These Pelicans by James Ross Kelly (Where I Live Poetry & Photography Series)

Silver Birch Press

pelicans
THESE PELICANS
by James Ross Kelly

Four pelicans on a log downriver
Sit like squatting men
this crimson Sacramento River evening,

& one rises up a sleepy watchman
& slowly waves his wings,
As a good breeze blows up river,

Paired mergansers begin to move away
As I sit down and look at the pelicans
Whose white through binoculars
becomes pink for a moment
With changing clouds & sunset
Coming

I’ve never wanted flamingos,
I’ve been waiting
For these damn pelicans to show,
& they sleep on the log

All the while I’m sitting under cottonwoods
That release a snow like namesake floating &
Blowing up river, & mallards
Begin to sound and take air across the river

Two pair wheel & move up river
Then turn again, reverse & land
Near the shore below me
Across from the pelicans,

By me the wild grape from
The cottonwood hangs dead

View original post 266 more words

An Unkindness of Ravens

On the death of poet David Lloyd Whited

It has been over four fortnights since my friend
David died, his widow at his deathbed calling
Me & asking me to speak to him
Through the phone, he in a coma
Children and Marian around so, I panicked &
I prayed the only Christian prayer
I could think of, “Lord bring him back
We need him here, his good cheer and we
Need more of him and Lord don’t take him!”
I’ll apologize to no man for my panic

When his wife arrived from her
Work that Friday he first allowed that he’d not gone
To work as he was feeling bad, & minutes later he
Was on the floor, that Friday night
Having collapsed trying to sit up with Marian’s help
On his couch, didn’t feel good that day
& he stiffened up and went to the floor
I was 700 miles down I-5 I could not go
& there was no good outcome surmised by doctors
The Poet’s heart had given way

In Alaska I saw repeatedly every deer season
An Unkindness of Ravens as they are called
When in a feeding frenzied  group to
Herald every afterkill of blacktail deer,
A snow laden clamor of raven and eagle
Blood on white snow unsympathetic
As most obituaries but louder, & yet
I know only the antidote of fond memory

David & I as young men
Drank and read our poems aloud
& reading poems we crawled through bars & bistros
& fished behind the Snake River dams
& off the derelict sand barge on Maurey Island
& caught ling and true Cod & sharks out of the Puget sound
I carried him out of at least three bars & one night
Off the Tramp Harbor pier
This was the man that wrote:
“Sadness Drives a Fast Red Car”

He died Sunday morning after Thanksgiving
I did not go to the funeral, did not know of a wake
Cremated out of the hospital & as there is usually
These days, no acknowledgement of the body as a rite
A memorial in a church in Tacoma was due
Work friends, one brother, grieving Marian & son & daughters
I called her the morning of the funeral
& I asked her to open all the windows
In their little  house on the Puget Sound
At the mouth of Judd Creek
When she left to go to Tacoma.

My good poet friend David is dead

Anger of a Kind–after viewing a year of child massacres in Mexico, Peshawar, and Syria

Anger of a kind
rests in the contours
of our palms,
inexpressible

Anger of a kind
with clenched fist
demands hearing of
why & wherefores
to this satiated life

Anger of a kind
bleeds from open wounds
& wombs, distended
bellies, machine-gunned children
nerve gassed children, & children killed by suicide bombs

Anger of a kind
wretches at the politicos,
foreign & domestic,
whose wart-healing
short-term gain
infects itself & all
that it touches
with promises & putrescence’s

Anger of a kind cries to a limpid
unconsciousness not
to accept anguish, suffering,
murder, ignorance, nor placation
solely because they have always been
or, because they have always been  paid off

Anger of a kind stands
witness for all that come after, sometimes
having used a tempered edge for necessary deadly force
and final will for change, & that swift bitch–change herself

This anger is kind.

High above at this moment

The last two pieces of oak have gone

Into the stove

& it’s too dark & icy to get more,

Inside the stove a chunk to the right

Smolders & pops

To the left about thirty seconds

Ago the other said the same

 

It is getting cold—a jet

High above at this moment

Is taking someone

Toward a sad occasion

We all suffer

 

Iris in a water carafe

Is stupidly trying to bloom

In December

 

On the hot stove I dropped Frankincense

This after noon

& a Holy odor

Pervades this cabin

No priests on this mountain

Wind chimes however

Announce epiphany

Unrecorded

 

Lovers embrace in

Immaculate numbers

All over the planet

Genetic material furthered

To be exactly what they

Are, themselves, guiltless after Christ,

Either by love or some other reason

 

Life brings on abundant life &

His own purpose

& like the tides, surges connection

Recedes, then surges again.

Venus Void of course

Stepping out into

The crisp night air under leafless

Oaks, there is a clean

Smell that can only be

Had in certain places,

Venus shimmers off mountain

Horizon, I thought maybe

You were looking at her too

 

Glimmering off your Bodega Bay

The pliable ivory of your face

& red hair

& connected pervasively,

Venus occluded with moon

Four days ago.

 

While you know

I don’t buy Astrology

& for you that’s part

Of your faith & that’s all right

For you then

I wonder about now

 

Three days before this evening

I’m told of twelve people

Are meeting

Three of which believe

That they are from Venus

& have video tape of

Venusian space ship

Landing on earth

 

Life is preciously beautiful

& we are part & parcel of

Gaseous formation of the adjacent

Planet & I would never want

To break up their meeting, & laughing

Though I am

 

Knowing that voiding time

All of this is a togethered thing &

While Botticelli’s art

Which we accept unlike

The Venusian space ship

& how he

Put her so delicately

On the half-shell

With your red hair

 

It is more like

A dream this art as life

Than a reverie

But there in imagination

We loved each other

& shared our last name w/out marriage

no relation & states away

A decade apart our

Birthdays, yet the same?

 

We astonished each other

You were swooped off

To California, but

In this cabin, this damn

Cold Oregon December,

Your red hair spilled across

My chest, your smell like

Lilac must, your

Touch soft, is soft &

Warm air becomes heavy

Acrid smoke fills the air,

A cabin, or a cave,

Or a peat heated shanty above

A wind swept cliff & the sheep bells

Clang in the mist?

 

I saw a reflection in your eyes

Dim light, our bodies move,

& then we were still, & your

Touch again, it should not be

A dream, yet it was

& that’s all we had

 

My heart surged

Not from desire

But from wonder &

Though we never made love you

Were many times on

My arm & we many times kissed

Deep spit swapping passion

& one night we slept together

This imagination makes what it will

Yet you were always a person

Not to be worshiped

But to be known & we knew each

Other in some kind of morphic

Field that came together & said

Remember?

 

I don’t buy reincarnation either, but

The neo-paganism you seemed to love, hey

The playful part I get,

Masks &drums & the anthropomorphic

Notion of animals, like coyote, but

The old gods have always been

Flipping  dead

Pagan playfulness, still has a black ribbon

Running through it to the diabolic,

As did the inquisition,

Or any religious spirit

In every camp—waiting

For the wrong move away

Presence interior & from

Above simultaneously

 

The dimness fades

& the light grows

Too, too bright

I close my eyes

Black ice on asphalt & fire

On the moon

We were both void of direction

Toward God

 

& then I see again your face

Surprised

Then calm, your face changes, again &

Ten out of ten of us die

& you were eventually gone

Earned Wisdom

I hadn’t been home long enough to take a shower

& there came a pounding on the door & I knew only too well

Who it was and he was the last person in the world I wanted to see.

I answered the door.

“Ah Heartache my old friend,” I said,

“Come in you, son-of-a-bitch, come on in make yourself at home.

You know your way around, there’s beer in the refrigerator.

“I gotta  grab a shower.”

He didn’t say a word but headed for the Hotpoint refrigerator

Next to the Frigidaire gas stove.

I got in the shower and washed off the grime from the roofing job,

I’d hated for the last month.  One more week and that would be done.

Then hopefully the rains would start; I’d be off with unemployment checks

Until an editing job promised me, turned up in January

& I could get some of my own writing done,

Without worrying about the wolves at the door

Although this guy and his friends were worse than wolves

I got out of the shower and there he was with his feet propped on my coffee table

Watching the six o’clock news. He had  gone through one sixteen ouncer

& was well into his second —I’d been expecting him

But was wishing he’d gone back to California where he belonged

“Looking kind of down in the mouth,” I said.

“Been with that bitch Envy again haven’t you?

What? And her sister Passion as well.

You sick bastard

That’s what I’ve always admired about you.”

I finished drying my hair and zipped open another tall boy.

I just sat there eyeing the tube with as much attention &

Chagrin at the commercials as he gave Tom Brokaw.

I wanted him out of the apartment but felt some strange

Premonition he needed to be there,

Then there came another knocking at the door.

I answered & there stood

Misery in Friday night togs looking like an escapee

from a disco pogrom  years ago.

“Yeah, I might of known it would be you,” I told him as I opened the door.

“Come in it seems I’ve got some company you’re gonna love.  The beers are where they stay cold.”

And it wasn’t three minutes before there I was with both of them on my couch,

Drinking my beer and arguing about the Baseball strike.

Misery was immediately on the side of the owners  & caps,

Allowing as how he’d never made even one percent of average players salary

While old Heartache lashed into the right to collectively bargain

& protection under anti-trust laws & how Misery’s one percent

Was because he’d never worked longer than three months his life

& couldn’t do anything other than complain well.

I bought out three cans of oily sardines and a bag of chips

before they got around to yelling for food.

I’d scarcely gotten the hosting job done when a banging started at the back door.

“Who the hell could this be now?”

I made my way back through the rubble of beer cans

on the back porch  with its idle fishing poles

& the washing machine that never worked

& there he was—his left shoulder facing me

& looking up into the sky bright almost neon

Twilight of October’s bright changing colors solemnly turning gray

“Loneliness, you bastard,” I grumbled.

“At least you brought beer,”  I told him,

I made my way back into the apartment

Loneliness shuffling in behind me.

“Look who’s here boys,” I yelled

As I went for another one my beers before they were all gone.

I knew Loneliness brought the beer the least money can buy.

Every three months with the change the seasons it seemed

He abandoned whatever twelve-step he was in

& ended back on my back porch with the cheap beer

I made my way back into the living room & they all were making

More noise without saying anything, than Howard Cosell ever did,

Arguing about Self-Pity and whether he was going make it back into town.

“That’s all I need,” I said out loud, “is to have that creep show up tonight.”

I then made a mental note not let him in if he did.

When I discovered that there was nowhere to sit, I took the floor

In front of the tube and they’d switched on a two month old golf tournament

Where a baseball game should have been, &

I knew it was going to be a bad night.

 

Living the Dream

I entered a fast food restaurant,

My brand, where they will serve

Breakfast 24/7 & where I’ve never

Been sick afterwards, &  this knowledge

Is very valuable much like entering

An area in remote Indonesia & figuring out the

Friendly tribes & how to avoid the cannibals,

I & my wife walk up to the counter, an affable Chicano dude

Takes my order, while giving others in the

Kitchen  orders & I ask him how he is doing?

“Living the dream,” he says,

“Living the dream,” he repeats,

“And you sir?” he asks.

“Wonderful!” I reply, “Wonderful!” I repeat.

I’ve been sitting in my back yard

Remembering this and taking in my

Flowering light lavender purple crepe myrtle, with finches eating

Thistle seed from the hanging socks, my wife has tied there,

in this twenty foot tree the finches are hanging

upside down on the sock like yellow monkeys &

Loud red and orange Canna Lilies in the corner of the yard and now bright

New Red Crepe myrtle, is coming in beside the compost box, at breast height

Flowering for the first time deep purple red, I’m making small talk with my wife &

We are on a back deck under an umbrella at 10 am drinking good coffee

& it will be 104 degrees today, but now it is so pleasant &

I’m remembering this breakfast two weeks ago &

Thinking about “living the dream,” this gentleman

Had lots of tattoos, and deep scars on his face

& forearms—clearly some of his dreams had been

Nightmares, & there was a tone of

Sarcasm in his reply, & so much of this life in

Stepping  into retirement has been this ever-rewarding notion that

I am living the dream, while the poems & stories come out &

Scream out sometimes or sometimes softly but I’m finally living the dream

& the small pension and social security are like the Guggenheim

I never applied for, nor even wanted to apply for, & this

Notion of the artists’ life having to have the day job, & wait,

I did both, I waited, did the bidding of others for a decades & a half

& now I get to fish when I want drive this word processor all day

Or fifteen minutes if I want & I’m taking all this in and paying

Attention dutifully to what my wife is saying, & then she leaves & more

Finches come, a beautiful small red & blue grosbeak comes to the

Bird feeder & peeks around the foliage, leaves, comes back leaves again

& comes back and feeds, I notice robins in the grape vines on the white picket

Fence & realize they are eating our grapes that have just ripened, I yell

At them, my wife has come to find out what is going on &

I tell her about the grapes & we both go to inspect, &

Well they have hammered all fifty or sixty bunches of table grapes

That we were waiting to pick tomorrow, my wife is really mad

& I’m out on the other side of the fence laughing at the birds & the picked

Clean clumps that were just yesterday pumping up their white green

Sugary goodness & are now skeletons beneath the yellowing leaves

I am living the dream; &  I’ve got scars to prove it, like the sweet gone grapes

It is very good this given life & its mortal expanse &

Last year the neighbors picked the grapes while we were on holiday.

 

Working men, & wolves & bear

Wolves took down deer working from the beach & up drainages
They creep around huge spruce & cedars & ambush
Wintering deer in among windfall & beach drift wood,
With snow melt & deer moving inland wolves moved there too
Pockets of wintering in the central part of island had deer
That never saw the ocean; the wolves took them there too
A vast sea the size of Delaware of forest rippled over mountains & rose up
From glacier made valleys, spruce, hemlock & cedar waving
Slowly as rain forest Foresters came & began hiking deep into the woods
Up creeks & on out to ridges that stretched into the alpine
Laying out roads & designating units of “harvest’ that
Laid out the boundaries of what would come next

Wolves took down deer working from the beach & up drainages
Loggers came soon & began to build roads first out of Craig & Klawok
Then Hollis, Thorne Bay, Naukati, Coffman Cove, Hydaberg
Cook shacks & bunk houses
Began to appear, company stores sold snacks & cigarettes
& Copenhagen cans, each camp had home guards where a wife or
Two appeared, State land came up for sale & like the 1800s
Houses began to appear, rough at first then nicer,

Wolves took down deer working from the beach & up drainages
Fishermen were already there mostly in Craig & native Klawok
And Hydaberg, but as houses sprang up there were more around the camps
Bunkhouses, still housed men & float planes took them to “town”
Ketchikan the first city in southeast Alaska as you go north
Scores of bars & women & two days if you could remember it was
Later called fun, no one thought it strange to send a float plane for pizza

Men took down large trees, working from the beach & up drainages
The pulp mills have ate up the Forrest around Ketchikan, began
To take down rafts of logs from the Archipelago of Islands on the
North American coast, the long straight grains of Sitka spruce that
Made everything from pianos & violins & were prized ships spars but
Then the pulp mill produced fiber slop & spun the forest towers
In to rayon for skirts, pant suits & blazers & all the while the late rubber
Had hit the road in the lower 48 with rayon strands woven in the tires as

Men took down large trees, working from the beach & up drainages
Building roads & made their way to head waters & started working on the slopes
The pulp mill ran three shifts, & the loggers came to town & still

Wolves took down deer working from the beach & up drainages
The roads began out of every logging camp from & gradually worked
Toward each other & the central part of the island, each logging camp
On the island sea locked & remote, began to become villages with
Wives & children & schools & little churches, & barged in grocery’s

Men took down large trees, working from the beach & up drainages
Around the island & roads built of island rock & granite began to connect
And logging was money & jobs were plentiful & loggers tramped
Their camp for another with the same pay each time a Camp supervisor
Did any bull shit thing, or too many mistakes were made in the rigging
& with the bull shit thing there was more danger & they began calling themselves
Tramps, with nose bag of thermos & gear & duffle bags, a sharp set of cork boot some of them
Worked the like work, all over the Archipelago Island all making various stops
Some of them set chokers some of them worked rigging & some of them fell trees,
Some of them made it their life & some of them made money to go to college so they could
Have a life; one timber faller put himself through dentistry school
& bought cabin cruiser & he came back with his wife to the islands every summer
For thirty years, long after the bunkhouses & cook shacks were gone
Fixing folks teeth, & while tourists came to catch halibut & salmon &
Men took down fewer large trees, working from the beach & up drainages

Big black bears always took salmon working from the beach & up drainages
Splashing of spawning fish big Coho’s & Sockeye & pink salmon as well, while
The big belly draggers were noted in the outdoor press as largest
In the world & anyone could come take them from all over the world
And the bear population that outnumbered people for a time came down
Without much notice & the locals took few bears for food & generally in the
Spring, & the press became advertisements & the lodges began
To sell package tours with a Suburban & an Island map, & with various expertise
Hunters came & bought tags & shot bears in the spawning streams
& drank liquor & wounded bears & shot sows with cubs
& drank liquor & shot bear, it didn’t take too many years before everyone
Stopped seeing belly draggers & the State sealers began sealing to the out of state
Hunter boys, teddy bear sized bears & sows were taken & the orphaned cubs showed back up
At the lodges & the ardent bear hunters began to call this wrong, & the State in time
Changed the rules after, a lot of the damage was done, on
Prince of Wales Island where nature was constant before 1954
& the roads began to connect, & the logs could go to the big mill in Craig & little
Mills all over the island, as the pulp mills were shutting down forty years later
When they & some of the foresters saw a diminishing end of the thought of never ending supply of
Men taking down large trees, working from the beach & up drainages

Where now a patch work of timber patches made a mosaic from the air
No need to plant trees in the rain forest land, the trees came back,
The big trees were gone forever if the clearcuts were rotated every 50-100 years, like well
Like, Aldo said, like cabbage patches & like cabbage patch kids, boys & girls with degrees
Showing how this could all be managed & Forest plans were planned
& all the nations’ laws were mentioned & it was still that,
Men taking down large trees, working from the beach, & up drainages but it was harder to do
Largely because folks started to sue, it seemed to those that were there,
As a carpet of trees came back in five years’ time, jobs were plentiful & the loggers
& Forest Service workers began to stay & villages became incorporated
& politics were added to the industry of timber, some became fishermen
And some started little mills, the road became pavement over time &

Wolves took down deer working from the beach & up drainages
& the villagers could trap, beaver otter marten & wolves
& kill deer for winter meat, salmon & halibut already canned up was larder as well
Grocery stores once distant, then became closer for some
Protein was often immediate & had to be taken,
Like taking a coat along on a cold winters day
every house hold was allowed five deer per person & all the
Salmon & halibut they could catch, & then in time some noticed not as many deer
& thought of the wolves & first blamed them, while seeing winter range
Disappearing on trucks, no one noticed dead fawns that had nothing in winter to eat
Only a few saw boatloads of bucks coming in on Charter boats,
No one saw wolves killed on the beach just for fun,
Winters snow depth not letting them out of inland stands of refuge, & the
Islands of refuge became deer holding pens, this all came after time while

Men took down large trees, working from the beach & up drainages
Slowly at first, tourists had arrived every summer
& lodges appeared; charter boats caught the “Barn Door” Halibut
& pictures were taken & no one thought of these three hundred pound
Flat fish as the egg laying mothers that kept up the stock & behemoths were
Caught & the pictures continued to be taken & the stock started to slow,
The commercial fishermen were limited to week long seasons & tourists from
Texas & tourist from Tennessee, tourists form California, New York, Minnesota
Came with thousands of dollars to spend & Chicken Bay which was named for
The good eating “chicken halibut,” fish of around twenty pounds
The chickens & their mothers were taken away &
The big fish were all distant, at a several hour boat ride,
The summer brought traveler halibut from the far north & villager long lined a year’s catch but
The charter boats & everyone else took the big ones & the stocks began to wane,
& after arguing for some time the biologists
Got a handle on this & there were less charter boats just in time, still
Wolves took down deer working from the beach & up drainages
Clearcuts in mosaic grew back plentiful forage, strings of mild winters
Let deer slip through wolves & men & for a good time deer numbers were up,
The roads adjacent to clearcuts were for a time shooting galleries each fall
After hunting the alpine the deer lower down could be found in the clearcuts
And a rest from the road & nice buck would fall, the rut would deliver more &
Boats following the beach could come back with a boat load of bucks
To round out each families take, then charter folks began to do this

Men took down large trees, no longer working up from the beach
The drainages were logged leaving a bath tub ring of harvest around all the island’s creeks
Save the centermost part & the Karta wilderness, & the Honker divide
The inner portions of timber taken were deer winter range & soon there was
Less & less of it, more roads more hunters less deer, & now

There were less wolves to take down less deer working from the beach & up drainages
& men took to killing wolves, no longer working up from the beach, but working up roads,
& no longer for pelts in the winter, men took to killing wolves because they were wolves
& they also ate deer, & the fewer wolves became few wolves in the central part of the Island
That save the beach road on the Clarence straight was surrounded by pavement,
& 4 wheel drive pickups could speed from side to side of the island
& crawl up most roads until deep December & hiking in & setting snares became
Predator control for the few that warred on wolves, and called themselves the wolf patrol,
Some biologists called it the end of the wolves upcoming, & others said they’d be alright,
but when they started to investigate the wolves were down to a few,
& the few became three & the dens were all empty save one
& it would be some time even then if measures were taken, though none are planned until
wolves once again took down deer working from the beach & up drainage’s
& if the Central Island wolves disappear; there are still packs to the north though not very many,
And packs to the south, though not very many, & maybe they’ll come back
Just like the halibut and bear the biologists disagreed &
Some say the winter range can be logged & others say it can’t,
3 or four wolves taking down deer working from the beach & up drainages
& now there are court cases & lawyers & judges to decide whether
Wolves will still take down deer working from the beach & up drainages.

It’s Been Fifty Years since You Died

I named a son after you, &
Though you died  in Kansas during cruel April
& I was in Oregon, but I was there with you a
Long time..I have no idea what kind
Of funeral you had—or even if you had one
The brother of my mother, your wife
My Uncle, told me that spring, during a
Drive in the station wagon where he could
Deliver bad news without looking at me,
I’d had these trips before, had some after, but I was
In my 20s when I figured out they’d
Kidnapped me from you—it may be that he hated you, however
His Father my Grandfather always had something good to
Say about you & you know he visited you when he went back
To Kansas, my Uncle with pride and perhaps a little senility showed me
A letter in 1974, but written in 1963,
Threatening a law suit if you came out to get me, the Uncle thought
that would demonstrate how much they loved me—but it was always
I waited for you to drive up in that ’56 Buick & thought of how I would pile in
& we would drive all the way back to the flat land with all the windows down!
The uncle told me many times when wanting to correct my behavior
That he’d send me, ‘back to your father,’ oh please know I always wanted to go!
That day in the ’53 Ford Station wagon, about a quarter mile from
Where the dirt road to our farm met the pavement & then south on
Highway 62 toward Eagle Point, he began to tell me that you had died,
The story had been that you were coming to get me
In about six months—& that had been six years, & you called twice,
Wrote three times, sent me a pocket knife & a rattle snake rattle,
From a snake you’d killed in Nebraska, who knows what happened to the snake rattle,
I lost the knife in basic training in Fort Ord, California in 1967 when drill instructors
Yelling that any of us with knives would be court marshaled and sent to Ft. Leavenworth
You had told me at about 8 years old not to go in the Army
&  to never work in the oil fields,
I took your advice about the Oil Fields, the Army had me
Four years I didn’t have to win any of the Medals you did
I did get a Good Conduct Medal and an honorable discharge
They did not send me to Vietnam while it raged and others went,
I often thought, that was a direct result of what you had to go through
& with noted exceptions, I’ve led a somewhat honorable life, when we got back from
The station wagon ride my grandfather told me that Winfield was
A little Kansas town where people could get away with murder,
& he did not believe the newspaper clipping my Uncle had shown me in 1964,
That having found your body in the river with a railroad iron tied on
The back of your belt—what an awkward thing to do! He, your father-in-law
Did not believe you committed suicide as the police said, in 1970 when I was back there
For the funeral of your other son Dennis my brother, & Lyle your good friend told me the same thing
& that none of your friends thought you’d gone by your own hand, largely because
You’d have shot yourself —they reasoned, “being and outdoor man—& seen the worst of WWII.”
Still you’d been down, my Grandfather
Commented on that the last time he saw you—you’d not been able to work in a while
Because of your back, you must know I had the same problem 3 back surgeries on the job
Lifting injuries & one bad car wreck, I made it through 25 years of pain & six years of
Addicting prescription drugs, that when I tried to cold turkey out of it made me
Humble and knowing I’d not have any thing over a common junkie, a year after
The last operation they stair stepped me off & that was 12 years ago, still I thought of you
& made it through, I’ve visited your grave twice, once when Dennis died &
Again when I had to deliver a 1963 Impala convertible to Wichita in 1983
I met your friend Bill Husky on an out of the blue phone call he made to me in 1996, &
A year later I went to meet him in Florida; he told me WWII & I’d always wondered
What you had done, then I knew there was some kind of miracle going on that
You made it back to make me, after D-Day plus 13 to Cologne, Husky& his other buddy that
Knew you said I looked like you, I had little Joe with me & they were happy to see
Me and said, unabashedly you were a hero, & they were damn lucky to serve with you,
& told some stories how there were 300 landing on that Norman beach & only 50 left at Cologne
So now I have to tell you the part about how it was, that I realized about that time
What was going on in my own life, as it relates to you death—I blamed myself for your death
I somehow thought from the time I was 13, that if I’d been there
I could have stopped it—or it would not have happened, I took that
Into my soul & packed it around with me like a ruck sack filled with cast iron skillets— for 32 years,
Took this darkness to the Army & to college & through two marriages & a bunch of what we now
Call relationships—all the time trying to drink like you, & smoke like you, hunt & fish like you,
with every awful injustice I knew of, I wanted to kill Nazi’s like you,
& then, I took it to God & He showed me it was not my fault
But instead— a lie whispered to me all those years ago, & the next day
Husky called telling me about you, & I knew this connected & was true &
Since then, most all of the drinking stopped
& well I’ve had my life back & good humored it is, I laugh a lot
Pretty sure I’ve raised two pretty good boys into men
& now have a wife that does all the ideal Betty Crocker things that somehow
Escaped us back in the 50s, except for my grandmother, who cooked
Cottontail rabbits you killed & made me bacon sandwiches & chocolate cake with white frosting,
You drank Jim Beam with  Coca Cola chaser, & always brought a Coke for me
&  me even tagging along
To your beer joints & the dusty Kansas humidity that I did not know was oppressive
& it all left me an orphan & now knowing how dysfunction
& PTSD are oppressive, but I have to tell
You that I, like Husky and his friend, never thought ever of you as anything but a hero,
I retired in Alaska then went south for the mild winters in California,
& six months before I left, you came to me in a dream
With your Humphrey Bogart fedora hat & leather jacket
& picked me up in amongst a pile of old boats & we both went on a journey
south without the Buick, across the sound, & a road,  & the sunset
& I walked just a little behind you.

In the Spring When Kings Go out to Battle

Battle is all I know

& I count myself dead

Beginning with each war

There is no other way

There is no wife &

There is no life &

I must end life that comes forward to me.

War is not a backward motion

 

I never knew

That I knew

But I knew perfectly

When my company of men pulled away..

 

I was always ready to die for this King

For I am one of his 40 mighty men!

& I, a foreigner, a Hittite, as is my wife

Our grandparent’s grandparents settled in with

These Hebrews who treated us well, & many of us

Like myself & my wife became proselytes

Their faith now mine, is now mine own battle dress

 

Today is no different—except today I know

Just as these dogs are before me— I will die..

 

But not before this one who charges out of the

Throng, & oh  how I love spilling his blood, & cleaving

Half through his neck & chest— he never saw it..

Now they see me ready again,

“Who is next of you— dogs? Who of your slime is next?

 

He brought me out of battle! Battle!

This is shame! To leave battle,

I know of no other guilt I could be guilty of

& not ask for forgiveness from this their mighty God

Because it is so vile and shameful! To leave battle?

I, Uriah the Hittite shirked no battle afraid of no foe?

To leave battle? Sent from battle like some load bearer,

Smelled fine food and his perfume in his palace

But not my brothers sweat!

What could be the reason?—this King is my life?

When each war ends, but not until it ends

Until then My life— is always Battle!

War  when it begins is a linear  series of horrific acts

Each death an immoral, yet honorable action until war ends.

This one is not over; we could lose, the battle King

Could lose, simply because he is not here

That men would rally to his standard as the standard of the Almighty

My queen death by my right and left

Hand is the end purpose of my blood!

I sacrifice a lamb for every man I kill.

 

He set me before table of feast & wine

Then bade me go to my wife? To my wife?

When it is my oath to kill the dogs set before me

& there they remain and my brothers without me at their side?

That is all I could fathom.. I slept at his door & never saw my wife.

 

Heh, you, you Ammonite scum, die as you run to me! I know your slime

Ridden brothers will soon bring your archers to bear

Until then, this is two of your Hundreds

That taunt, dead & the blood still spilling out of that one now,

His tunic floating red now..

“I want more of you, like a hungry man wants his dinner!”

 

Three are running toward me now, one to the right, he will

Make a flanking move, the others come straight forward with

Lances, I will kill them all with these moves the Most High

Has given me, we 40 men were schooled in the difference between

Killing and murder—I am a killer. It is so. Yet I have never murdered.

But he the King? Why does he murder me? I thought Joab could never do this

Had it not been bidden by the King

I carried the message that ordered this treachery—I saw it on Joab’s face

My brothers would never do this,  Joab placed me with

Young men, first time in battle & when they withdrew on orders

As I led the charge and these dogs quartered in and have

Boxed  me on this rocky field I saw them Leave in tight formation

—the King was angered

When I refused to go to my wife

 

Perhaps he slept with my wife & brought me

Home to assuage this guilt? Yet I cannot believe that.

Did he not know that the most shame I could bare

Fiends take my wife who bathed on the roof below the Kings’ window

I joked about the King seeing her private parts!

Perhaps that was my sin, perhaps she will foal Hebrew blood and connect

To a lineage unknown to me, there is more than war, I know now that

This is the day I die, I would want nothing but warriors for sons,

Still.. was leaving my brothers in arms for his table a thing he thought I could bear?

Ah, but those days he commanded us in the field!

I would follow him anywhere and do his bidding

No matter the course, so I left battle hoping to be

Assigned a particularly dangerous duty..

 

Oh! How, I love to side-step a shield & with a feinting move

This flanking bastard coming close will soon die & while these two get to see me jump!

Up so my sword can kill from the height of his shoulder

I plunge it straight down with the quick stab which parallels down the neck

Passing through clavicle quickly & down quickly down..

Down into the vitals & as I come back to earth tipping the living falling corpse back he falls

The air leaves him & my sword is out and now & as he topples—I kill the other two!

The look on his face when I left the ground is still in my mind

As I now smell them all bleeding—& it is strange that now I wish the King was watching.

 

“I, Uriah the Hittite Servant of King David—of his 40 mighty men will go to my

Death with joy this day—as a warrior I’ve never looked for rescue!”

My brothers backed off leaving me cut off & the wall over there..

I’ve known since I was dispatched from the King

Some one thing was wrong, & if it be betrayal—so be it.

That I’ve fought valiantly for this King no one will ever deny

This has been my great joy when it was I knew he

Voiced daily with Almighty, I’d seen him as a youth

When he’d put down that ungodly beast behemoth Goliath

Stinking philistine that he was—I admit it I could not fathom it

Yet I saw it, I saw it at 18 and he was 15, & he killed him

With stone from his sling, dead, in the dirt

The giant that smelled of excrement & ate raw meat

& entrails unclean & putrid & gargantuan as he was—he bloated in half a day

David cut off his head with the Giant’s own sword!

Oh how we rejoiced seeing the Philistine dogs run after this &

When I heard that the prophet named David the anointed of

The Almighty I knew of no other thing I could do

But serve him— David, and shortly swore my allegiance

To him and only him, that my old uncle

Betrayed him, & his traitor son who infuriated me, & when I

Saw Absalom dead my heart swelled with the joy

The justice of it, yet I saw my King weep & grieve

As if he’d lost an infant child, I thought him

Beyond human with tenderness that day

I, Uriah the fierce Hittite was moved by

His loss and his ability to love

Now I see that they are

Sending five at me… Ha! I give it to these dogs they

Have not brought archers nor javelins to bear even now & will

Try showing themselves men! Ha! I’ll kill these five!

 

I’m now leaking red blood & that was a little harder

Than I thought—my age? I’ll have no gray hair after this day!

Ha! This Day of my death, no old man tottering before a grave for me!

I am a warrior & death has always been my mistress.

That keeps me true to my wife!

I’ve always been true but now there are

Other arms of Sheol reaching to receive me —I go there with honor!

If there is resurrection as some of these Hebrews believe,

I desire to march straight for it.

But not before I taunt them more, “Dogs! come spill some more of your

Entrails that I Uriah will make you whore mothers weep! Dogs that

Defy the Mighty one of Israel! Come die with me today so you

Will see Sheol and bark for even dark mercy!”

These Hebrews taught me Job & He Who is Mighty

Test men—I’ll be true to this test

Ha! & now I see the archers being placed, & a phalanx of

Infantry to take my arrowed corpse, Ha! Today I die!

The morning sky is red, & a hot wind blows in my face,

My doom is this day will not steal my joy of this

My final battle—a wrong done against me never-the-less

Through a cause of which I’ll never know here.. yet I smell Hyssop

I smell olive oil,  I smell savory, and Basil, and Aloe

Their clang of armor sounds paltry,

Now I’m hearing distant symbols, tambourines & trumpets

Bah!  I throw down my shield & pick up a lance!

In thirty feet the archers will have to shoot round their infantry

I will charge them!

He has some reason not privy to me, & so as said Job

& now I charge them! & I’m yelling:

“Even though He slay me, yet I will praise Him!”

Starting just before 1970

 

The double standard was part
Of the unwritten rule
At the start of the decade of the seventies
rules were being bent,
made up, broken, thrown away
& generally laughed at.
wouldn’t be until the mid-1980s
that the pandemic
of acquired immune deficiency syndrome
would bring us scurrying through the gutters
to find the rules and again adopt a modicum
of fidelity that had been temporarily
on hold while penicillin really had knocked
sexually transmitted disease easier to cure
than the common cold, oh these were the brave years
of a sexual revolution that was no more
revolutionary than tomato juice
Personal behavior as a consequence
was on hold with Roe v. Wade mixed up
privacy with infanticide, or reinstalled it
as a pagan rite, while My Lai could be rationalized & its
perpetrators could be slid into obscure exoneration
in the day it was Pendleton shirts, and Converse tennis shoes,
V-8 engines that took you down the American highway
At a high rate of speed, the lonesome highways
between suburbs and rural America where you
could feel a rhythm of road noise
& drive in a day a distance
your grandfather could not travel in three weeks
& then there was the warm wet your pants
seduction of the commercial
National rant of it, that sold the notion
to the nation that this perfect thing
we thought we had, was never perfect, which it wasn’t.
but the sales pitch was—that there was a sale
on Democracy worldwide & that, somehow made it right
that we had the right to make that illusion
part of everywhere else.