“We could, perhaps, be lovers – “
you whispered in my hand
and disappeared to Indiana,
one year ago. That night,
August heat, black lake, poplar wind
composed a world apart,
and I remember
long hair trailing, white
arms stroking, you
swimming to meet the fallen moon.
What child has caused no grief?
Who has not done injury
come yawping, red from the womb?
What infant has not fallen like a leaf,
arms and feet in flurry,
hunting down a human doom?
What youth has not eyed his father’s fief,
abandoned it in fury
taken to a tenant room?
What girl has not burned her maiden wreath,
fled her mother, to hurry
to the common tomb?
What parent has not hid his grief,
worked her worry
into stone upon a solitary loom?
I must go where the wild goose goes.
Wild goose, brother goose, which is best,
A wandering foot or a heart at rest?
Frankie Laine, Cry of the Wild Goose
(Songwriter: TERRY GILKYSON. Cry Of The Wild Goose lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.)
Spring, as they are fond of saying, has sprung.
Tulips shove above snow wet leaves to grab the sun
and daffodils shake to herald events.
Impertinent violets take their place as hyacinths
adorn themselves in regal blue vestments.
Dreaming of long afternoons of sun,
I fail to see the robin or hear the cardinal’s early
call to mate. Slow to rake the soggy leaf mold
from the hardy chives, I begin to feel
the waste of winter and the rush of spring.
Above, the snow geese by their hundreds fly
to float upon the river’s edge in thousands, to feed in raucous mirth,
reassemble, shouting eagerness to try
the far thawed tundra and, once again, know birth.
The trumpet vine, at least as old as I am,
will not die. It sprouts and twines, breeds and twists
into the sun to blossom. Growing within a younger
Virginia creeper hedged unruly in its habits,
this old vine discharges blooms shouting orange
disrespectful of the foliage green. I cannot kill it.
My failure though delights
the hummingbirds and bees, so
perhaps a balance claims us all.
Content thyself to be obscurely good.
When vice prevails, and impious men bear sway,
the post of honor is a private station.
Joseph Addison, Cato
8-10 September (?) 480 B.C.E.
We few remain
wounded, tired, doomed.
Duty called us here, and honor
held us, honor and regard
The King says
generations unborn will hymn
the paeans to our stand.
We held the cursed invader
that others may rally to defeat him.
Now, betrayed, the dawn will find
us dead. Dawn. To hear once more
the laughter of a child,
plaintive dove or raucous crow,
to feel again the warm wind–
Little Round Top
2 July 1863
Held in reserve, we ran to top a hill,
an ordinary hill of no great height,
wooded, and rock covered as
if the Creator had sown rocks like grains.
I’ve seen much the same in Maine
or in New Hampshire.
No sooner there than all of Alabama
seemed to mob us howling bloodlust.
We crouched and fired
until our long guns grew too hot to load,
and when there was nothing left to load
we threw rocks.
Alabama kept coming, retreating, surging
up. And all while the screams of the wounded
filled our ears, smoke blinded us and powder burned
our lips to cinder. Then, up and fixing bayonets,
we wheeled left and ran down the hill like
some great scythe against the summer wheat.
Alabama fell to Maine. Men sobbed and swore,
prayed and stabbed. We sat and wept
for joy and failure, bound by the struggle itself.
While the wounded cried for mother,
the ground drank our mingled
blood indifferent to our causes.
17 October 1967
Charlie dug in and holds a hill.
The hill is nondescript and has no name we can pronounce,
just a number. Who cares?
Starve them out or let the flyboys
drop their napalm glory. But no.
We have to take it by force of arms
and legs and opened guts. It was impregnable,
but tell that to generals dreaming of another
star on collars or politicians in padded leather chairs
fearing the wrath of disillusioned voters.
We fought till water was a dream and choppers plummeted
like locusts from the sky exploding dreams.
We fought prone behind our own dead.
We cannot rest because the enemy is everywhere
crawling from his bunkers. Deafened, burned by our own artillery,
our Hell seems endless. Lord, what have we done-
or failed to do – that we must suffer
here where only flies are victors?
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
W.H.Auden, “September 1, 1939”
“The mouth should have three gatekeepers.
Is it true?
Is it kind?
And is it necessary?”
— Arab Proverb