FINALS

It was approaching the end
of another too long semester
and the sign-up sheet for office hours
was getting fuller with names
I didn’t recognize, or did and not
in a way that would please the student.
It was always like this, the two weeks
after it was too late to do anything,
when the pleading would begin.
I remember being in that position
almost fifty years ago, making my
supplication for relief of some kind
to a professor I had ignored all term,
and he, genial and gentle, taking out
pictures of the rice paddies
and saying to me, you stand
a far better chance in the Air Force.
There are no wars now that I can offer,
and so I tell them the bad news,
but add that Starbucks can
be a career of sorts, with benefits.


For Something Different, a new bird photo each day, visit my other blog:
Bird-of-the-day.com 

SMART ONES

We marched for hours, going
nowhere really, but nowhere was
the point of the marching so we
achieved the goal the Air Force set.
We didn’t even think it odd
that they made us shave our heads,
so we’d all look like fools,
there was a war on and we
were in the military, so we
had already proven that point.
We were the smarter ones,
as it turned out, enlistees
who’d spend our time on bases
getting the pilots ready to fly
into the danger we knew
we had so carefully avoided,
and for us the greatest risk
appeared daily in the mess hall.


For Something Different, a new bird photo each day, visit my other blog:
Bird-of-the-day.com 

A SUDDEN DEPARTURE

You sneaked away one night.
You were there, but while
sleep claimed me, you were gone
without notice or warning.
Where should I look for you?
In these barren hills
where the spirits of the first nations
roam, looking for their ancestral land?

Where should I look for you?
Wandering these verdant fields
where a hundred generations
have been sacrificed
to the will of power mad men
who know no satisfaction?

Where should I look for you?
In these filth ridden streets
and narrow alleys where
the rats scamper in search
of a meal, where a child
at play would be a fine repast?

Where should I look for you?
Across these wind blown sands
where brother has hunted brother
for three generations, each
laying God’s claim
to the birthright of the other
while wives and mothers
wail in mourning?


First published in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press (2008)

THE GIFTS

They brought him myrrh
on a flaming salver and all
he could do was say
“This is something I would expect
from a butcher or a carpenter,
and the camera angles
would never work, so bring
me napalm or punji stakes
that we have proven to work.”
They brought him ripe oranges
and the sweet meat of the pineapple,
its juice dripping from his chin,
and all he could do was tighten
his grip on the AK-47 and dream
of night on the edge of the jungle.
They brought him Rodin, Matisse,
Rembrant van Rijn, and Blake,
but all he would see was
Bosch and Goya, and then
only by the light of fading candles.
They brought him the String Quartet
in A Major played on Strads
and Guarnaris, but he
wanted the retort of the howitzer
the crump of the mortar,
the screams of the child.
They brought him his child
wrapped in bandages
missing fingers and toes,
and all he wanted was
the nursery, a newborn
in swaddling, suckling her breast
as he stroked her head
and remembered the moment
of her creation.


First published in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press (2008)

BAGHDAD VILLANELLE

We enter, the conquering heroes,
drive quickly through the city’s core.
We leave a crude division in our throes.

We expected flowers, not blows
of an angry mob, to be adored.
We enter, the conquering heroes.

An old man sits in a small café, he knows
what will come of this, a festering sore.
we leave a crude division in our throes

that builds, wells up. We depose
a tyrant. You’re a new tyrant they roar.
We enter, the conquering heroes,

at home, on TV we watch the blows
rain down on the prisoners, huddled on the floor.
We leave a crude division in our throes.

We do not see bodies arrive, only rows
of new headstones, the President will say no more.
We enter, the conquering heroes;
we leave a crude division in our throes.


First appeared in Thema, Vol. 20, No. 1 (2008), and later in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press (2008)

BROKEN BOW

This poem was recently published in the first issue of a new journal, Punt Volat.  You can find it here:

https://puntvolatlit.com/issues/winter-2019


Early this afternoon, a Kenworth
semi pulling a 53-foot trailer
rolled down Nebraska route 92
and entered the limits of Broken Bow.

The importance of this event,
while not yet obvious, will, I
promise, become so soon enough
if you only remain patient.

As this was happening, rockets
launched from Gaza rained down
on Israel, and quickly the IDF jets
responded, killing 19, more

than half of those civilians according
to Palestinian authorities, but no one
was terribly surprised, as it had
became a question of when not if.

Peace is, we have learned, that
Holy Grail, denied to those who want it
but will not sacrifice themselves
or concede egos to try to attain it.

The semi pulled in behind the Dollar
General on South E Street, too late
to offload, and the driver walked
over to the Bonfire Grill for a beer.

NAM

He said, “I survived the war,
was up to my armpits in water
wading through the night
through the rice plants
that would never bear grain
once we called in the orange.
I walk through minefields,
the noise a deafening silence
since the only sound that mattered
was the click that shouted death
You think Ii have issues now
and in your mind I certainly do
but you my issues didn’t go away
like Jamie’s, he heard that click and a moment
later his issues were gone, and the moon
was painted blood red that night
and it inhabits my dreams still.