No No No

Counting the Mad

This one was put in a jacket,

This one was sent home,

This one was given bread and meat

But would eat none,

And this one cried No No No No

All day long.

This one looked at the window

As though it were a wall,

This one saw things that were not there,

And this one cried No No No No

All day long.

This one thought himself a bird,

This one a dog,

And this one thought himself a man,

An ordinary man,

And cried and cried No No No No

All day long.
Donald Justice in Understanding Poetry


That’s me, the one crying no, no, no all night long, crying no as our government does their best to convince me that their view, and only their view, of the world is "real," crying no as the mainsteam media create hysteria over bio-terrorism while simultaneously telling us that we are hysterical and should remain calm, crying no as the alternative media tell me that it’s really Americaâs own fault and that we should do nothing more to enrage our many enemies.

As I look at the television, the mediaâs window on our world, I feel exactly like I’m looking at a wall, unable to see anything in it that resembles reality. Other times I think I see things that are not there, things our government and the media would like us to believe but really arenât there, arenât true.

Between government spin, Taliban spin, and media spin, little wonder that I feel dazed and disoriented, having little idea what really is the truth.

And damn right I’m mad, mad, mad. I’m mad at the terrorists that caused such mindless destruction. I’m mad at our country for mindlessly dropping bombs that will undoubtedly save a few American soldiers lives, but only at the cost of many more innocent Afghan lives, a cost we may well have to repay with interest at a later time.

I’m especially mad that when people hear me saying no, no, no, they suggest that I’m unpatriotic, that I really don’t understand the danger our country is in, that, perhaps, I am crazy.

It’s hard for me, an ordinary man, to understand why the whole world isn’t crying no, no, no.

The Fury of Aerial Bombardment

The Fury of Aerial Bombardment

You would think the fury of aerial bombardment
Would rouse God to relent; the infinite spaces
Are still silent. He looks on shock-pried faces.
History, even, does not know what is meant.
You would feel that after so many centuries
God would give man to repent; yet he can kill
As Cain could, but with multitudinous will,
No farther advanced than in his ancient furies.
Was man made stupid to see his own stupidity?
Is God by definition indifferent, beyond us all?
Is the eternal truth man’s fighting soul
Wherein the Beast ravens in its own avidity?
Of Van Wettering I speak, and Averill,
Names on a list, whose faces I do not recall
But they are gone to early death, who late in school
Distinguished the belt feed lever from the belt holding pawl.

Richard Eberhart in Understanding Poetry

I know, I know, I promised myself not to read the news anymore, to take some time to find some sanity in my own life, but it’s difficult to ignore the news, no matter how depressing it is.

Although I’ll admit that I think the worst news is the possible use of smallpox as a weapon by terrorists(UN’s smallpox terror alert), I am almost as worried about the continued bombing in Afghanistan, particularly the bombing of population centers. Netscape’s top story, US Jets Hit Hard Near Taliban Front, though it has a decidedly American slant, presents the kind of details that may move even Americans to question the wisdom of long-term bombing and certainly provides reason why the Islamic world is so outraged.

Despite our precision bombing, bombs continue to crash helter skelter into residential neighborhoods killing innocent Afghans. One bomb crashed into a residential neighborhood, destroying two houses. An Associated Press reporter saw the bodies of seven dead at the scene and later at a city hospital. All were said to be related.

At a nearby hospital, Dr. Izetullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name, wept as he pulled back bloodstained sheets to show the bodies of the four children – all boys, ages 8 to 13. Izetullah said 13 dead had been brought to the hospital.

If the comments of Haziz Ullah are typical, the reaction does not bode well for Americaâs attempts to create a coalition government after it eviscerates the Taliban leadership.”This pilot was like he was blind,” neighbor Haziz Ullah said. “There are no military bases here – only innocent people.” The neighborhood holds no known Taliban military sites, although a Taliban army garrison and other installations are several miles away.

So, what does precision bombing mean? Certainly several miles would seem imprecise, at least for a smart bomb like the ones we are dropping.Thankfully, as the story points out, President Bush said the United States had been “as careful as we possibly could” to avoid killing civilians. Surely that oft-repeated phrase will comfort the parents of those who died and defuse the growing anger in the Islamic world.

Times Winged Chariot

PARADOX OF TIME

I. GRAVITY OF STONE AND ECSTASY OF WIND
Each day now more precious will dawn,
And loved faces turn dearer still,
And when sunlight is withdrawn,
There, over the mountain’s black profile,
The western star reigns
In splendor, benign, arrogant,
And the fact that it disdains
You, and your tenement
Of flesh, should instruct you in
The paradox of Time,
And the doubleness wherein
The fleshly glory may gleam.
Sit on the floor with a child.
Hear laugh that creature so young.
See loom its life-arch, and wild
With rage, speak wild words sprung
From vision, and thus atone
For all folly now left behind.
Learn the gravity of stone.
Learn the ecstasy of wind.
Robert Penn Warren in Rumor Verified

I know that this "tenement of flesh" is all too temporary. I learned it in Vietnam, leaving too many friends behind. The media has never let me forget it. I know all too well the gravity of stone.

My grandson Gavin helps me rediscover the "ecstasy of wind," forcing me to live in the moment. He has no name for me, but when he sees me he reaches out his arms to be picked up. That’s name enough for me, a print-oriented bastard who surely spends too much of his life looking for meaning in words.

Spending a day with him is a day of extremes. He lives for the moment, and not a moment longer. Joyful one moment, irate the next. And for at least that moment with him on the floor stacking blocks to knock down, the outside world no longer exists. No Twin Towers, no bin Laden, no Afghanistan, no terrorists threatening our existence.

Live in the moment and there is no time for an irrational fear of anthrax, no time to worry about the could-be’s or might-be’s of terrorists who would rob you of all you have, the sheer ecstasy of this moment.

What the Living Do

What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil
probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty
dishes have piled up
waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the
everyday we spoke of.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of
myself in the window glass,
say the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a
cherishing so deep
for my own blowing hair, chapped face and unbuttoned coat
that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

Marie Howe in Sixty Years of American Poetry

It’s far too easy to get caught up in the outside world, to focus on those things we have little or no control over and, as a result, to feel vulnerable, helpless and alone. As much as I might rail against the terrorists or past American policies that have helped to empower the terrorists, I doubt that posting to a blog inflluences events any more than the man who hangs a huge American flag from his oversize pickup insures America’s victory.

Who could watch the media lately and not feel schizophrenic, caught between two very different worlds and unable to control either of them.

Not surprising, then, that too often we forget the wonder that is each of us.

Personally, I read poetry to be reminded of that wonder. Walt Whitman, Theodore Roethke, Robert Penn Warren, and David Wagoner are some of my favorite poets because they do remind me of that. Ancient Zen poets, but recently discovered by me, startle me to new awarenesses precisely because they are new to me and force me to see my world in a new way.

At their best, though, all poets, and perhaps all true artists, force us to rediscover ourselves. I had not encountered the contemporary poet Marie Howe before yesterday, but I found this poem a perfect reminder of that which does give us control over our world.