WHAT DID YOU DO

When they asked him
what did you do during the war
he said “I just stood guard.”
When they asked him where
he said “A station, just
a station, like most others,
I just stood guard.”
When they asked him
did you see the trains
carrying the bodies crammed
into cattle cars
he said “I saw many trains,
it was just a station, but mostly
I looked at the sky, wishing
for the sun, but mostly it was gray
and there was smoke
from the chimneys.”
When they asked him
why did you wear
the lightening bolts
he said “I was a ski instructor
but I broke my leg
so I stood at the station,
just a station like most others.”
When they asked him
did he know of the ovens
he said “They made bread
which we ate each night
when there were no potatoes.”
When they asked him
about the Jews
he said “I knew no Jews;
there were none in the town
where I stood guard
at a station, just
a station like most others.”
When they asked him
what he did after the war
he said “I prayed, just
prayed for my sins,
sins like those
of so many others.”

ARLINGTON NATIONAL

As the plane slowly descends
the cemetery appears
through a break in the clouds.
The headstones are arrayed
in neatly ordered geometries,
unknown to those who lie beneath,
and those who water
the always verdant lawns.
Mausoleums cluster

in a small village,
from which no one ever moves,
and rest comes easily
to those who lie within.

MOMENT

If you are patient and do not
look for it, there is a still moment
in each day when nothing at all happens,
when the silence without
demands a silence within,
when thoughts evaporate
like the mist of an early morning dew,
when you have precisely enough
and cannot imagine needing more,
when where you are is where you must be,
when the past and future float off
and their gravitational pull on you breaks,
and you simply are in the only moment there is.

A SHORT LONG LINE

There is a statue of William Penn
atop the city hall in Philadelphia
seeming to stare down over the city
with bronze eyes incapable of seeing.
Hagar wandered the wilderness
after she was evicted by Abraham
at Sarah’s urging, the price
of jealousy, with bread and water
and the promise of a great nation.
It is pure speculation whether
Hagar was enslaved and freed
or, as we would claim it today,
employed by the family. In the end
the distinction matters little.
Penn remains blind atop the building
Hagar and Ishmael are long dead,
and Jefferson likely had children
with one of his slaves, or so
the DNA evidence indicates.
I am of Norwegian and Scottish
patrilineal heritage it appears
though my great nation is
a six year old girl and
almost three year old boy.

WHAT DO YOU SAY

What do you say
to those who turn their backs
on those broken in battle,
or broken at the sight of battle,
who were left to clean up the collateral damage,
or who were collateral damage,
were pierced by IED’s,
or shaped charges,
who had inadequate armor,
or no armor at all,
who were left in moldy rooms,
were dropped on the street,
who don’t want to go back again, and still again,
who see clearly with their eyes closed,
who cannot find shelter in a maelstrom of thoughts,
who did what was asked
and wish they hadn’t,
who asked for leaders and found only followers,
who asked why and were told “just because,”
who never came back, or
who were left here.


Previously appeared in SNReview, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2007 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press (2008).

EARLY MORNING

Early this morning
as I drove through the mist
that clings to Portland in March
like a child’s yellow slicker,
I thought of you, home,
asleep on our bed, my side
tidy, no faint indentation
of life, and I thought of
the thousands who have died to date
in Iraq, who never again will leave
a faint indentation in any bed.
It is far easier thinking of you,
of regretting the miles between us
at this moment, but knowing
that I will shortly bridge
those miles and we will tonight indent
our bed, that two thousand miles
is little more than an inconvenience,
while many of them are no more
that a dozen miles outside of
countless towns; but the effect
of that short distance is infinite
and they can only indent the thawing
earth beneath the granite stones.


For a while, I will be using Thursday’s posts to feature poems I previously had published. Today’s, Early Morning previously appeared in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, (2008).

ONCE

There was a time not all that long ago,
he reminds me, when the event of an eclipse
was a certain sign the world was ending.
Prayers were offered in profusion, and
the event proceeded and passed, so faith
in prayer was restored, if not in astronomy.
Today eclipses are viewed as just other
celestial events, like meteor showers
and solar flares, something to see,
something to experience, but always
with the knowledge that tomorrow
will always be right around the corner.
But the eclipse of our freedoms
is something we have never seen,
and many now believe the world
is ending, but we should, he says,
realize that like the slow passage
of the earth across the face of the moon,
we will emerge into the light again
in due time, our prayers having been answered.