When I woke up this morning, I was planning to write about the beautiful evening I had last night, listening to Canada geese flying under the Milky Way and across the Big Dipper, as it lay cradled in the trees at the end of my drive. A friend and I had been talking about the wild horses of Assateague Island, off the coast of Virginia and Maryland, when I stepped outside and looked up in astonishment. No other word for it. Pure astonishment.
Yes, that was my intent, but then the Writer's Almanac delivered a poem by George Bilgere, whose poetry never fails to speak to me on some deeper level, and my subject had to change. Please understand, I'm trying to not be angry. Anger is such a wasted emotion, but right now it's hard to see that. How are we going to wrest control of our lives? And I say 'our' because that's the only way to see it. How are we going to take our lives out of the hands of the warmongers, the Masters of War, as Bob Dylan so aptly sang of them, and get them to wake up out of the deadly sleep into which they have fallen? Are they never going to tire of their war games? We are not talking about little packages of green plastic soldiers that can be brought out of a drawer the day after Christmas to be played with at will. When do they realize that they are dealing with real people and real lives, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers?
Now, "soldiers" sit in control rooms with their fingers on remotes and detonate bombs as though playing a war game on a computer. Cognitive dissonance doesn't begin to describe the bizarre direction these bloodthirsty bastards have taken. It's vampirism. No, it is. Remote vampirism. And there won't be any new memorials, because we're too busy killing to erect any new ones. Where would we begin? And how do you erect a memorial to the hundreds of thousands dead at our hands in countries buried beneath rubble? We've literally destroyed the cradle of civilization. How's that as a metaphor for our times?
I'm sick to my stomach.
"At the Vietnam Memorial"
The last time I saw the name Paul Castle
it was printed in gold on the wall
above the showers in the boys'
locker room, next to the school
record for the mile. I don't recall
his time, but the year was 1968
and I can look across the infield
of memory to see him on the track,
legs flashing, body bending slightly
beyond the pack of runners at his back.
He couldn't spare a word for me,
two years younger, junior varsity,
and hardly worth the waste of breath.
He owned the hallways, a cool blonde
at his side, and aimed his interests
further down the line than we could guess.
Now, reading the name again,
I see us standing in the showers,
naked kids beneath his larger,
comprehensive force—the ones who trail
obscurely, in the wake of the swift,
like my shadow on this gleaming wall.
~ George Bilgere
I was hoping Iris DeMent's song would become a part of our history, but that's not to be....