadoran Aide Memoire        and I imagined
the Salvadoran dead flowed from Carolyn Forché's heart
out of her
           eyes
                 onto
                      her
                           page

from her words
                       they tried to grab me

I drove
the highway did not change
        José Napoleon Duarté redeclared his aim
               Kim Jong-un aims his words like missiles
                        media hypodermics inject poison thoughts

a picture of bulldozers muddying graves,
in history books I suppose
the Holocaust	                           Never Again 
and again and again and again, never-ending again

someone else's two year old in a hole,
a doll, limbs unnatural angles, feet bare

Life Magazine
Viet Nam, Cambodia

Online
Afghanistan, Syria

Death unloads a magazine
into the crowded street

nightmares, not dreams, told of men,
in bamboo cages
buried in sand
                       in meter-square boxes

I could have made those boxes
with scrap lumber
fence wood piled up,
neat left overs
not quite a meter high

how hungry I am for left-overs

Forché wrote somewhere that she threw up
         puked
            at my distance
                 I did not puke

I heard Duarté say "Salvadoranian,"
it sounded like "subterranean"
in a past I do not know

and I hear all of the misprunciations
of my mind, slipping past to present to past
future simple complex tenses unwrapped

I saw a daughter in the ground
muddy feet askew                  no grave marker, 
not fancy, not plain

Just the fence around my yard
its six-foot gate
No two-year old hand
should reach that latch     to get out
or to get into this world…

I woke up.
I remember that after
we watched, so many years ago,
my daughter ate yogurt
in the morning and asked,
"I see Magic Flute?"

©2017 Michael Dickel

Come on up folks

Come on up, folks, right here and now, get your famous utterances here, ten for a dollar, only ten for a dollar! One violation per utterance and fire and war and brimstone come calling, ten of them, I tell you, such a deal you cannot find anywhere else. Come on up, folks, up this mountain—who shall be king of the hill (or queen—you listening there gary? It could be you!) who shall follow the smoke in the day and the fire at night and hunger for the lost and lead the poor and feed the cold chill night of despair and dispossession disposition unknown—for just ten, count them, ten utterances for a dollar! And you can fight over the order and fight over the fine print define your terms, ten for a dollar. I’m telling you folks, come on up, step right up to the altar of idolatry, loving the electric bill and the gas company and the defense contractor beyond recognition of the face at the beginning of the multi-national parrot sale. Parrots, ten for a dollar as they echo your laugh tracks and needle your relatives pining away in a major depression. For a dollar, ten for a dollar! Pills or utterances, wishes or commandments, prayers or players, I tell you such a deal you cannot find anywhere else but the lowest place on earth, the newest crust, the Syrian-African rift, and oh what a rift it is, oh, what a rift it is. Ten for a dollar! I’m telling you, who needs a dozen when you only have ten fingers and toes, fingers and toes, fingers and toes, ten for a dollar! On the battlefield who cares how much per utterance but only a blessed dime, blessed, blessed time. What can you get for a dime bag death dream time? But four, get full of sorrow drowning the pleasure of ten utterances, love-making screams desire and joy, ten utterances for a dollar. Just ten. Just a dollar. Come on up, folks, ten utterances for a dollar. Come, come, come, come on up, folks. Come on up.

 

©2017 Michael Dickel

High Technology Death

 

High
Technology

I mean, it’s
Ready to go
Easy to use
Off the rack
One size fits all
New improved formula
Drive through convenience
Super economy size

Hey, it’s
Fast and easy
New better than ever
Bright attractive packaging
Scientific studies prove
As advertised in Life
Safety tested

Guaranteed No mess

You know, it’s
Labor saving easy clean up
As seen on TV
Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval
Nine out of ten doctors recommend it
Research has shown
No assembly required
Government approved

Complete Total Death

 

©2017 Michael Dickel

the game of war

Why should they maintain peace
When war is such a profitable business
Who would benefit from social justice?
The little people
Bad business, then!
Too many of them
Too many mouths to feed
Affects sustainability
So again, war is better than peace
They played this strategy on us so many times before
They solve crisis they created
Playing the game of war
When printing money like wrapping paper no longer works
When the skyscrapers fall like matches castles
They play the game of war
It is a kind of chess but
They play it on our flesh
Earthquakes, floods, tornadoes
Nothing stops the business of war
Peace is just the intermezzo between two refills of the racket launcher
I wonder how a chess mate position would look on this war table….

© 2017, Iulia Gherghei

Peace in the Desert

English: Leaving traces on soft sand dunes in ...

Peace reigns in this treeless desert of quiet.
Here I don’t worry about the philosophical
or metaphysical question of a falling oak,
redwood, or even a palm if I don’t wish to.
Many will never understand my affinity
for the neatness of the seemingly
dust-cursed and barren wastes of alone.
I don’t mind. The desert protects its own.
Always shifting, always the winds of time
giving me new geography to chronicle
and erasing the needless old steps,
always the sound of my own voice
when I wish to listen to it.

And there are plenty of others here.
Just very, very far apart.

My wanderings have crossed paths
with some of these nomads
and I have fallen in with another.
Sometimes we go off, each of us alone,
to listen to the desert,
take comfort in its cleanliness
of thought and deed and spirit.
We always seem to come back
to share our discoveries
and keep one another warm on cold nights
of what once was just one voice,
one heartbeat wandering
in that wind and the blessed quiet.

© 2017, Joseph Hesch; photo credit – Luca Galuzzi under CC BY-SA 2.5 license

:: submarine ::

dive below,       breathe beneath the surface.
rise &              wonder who defines standard.
 
present tense.
often reduced.
 
we have water here & float yet not as pretty
as you.
 
do.
 
many poets died this day.
 
some prefer substandard.
 
© 2017, Sonia Benskin Mesher

:: reimagine the world ::


:: reimagine the world::

leave your ideas at home.
on the hatstand. forget all
that you have learned, things
may not be so.

all people have thoughts, so
yours is not so precious now,
elder.

she told me that even things
at home have changed.

looking round we see they have.

reimagine the world, forget
the learning, start again,
then we may understand, or not.

king david.

© 2017, Sonia Benskin Mesher

:: the burning ::

he said the flames

came over the trees.

behind the buildings.

bombed the buildings.

so do not wonder why

i don’t play soldiers,

lay them down to die.

he says that i will not battle,

i am no good at it.

too peaceful. i can play

hospitals.

© 2017, poem and illustration, Sonja Benskin Mesher

Building Freedom

Liberty stands still with welcoming arms open
a vision of freedom that’s endured worldwide
she’s taken Irish famine victims, Germans,
Dutch, and Jews escaping Hitler’s camps
and brave prospectors seeking Klondike gold.

All have made it to the melting pot, stirred
added with the spice of First People, those
who lived in forest, prairie and mountain
before Italian Columbus sailed from Cadiz,

or the slaves were freed to add Africa’s dance
to the music that calls “freedom” and America
the call and greatness of welcoming U.S.A.
that’s echoed to the poor since it became power.

In the last year She weeps upon her island
watching the world’s poor die upon sea and land.
No longer ships and planes pass her open arms
filled with those seeking a better life, fleeing
war, famine, the hatred of the despot for

even in this land of freedom a goose step
demands that only those who march to
a tune we thought defeated are welcome
men embolden by the promise of support;

but has Gaia responded with a warning,
hurling winds across the Caribbean
to devastate not only the islands but
the retreats of the wealthy, who thought
themselves immune in their castles

not even the President’s Mar-a-Largo is safe
from her wrath. Is she asking “why”?
Should we not reply with friendship,
welcome the poor, refugee and worker
whatever their race or religion to the mix?

For they are the people who will build
nations, care for us as doctors, and nurses
carve the future as scientists, engineers.
They have talents that we, every nation needs.

© 2017, Carolyn O’Connell

Another Note in an Endless Melody

On March 18, 2013, a decade after the Iraq invasion, The Columbus Herald Ledger printed soldiers’ recollections of their first Iraq tours. These accounts are loosely based on those recollections. All three voluntarily returned for a second tour.


Digital art by Phillip T. Stephens Background texture by Billy Alexander
Digital art by Phillip T. Stephens
Background texture by Billy Alexander

Afghanistan’s Just Another Note
in an Endless Melody

(An American haibun [1] )

Security

Palmer and I drive 24 hours straight. On dusty roads. Grit crusts our crotches, cracks, armpits, teeth. The minute we report, they dispatch us to highway patrol. No time for coffee, cigarette or a piss. Grab gear and go. We’re on patrol maybe fifteen minutes, a toothless haji staggers down the center of the highway. No shirt, holes in his pants, one sandal hanging by a strap, hands empty. Raised like white flags. Palmer steps onto the shoulder; I can’t pull him back. Haji drops. An RPG follows his path, flips Palmer. A six-foot arc. Toothless rolls to the far shoulder, leaps up and scrams. Bullets swarm the squad like hornets from a burning nest. I duck behind an abandoned car. A second grenade punches into the gas tank. I dive into the sand beating the fireball by a second. Wake in the hospital, bathed in sunlight, my leg in a cast from ankle to hip. An officer shows up. Doesn’t even look in my file for my name. “You’re flying home, soldier. Recovery leave.” I asked about Palmer. “He’s flying too.” No eye contact. I knew then that they’d be sending Palmer cargo.

In a village graveyard, in the steaming

summer rain, a priest consoled

a widow weeping at her

husband’s stone. A tear because

he perished, a flower for her love.

Her face in pain. He touched her arm

to share a word of tenderness.

 

First Wave

Our M113 crossed the Iraqi border at midnight. HQ deployed us as the invasion’s first pawns. The Republican Guard scattered like spider monkeys during the firefights. One night, while our tracers chased the cowards across the sand, I pumped my fist, poked Baker in the ribs. “At this rate, we’ll be in Iraq by Sunday,” I shouted over the noise of the explosions. Baker didn’t answer. Couldn’t answer. He couldn’t answer because he had no head to answer with. He stood perfectly straight, a mess of gristle and spine sticking above his shoulders. After a couple of months, in the Red Zone, Johny Jihad learned how to lure convoys down narrow streets and pick them off. So, it was August, like six months after they said the war would end in shock and awe and we’d be back home polishing off six-packs in our porch swings, and our convoy’s front track lifted its nose, like a horse rearing on hind legs. Six maybe seven bodies spilled into the fleeing crowd. The Bradley at the tail went next, a rocket through the engine block tipping it onto the sidewalk. Cash, our driver, plowed through the wreckage, the rest of us crouching close to the floor and firing over the side. Norton fired the top gun at anything moving. Back at the base, I couldn’t light my Camel, my hand shook the lighter so hard. That was when I started thinking of my college engineering classes as weekends at Disneyland.

“He died in a noble cause.

He gave his life for you and me.”

She seized his words,

spit in mud, cursed such

generosity.

“Your petty wars are not

the will of God. He gave no

sanction. Nor is there need.

And if you want to tell me

otherwise, please offer

your excuses to the dead.”

 

Sand gets in your eyes

One hundred twenty degrees with the breeze. On that first day in April, I had no way of knowing we’d suffer in the heat so long. I spent three-months suffering with heat and bug bites before I’d feel air conditioning. They gave me a cushy post. I coordinated battlefield positions. That cushy job didn’t keep me out of combat. One time a sandstorm trapped our convoy. We were three miles outside a sinkhole called As Samawa, sixteen vehicles on a highway that had so many pockmarks it could have been a teenager’s face. The advance slowed until we creeped along at an inch and hour. We couldn’t even see to the shoulder. LT dispatched Parker and Dial to scout. They wrestled with the wind, and disappeared into the brown sky. When they didn’t report back I looked for them. I fought the wind for an hour. Even with a muffler the storm sandblasted the skin on my face. I finally sat on a sandbag for a smoke and a snack. A chocolate bar. The storm faded as quickly as it started. I glanced down, discovered my sandbag was Parker’s body.

You priests of a jealous God,

you prophets of Democracy,

do you ever take a moment

to explain that corpses do not

drink Christ’s blood, corpses

do not vote. They turn to mud

beneath the earth and rain.

 

©2017 Phillip T. Stephens

 


 

[1] The Japanese haibun combines a paragraph with a poem (in its strictest form, haiku). Each haibun requires a title and the paragraph must be composed in first person. The poetry and paragraphs can be combined in any variation.

the places between

it’s this
wavering time

she said

                 i see the fine
membranes
trembling /
               / the thin
reflections of
twisted orders

a free disguise
             when nothing’s
on offer

                  even

& the swollen bellies
of empty

i don’t want to
watch the greasy rivers

                            she said

where plagues
come in buckets

©2017 Reuben Woolley

Eclipsed

Nearly a year ago, when we first learned of the solar eclipse, most motels in the Northwest Totality Zone were either booked, or charging up to $750 for a room.  So we reserved a B&B in the Eastern Oregon town of Moro, a forty minute drive to Totality. As the day approached, epic traffic jams of eclipse chasers were reported.  We left a day earlier than we’d planned, taking two days to travel 270 miles, with emergency gear: food, water, sleeping bags, gas can, a read-aloud book and our Kingston Trio CDs.

Traffic on I-5 was heavy, but we traveled east over the Cascades, cruising the speed limit, and sighting only the occasional RV heading to the Totality Zone from Yakima.

All the guests at our B&B were eclipse chasers.  There were two couples, first-time viewers up from California, and a German couple, first-time visitors to the US, who had crossed an ocean and a continent for a ninety second peek at a natural phenomenon they’d seen many times before.  I took that as a good sign.

Moro’s population is 316.  Its only cafe had gone belly up, and the market closes early on Sundays, but the local history museum was open.  We picnicked and were playing board games in our room when Thom discovered on Facebook that college friends were also staying in Moro at the only other accommodation in town, just a five minute walk away. Lona and Scott were as enthusiastic about the eclipse as you’d expect a science teacher and a librarian to be, and they had spent the last two days scouting out the best view spots. They invited us over, pulled out their maps and notes, and suggested a place just south of Shaniko, for its off-road parking and territorial views.

Taking no chances, we allowed four hours to travel the 38 miles into the Totality Zone. Rising at 5AM, we learned that the other guests were long gone. But the roads were clear and we were halfway there before the sun rose.  At least sixty people were camped at our viewpoint, with more arriving all the time. The buzz of excitement filled the air, though the eclipse was still two hours away.  One youngster kept a faithful watch, but I dozed, catching snatches of conversation between friendly strangers.

Finally the moon’s shadow began to pass over the face of the sun. Through protective glasses it looked like a sky cookie, with a bite taken out of it.

There was a drop in temperature and a subtle change of light.  We couldn’t tell over the noise of the crowd whether the birds stopped singing, but the people-watching was superb compensation.  For an hour, the moonshadow inched across the sun, its effect hardly noticeable, except through protective glasses. Without them, even with just a sliver of the sun peeking out from behind the moon, its light was blinding.

All at once, darkness eclipsed the world.  It was as if a one-eyed sleeping giant had suddenly awakened, and the sky was staring back at us.

The crowd erupted into wild cheers, and Thom and I shared their exhilaration.

I’d seen it depicted on canvas, demonstrated in planetariums and National Geographic specials. But seeing a total solar eclipse with my own eyes was like hearing ‘Ode to Joy” sung by a heavenly choir after seeing only the musical notation on paper.

(Ivan Generalić: Solar Eclipse, 1961, CMNA )

Our dear Sol had pulled off his glasses and shirt to reveal his Superman costume. Ninety seconds later–it felt like the blink of an eye–the sun emerged from the shadow.

We took a deep breath, hugged each other, and hit the road, hoping to beat the crush of outbound traffic. We were elated as we drove north, verbally processing the experience. We both questioned whether we’d used our few precious seconds wisely. Ironically, Thom regretted not taking a single photo, while I wondered if I’d made a mistake by placing a lens between myself and an awesome once-in-a-lifetime-celestial event.  Thom knew just what to say.  “Argentina in 2019.”  Yes, please!

A friend asked, half joking, if the eclipse had changed my life. Maybe. Especially if we go chasing the next one, which will appear in the Argentine sky in 2019.  Meanwhile, there is a whole lot of Awesomeness right here on the mother planet.

I’ve read that awe is the emotion created by an extraordinary encounter that drastically affects one’s assumptions of the world.  Experiencing this emotion can make us feel small, yet connected to something larger outside of ourselves, especially when the experience is shared by others. This was borne out in Shaniko, where traffic bottlenecked at the crossroads with the only stop sign in town. Traffic on the big road had the right of way. I feared we’d be at a standstill for hours waiting for an opening.

Then some generous soul hit the brakes and gave cuts to a person who was stuck at the stop sign, before continuing on.  The next person with the right of way also stopped to allow a car through.  They were still graciously taking turns when we reached the intersection, and were also waved on.  There was a mile of backup, but not a single horn honked, no one hollered, everyone was patient and polite, and we all moved forward together.  It was an awesome display of human nature.


There are other kinds of Awesome that sneak up on you.

Again.

And again.

These days we live under a dark shadow that has eclipsed our country, and the planet too.  Instead of chasing shadows, it feels like we’re trapped in the dark, fumbling for the light switch. I found the light when I accompanied family and friends to the Women’s March in Seattle last January.

I was awestruck.

 And I was not alone.

The solar eclipse did not move me to tears.  But I couldn’t hold back tears of relief and wonder at the sight of 135,000 people speaking up for equality and compassion, and speaking out against oppression, bigotry and hatred.

Tears flowed again.

And again.

And again.

If it’s a Solar Eclipse that fills you with awe and purpose, you need only wait a year or two, and somewhere on this planet there will be a next time, another chance. But in the United States, if you’re looking for an extraordinary encounter, or want to feel a part of something larger than yourself, if you want to be more than an observer, you’d better start now.  Because in a year or two, who knows what will be left to save.

We can’t sit on our hands hoping no one will get sick, or disenfranchised, arrested, abused, deported, or thrown into a concentration camp for no good reason. Our national parks, our environmental protections, our healthcare and social safety nets are being systematically carved up and sold to the highest bidder. Our politicians and our elections seem to be for sale as well. Our civil rights, our human rights, our right to protest in our own defense–these too are endangered by the deranged sociopath in the White House. We can only hope he won’t get into a pissing match with another tyrant and launch us into nuclear war.

We have no special protective glasses for this unnatural phenomenon, but we can’t afford to look away.  It’s time to tear off our glasses and invoke our inner superheroes. Our superpowers will be to speak for those who have no voice. To protect those who cannot protect themselves. To organize, educate, donate, speak out, rally and march.

Again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again!

This isn’t a solar eclipse; there are no do-overs.  I’m keeping the glasses, because I want to be prepared for the next big event.  2019 will be here before we know it.

And so will 2020.  

All images and text ©2017 Naomi Baltuck

 

~ Gen X Musings ~

It’s time again for the 100TPC (One Hundred Thousand Poets For Change) here at The BeZine, and all over the world. It’s a chance for artists, musicians, poets, peace-keepers, activists, and anyone else who desires lasting change in the world to speak out about issues affecting all of us. I invite you to join us in a celebration of the spirit of resistance, as we try to make the world a better place. 🙂

© 2017, Corina Ravenscraft

 

Waiting on the World to Change | singer/songwriter John Clayton Mayer

One, two, one, two, three
Me and all my friends
We’re all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing and
There’s no way we ever could
Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it
So we keep waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
It’s hard to beat the system
When we’re standing at a distance
So we keep waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
Now if we had the power
To bring our neighbors home from war
They would have never missed a Christmas
No more ribbons on their door
And when you trust your television
What you get is what you got
Cause when they own the information, oh
They can bend it all they want
That’s why we’re waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
It’s not that we don’t care
We just know that the fight ain’t fair
So we keep on waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
And we’re still waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
One day our generation
Is gonna rule the population
So we keep on waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
No we keep on waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
Waiting on the world to change
Waiting on the world to change
Waiting on the world to change.

© Songwriter: John Clayton Mayer

John Mayer’s official music video for ‘Waiting On The World To Change’. Click to listen to John Mayer on Spotify: http://smarturl.it/JMayerSpotify?IQid…

Musical Interlude for Change

Some musical messages from the past—c’mon people, smile on your [siblings of any gender], everybody get together, try to love one another right now because what the world needs now is love, sweet love, the only thing we’ve got too little of…

The Youngbloods, Get Together


Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach, What the World Needs Now is Love