THE SECOND WEEK OF ADVENT
It's becoming clearer, to me, this Monday,
this morning. My grandfather, Victor,
who named my father, Wayne Emmanuel,
before they locked him up for his craziness
(Where they locked up the mentally ill
in North Dakota, there being no treatment),
did a wonderful thing, naming him,
and my father, Wayne Emmanuel,
often embarrassed about his name,
never-the-less, signed that E
with such flourish. I have written poems
about this from my beginnings--
returning now to what I began with,
the clearing--it is no more (but all of it!)
than this, thrown out, though they were,
cast asides, they held to their names,
Victor, Emmanuel. Their names, long denied,
were always who they were.
11 December 2017
LOOKING AT SINGERS
IMMORTALIZING OUR TIME
WHILE LISTENING TO THEIR SONGS
Miles turns his back.
Miles says to John,
Take the horn out of your mouth.
Miles gets angry
just thinking about Jack Johnson.
Merle Haggard's wavy hair
Uncomfortable before praise,
I don't have a clue about
his true feelings for Oklahoma.
My friend saw Johnny
walk out in that black suit,
it hangs here beside him
singing his death song on video.
After I bought my Navajo pipe
with Mountain Smoke in the Canyon
I listened to native flute sounds
for three thousand miles.
Not a Star War fan, I just
walked a different way.
That concert for Bangladesh
shook us up when we were young.
Did you dance the Stroll
to Fats singing in 1960?
Did it change your life?
Did you end up somewhere else?
Clothes of old rockers
glare like flashing police lights.
Those jazz men in suit and tie
cross into gospel-riffing solos.
That small picture of Janis.
Jimi asking where you've been
We were raised on blues.
We would never go back to others
Even when mirroring them in dress
We would always be found out
Sheet music Ella looked at
with her own eyes, held in her very hands
When I took that photograph
How I listened is how I belonged
Cante Jondo y Lorca
Camerón de la isla
Lagrimas de gitanos
Who's singing? What's the name
of the band? Stone Ponies
Transfigured 50 years
Different drum had me believing
I knew Thoreau. Stone Ponies.
I would return from war for the song.
Richard Johnson taught me what
I carried in my body was the blues
when he played The Thrill is Gone
The thrill came back. From as little
as this, I learned how disease
stores itself in the body.
We'd just moved out west
from North Dakota, I was ten
or eleven. My cousin, three years
older, knew what was going on.
Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog
and the Elvis Christmas Album
with I Believe and Precious Lord.
I still thought Thomas Dorsey
was the trombone player.
I knew that hat the minute I saw it,
Stevie Ray's black leather jacket
with shells. My son brought me
to Stevie Ray Vaughn, connecting
him to Jimi. But I didn't know
about those boots. I don't know
if my son did, either. What skin
do you suppose that is, goat?
I knew songs, but not the music
of George Benson. The photographer
Darwin Evans also made guitars.
Benson showed me how smooth
Jazz could be, how that guitar,
plugged-in, carried family tradition.
When hip-hop hit I wondered
what would happen
and I said, No. At the same time,
I knew about the Dozens
and how they worked. I took
H. Rap Brown into the classroom
and showed the kids how
they broke you down
Stevie Ray Vaughn's boots
and then built you back up.
That all made sense. Bad
language taught me once more
how to turn the world upside down.
Twinkie and Tommy Dorsey.
Precious Lord. Mahalia,
The Bessie Smith Collection
wild as the Mississippi River.
26 Nov--7 December 2017
Museum of Musical Instruments
IN BELL RINGING IS THE INHERITANCE OF THE WORLD,
AN INQUIRY INTO THE PLACE AND LEGACY OF THUMB PIANOS
Music runs all of the time, everywhere,
I have known this since the day of the cymbals,
so long ago, now, it comes up in the forge,
emerging from fire, before the hammer.
Along with the surprising accompaniment
with the bells, and their strange alloys,
diversity in sound survives
under the surface of the empire, ringing.
I live in the country of Ella and Miles
in the era of Bob Dylan. To be sure,
this is still whispered out of hearing
of the cognizanti writing their papers.
It's a big world, isn't it.
A big world made up of nothing but music
and all of its silences. Living
in the land of song carries with it
vast invisibilities, moving you
at all times. My country
is not a safe place. My country
is not a safe place, either.
Harmony is not sameness.
Oh, the pearl work inlay on guitars.
The resonator. The guitar is under stress
even at rest. The best ones are built
at the edge of self-destruction.
Look at the yellow and gold
about to make a match.
Watching Janis in those old clips
feet stomping the floor, her foot
separating from the heel of her shoes
to make a better hammer hitting the floor,
she is not yet 27, but she's nearing
the time of her leaving, already singing
break another little piece of my heart.
On a day like this, one is tempted
to say, I just listened to all the music
of the world. Madera de mi tierra.
Salute the four cardinal points.
Shakuhachi inseperable in its roots
from early modern Japan.
I don't have any remaining tears.
Noh masks and flutes, staging the sacred.
Kultrún drum of the Mapuche
where the healing of the machi took place,
where I was born after the reading of the urine.
So many instruments running through
walking ears, ears for the people.
Even the walking stick a drum.
2-3 December 2017
2-3 December 2017
WALKING INTO MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MUSEUM
OVERHEARD CONVERSATION ON LONG MARRIAGE
Helen, your bracelet just fell off your arm.
Your bracelet just fell off your arm, Helen.
2 Dec 2017
Creosote leaf chew
Oil-coat savoring water
Text desert tongue test
Sinagua at crossroad
Karen comparing time lines
Seed pods of mesquite
Forest flour ground into meal
Baked into cakes
Mesquite sap candy
Adhesive and medicine
Common cold tree part
Writing all morning
Talk with Karen day and night
Ear and eye event
Her long loneliness
When I can't access wonder
It's a public death
These are the women who played with courage.
These are the women. These are the ones
who explore the virtues. Deciding
is the virtue of the will
temples of spirit radiating
from bodies, merging
with the fabric of sky.
These are the men who played with blocks
These are the men. These are the ones
who explore the virtues. Love
is the virtue of the heart who live
in house wonder, wondering in hallways
of house history. These are the ones,
women and men of the imagination.
These are notebook lines
IN THE TIME OF DYLAN
How to read houses from paper models.
Hands on wet clay shape a new thing.
Building it. Desert shelters.
Living in the time of the cantalever.
Sheer force, moments developed
in beams. Wind and earthquake stresses.
Midpoint balance. Frames for lateral loads.
Go fetch me a 5-man.
You and four others.
A friend from home sends a poem
about the dark time we're in
and it's that dark.
Where I was last night
walking on lit path
Cosanti, the thing first
Ready, fire, first word
orient house proper
5 weeks to 5 years
Pull built environs
Each one hand thrown pot
Craftsmen on five-count
Urban sprawl offense
Only cars connect
All in the notebook
House before the thing
A bell in the yard wants wind
28 Nov--2 Dec 2017
20 ANGELS LIGHTING CANDLES
WHILE KAREN AND I WALK
LONG LOVE THROUGH TIME
Full Moon Luminaria
Yo Yo Ma strings sent our way
Churros dripping brown sugar
2 December 2017
READINGS FOR THE 29TH OF NOVEMBER
COMMON PRAYER POCKET EDITION
A LITURGY FOR ORDINARY RADICALS
SHANE CLAIBORNE & JONATHAN-WILSON HARTGROVE
--for Pastors Jim Engel, Obispo Medardo Gómez y Abelina Gómez, Ron Moen, Shane Claiborne, Paul Benz, Jill Ross, Mike Scheid, Eduardo Cabrera, Ladd Bjorneby, Emilio Benitez, Esau Cuevas, Mary Bosell, Eric Anderson, Alex Schmidt, Abiut Fajardo, Carol Nelson, Carroll Hinderlie(s), pastors all, Lars Claussen, Paul Palumbo, Eliseo Pérez-Álvarez, Chris Wogaman, Harvey Blomberg, Caroline Hellerich, Ron Marshall, Kerry Kesey, Phil Nesvig, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Dean Stewart, Martin Wells, Susan Briehl, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, and especially for Pastor Harald Sigmar;
--for Fr. Stanley Marrow, S.J., Pastor Rudolf Bultmann, Fr. Thomas Merton, Fr. John O'Riordan, Fr. Dean Brackley, S.J., Brother David Steindl-Rast, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, Fr. Rutilio Grande, Fr. Jon Sobrino; for the Mary Knoll Sisters of Chile and El Salvador; Sister Elizabeth, Sister Mary Ellen Robinson, SNJM, Kathleen Ross, Sisters of the Holy Name, SNJM, and Sister Roberta Rorke, Sisters of Providence, Mary Rita Rohde, SNJM, Sisters of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary, and those classmates from SUMORE at Seattle University.
--for those poets with begging bowls and without collars, and in other traditions, monks all; all catholic workers, inside and out.
I. PRAYERS FROM THE POCKET EDITION
"We dream of a holy village in the midst of the urban desert"
"Advent is the season when Jesus put on flesh and moved into the neighborhood."
"Becoming the answer to our prayers: A few ideas"
"3. Dismantle a bomb. Or dismantle a theological argument that dismantles bombs."
"With his coming, we learn that the most dangerous place for Christians to be is in comfort and safety...Places that are physically safe can be spiritually deadly."
To find each day's scripture readings for the morning office, consult the following table. For information regarding the person or event commemorated on a special day, consult the 'Annotated List of Special Days.' pp. 105-151.
II. MY TAKE ON THE READINGS
11-29 Dorothy Day. Psalm 139: 10-16. Micah 7: 1-10. Mk 13: 24-31
Micah first, post-harvest, gleaning.
Woe, woe, woe. To men and MSNBC.
My desire for first fresh fruit.
In your lover's arms, don't open your mouth.
50 years ago, when I was 23, newly married,
I found William Stringfellow's book
in Jerroll's bookstore in Ellensburg,
My people is the enemy.
Salmo 139: 10-16. Lo contrario!
Aun allí, tu mano me guiaria
ni las tinieblas serían oscuras para ti,
y aun la noche sería clara como el día.
Sabe todo de mi, Señor.
Aprendí esto como joven
en el estado de Dakota Norte
en mi pueblo. Supiste todo
de mi, incluyendo que yo
identicaba con los indígenas.
Begin by reading the wrong verse
in Mark. Go back to it this morning,
perhaps rushing now. Do I have
to do my lesson over? Fig branches
in spring. Sap running. Time--time
is urgent. It is when you're hungry.
If you're out in the cold
chances your neighbor knows this,
are high. You got it.
You're the neighbor.
What you gonna do, bro?
III. DOROTHY DAY AND THE ANGELS AT THE SPA
8 Nov 1897--29 Nov 1980
Entertaining Angels, title of the Paulist film,
doesn't Paul show up in the unexpected places?
An image from a friend in a moment of doubt,
You never know when you're entertaining
an angel. When you're working at this level
like Miss Day, you're blind to elevated talk.
It must come as epiphany, lifting and sustaining.
My take: she didn't see herself this way.
This film can be rented at Amazon
immediately for two dollars, 97 cents,
and for seven days, it's mine. Karen
says she's going to the fabric shop
to look for material. Epigraph on black
screen opens the movie: I wanted the abundant
life. I didn't have the slightest idea how to find it.
Moira Kelly plays Dorothy Day. 1996 movie.
Film opens with young black woman
screaming in chains--jail cell or mental hospital--
can't tell, Day with her, Camel cigarettes
and a Zippo lighter--I can still hear the click
from mine--set in NYC, 1963, year
I graduate from high school. Martin Sheen
plays Peter Maurin, who (I find out later,
Googling, wrote Easy Essays in verse,
If we are crazy, then it is because we refuse
to be crazy in the same way that the world is crazy.)
Eugene O'Neill, all the artists, right there.
Alcohol and cigarettes. Artists looking for more.
Day writing, wanting that. The unprinted stories,
looking the other way. Love at the beach,
and a daughter, Tamar--there's a good
Old Testament name. Tamar won't go away,
and she won't get off Scot-free. Children
off the obsessed may learn a better way
but they'll pay a price. Day write.
(After watching the movie, wondering about Tamar,
I discover her youngest child, Kate Hennessey,
has this year--2017--published her book,
The World Will Be Saved by Beauty.)
Day's granddaughter Kate says,
All of us are inside Catholic Workers,
outside the Church. Inside/Outside.
I think Buddhists the only ones to get this.
Whatever we'll have, we'll have,
all the great talk, passing the nun on a bicycle.
looking back at the old man, startled.
Shucking oysters. Cutting the hands
looking for pearls, what else?
Cynicism. The poor people--
they seem to like the church.
How the best stuff cuts both ways.
To be an honest woman.
Who says I'm not honest?
We have a good life, the three of us.
Why isn't that enough?
Who are you?
I am a Catholic worker.
Who are you?
You drink, you wet your pants, you vomit.
How could anyone love you?
I am not who I thought I was.
You look awful. That word. Awful.
I've been thinking about who God
wants me to be in a very lonely life.
(Title of her autobiography.
How faithful we are
serving the poor.)
Peter Maurin will lose the language
that I find online,
that I'll end with--
some unfinished business
for me at home--
The coat that hangs in your closet
belongs to the poor.
29 November--1 December 2017
How one works
how one can work.
Where one is
and resources for slowing down.
When you can go slow
and for how long.
Can you stop.
And can you stay.
How long can you wait.
Because you have to keep moving.
Movement makes it possible, too.
What can be absorbed.
Stop and go.
Set and release.
Spaces in between
where vortex goes.
we have seven nights
with bed and kitchen.
A detachable car.
Museums, pink jeeps, and guides.
National monuments with storyboards.
Exile, voluntary and involuntary.
Bookstores in National Parks
with the best books.
At Montezuma's Castle,
I have a choice. Stay with Kachina dolls,
take these books, carefully assembled here,
or, from Images of America,
expensive and superior local history?
How much energy available? To me?
I take the book on Sedona,
where we're driving to. Best history
on place I haven't been to yet.
Sandstone city named after a man's wife.
Taking it with these questions.
Will it open for me? And how?
Whose voice will it be.
In Sedona, after lunch, I try.
It doesn't work. But the jeep ride guide,
Pete, the one who says
I have new medications,
they're working and kicking in,
taking us over these rocks,
gives me the voice I need,
a half dozen details,
and a way into the book.
This is vortex for me this morning,
a swirling funnel of images
from yesterday, gathered mostly by others,
over time, thousands of years with people,
millions with the landscape,
gathered for me today
in luxury setting with the best coffee
in the world. It's all working.
Pete says this is his third day
on the job. Let's go.
Believe me. Vortex. A mass
of whirling fluid or air,
especially a whirlpool or whirlwind.
That fault line!
"We were caught in a vortex of water.
"We were in a pink jeep driving up red sandstone
"We were in a whirling vortex of smoke
Merging in traffic.
Traffic of book, ideas, voices.
Stopped in time, before time and after.
Dust from ocean floor raised by sheets
of tectonic plates into mountains
and worn down again. Cyclones,
eddies, maelstroms swirling.
Black hole of creation.
Vortex of the poem,
That one. That vortex.
A century long poem made new
triggered by a man driving a jeep.
Vortex is the art of movement itself.
A single image from ten thousand
daily frames, the swirl
of ecstatic sobriety
one man walking with one woman
over time's recording.
30 November 2017
EASTER SERMON OF KARL BARTH
TALKING WITH PRISONERS
LUXURY HOTEL READING
These cool sheets on the Heavenly Bed
with all these pillows
in white pillow cases
propping me up as I pray.
Pray and read. At prayer.
We know well are plight and Thou
knowest it better. Wherever
people are gathered today.
Because I live, you will live also
John's Gospel says. ¿y todavía
no me conoces? El que me a visto
a mi, a visto el Padre. I'm stuffed,
just back from barbecue,
pulled pork shoulder and brisket--
and I didn't eat too much! Finished
my cole slaw and baked beans!
Oh, those burnt ends!
Barth delivers the captives in God's name,
not because we enjoy dealing with God,
not because we believe he's easy to follow--
no, none of that! Not because of promotion.
I'm on vacation and I live a very different life.
I know what is at stake here.
My life is at stake. My very life.
Like the man in the starched shirt says,
People die for these white sheets
on the Heavenly Bed. What more
could we do to have you stay with us?
29 November 2017
HIKING BROWN'S RANCH TRAIL LATE NOVEMBER
Leaving my small town on a small plane
in the middle of the night, I'm reminded
what Emily Dickinson said about the mind,
how it needs what it can't know--
more than it needs any Aha! Take me there!
I tell the bus driver. Take me where news
I can't remember can't run intersections,
where everything from now is old. Older,
he asks, than Brown's Ranch settled
by E. O. Brown, a Scottsdale entrepreneur,
early part of last century? He ran thousands
head of cattle on 44000 acres. Before that?
Before that they were unwanted newcomers
to Yavapai and Apache. They came early 1600s,
hunting, occasionally raiding Pima settlements.
Desert farming Hohokam settled in valleys,
about 1300s. Before them, agriculture
became important about 1000 Common Era.
Earliest evidence places nomadic bands
on Brown's Ranch 9000 years ago.
Yavapai and Apache resistance
led to Army forts and reservations.
How far towards oblivion do you seek?
Tell me about Sonoran Desert mercies,
toward drought and famine. OK,
we'll pass under power lines before you walk.
The sun comes up over Tom's Thumb
and backlights ocatillo for the camera.
This is early light dramatic shadow.
Here, the beauty of oblivion, not knowing.
Exhaustion of trail or beauty? Water thirst.
Another bus ride back. A woman slakes fear-
thirst mixing what renews for one like me.
Organic frozen fruit chunks, clear cider--
sparkling--and Passionfruit. Float orange
slices on top with skewers of dried fruit.
28 November 2017
SHARDS OF MEMORY
When they all came,
they slept in sleeping bags,
they slept in the desert,
they build shelter from materials
that manipulated visions.
It was a manipulation
by nature of the self.
Coyotes, bobcats, javelinas.
No straight walls,
no smooth walls,
no right angles.
Flat sides of rocks
and no place to sit.
Public side, private side.
18 November 2017
WHAT RAY CARVER SAID
I'm searching for phrases
We save so many things Ray
said, but we never met. He said,
Use it up, going from short stories
to poems, until he gave the page
all he had. I stumbled
into the Oregon town he was born in
once coming back from the ocean.
We pulled off to have a sandwich,
snapped some pics at the memorial,
went into the small library
and took his books off the shelf
and read poems for an hour. The Dylan
epigraph comes from Tempest,
the song, Just After Midnight,
and Dylan's punching in,
going to work. Just after
he sings Searching for phrases,
describing his process of writing,
he sings, to sing your praises.
My take on this is the muse.
That you --you and I--we live,
Zev, in the era of Dylan,
and we know that.
Knowing that pretty much
does us in, finishes us.
We're so thankful for this,
we're speechless. The others
at the table, we owe them
the kindness we owe family.
With that one exception we're allowed.
I don't have to spell it out.
We don't have anything to add.
27 Nov 2017 /Scottsdale, AZ
PURSLANE AS SINGLE-ROOTED PARABLE
Don Eduardo y Luz walk us to the
community garden, late September
in Sacramento, where we pick
two kinds of eggplant, berenjena,
a small handful of serranos,
two California chiles, and I grab
the weed I've pulled for half a century in Yakima--
purslane with the tiny yellow flowers--
Jim, Jim, Jim, esta es yerba buena,
la verdolaga. Usamos en ensalada.
Sabroso. I'm wearing a Yerba Buena gorra
from San Francisco. Luz steams
the verdulaga before dinner, adding
it with beets to the salad. Part
of the resistance in her city,
Teología de la liberación es parte
de los raices de Pastor Eduardo.
Leo Los Salmos en nuestra recamarra
antes de dormir. En busqueda
de la felicidad. Gritos y clamores
de protesta. Gritos contra la injustia social.
Temas de Luz y Don Eduardo.
At breakfast Don Eduardo sings
the entire liturgy for me in Spanish.
El libro sobre los salmos está llamandome.
How is your liturgical life?
¿Cómo está su vida litúrgico?
22 November 2017
HIKING COWICHE CANYON WITH GRANDKIDS
THE DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING
All stones basalt, and I fear
we won't find much. Sammie
calls them meatball stones
and I call her metaphor
a find. Dheezus finds
a 5-pounder with a waterfall
down the center
we stash on the trail
so she doesn't have
to pack it both ways.
The girls smell
through it, picking
leaves, rubbing them
into hair, stuffing
into the horizon,
calls it out,
We're walking the Loop
to Cowiche Creek
stopping where out
before they were born.
The girls remember
their hike on Mt. Rainier
this summer, when
they refused the trail
because feet threatened
Sammie finds a
stone with a lake in it.
Dheezus curls her body
into a ledge. We stop
on a sitting stone
for the three of us
and shell peanuts
discussing how plants grow.
25 November 2017
Sky Canyon opens for children the way abundance shows itself in dreams. Oh, Jeez, we say, waking. Ears for the people is not everyone's crystal cup. How do we know the things we know before we were born? This is the mystery of children, and my option. It strikes me this morning that this was my mother's option also. At the time I thought it was a safe place to land.
If you're going to San Francisco
wear a flower
THE POEM THAT WISHES
FOR ITSELF AN ETERNITY
for Karen on our 49th Anniversary
Karen, you've been with me
every day of the poem.
Before you, seeking the poem,
the poem is all I wanted,
I wanted to be a poet
but didn't know
what a poem was
or how to make one.
When you came
I knew it was you
knowing a poem
was in order, in fact,
an order, and a poem
was ordered. When
you came, the poem
came with you,
you were the poem
but I didn't know,
I knew but didn't know
knowing I didn't.
You embodied me
without my knowing.
I never made
what I found in you
finding out in time.
I never made you,
finding out in time
that you made me.
Love, Jim23 November 2017
from painting by Rex DeLoney
NIGHT MOUNTAIN SKY SONG
Coltrane on a rainy morning.
A love Supreme. Acknowledgment.
Acknowledging. That big,
the music. Mark Karn
carrying music. Carries
calling up Neil Young,
Christ hunter Orion
calling on His Father.
Big love. Big love.
Life Together. That one.
Joined by the stars.
One who wants fellowship
without solitude plunges
What we can't claim
right here in our hands.
Before the baptismal font
arms in wonder-reach
A love supreme
A love supreme
A love supreme
A love supreme
10 November 2017
Storypath/Cuentocamino: Larry Harwood Interview and Native Photos with Jim...: Larry Harwood, 85, shows up at a book signing in Yakima, for Crazy Horse, the book by William Matson and the Edward Clown family. Harwood...
Larry Harwood, 85, shows up at a book signing in Yakima, for Crazy Horse, the book by William Matson and the Edward Clown family. Harwood has a box of photos and his grandfather's story--plus a story of his own. Jim Bodeen interviews and films him in his home.
Following the presentation of the book, Crazy Horse, The Lakota Warrior's Life & Legacy: The Edward Clown Family, as told to William B. Matson at Inklings Bookstore, Yakima, WA on 15 Nov 2017, Jim Bodeen walks Cowiche Canyon with the book, carrying the voices of Floyd Clown, Sr., Douglas War Eagle, William B. Matson, and Yellow Wash, Davis Washines.
FROM 50 YEARS AGO BETWEEN KAREN AND I,
I COME ACROSS THE LETTER TO KAREN, WRITTEN
THE DAY AFTER MARTIN LUTHER KING'S ASSASSINATION
Opening these letters I didn't know what I'd find.
This one, beginning 6 Apr 68, from a stenographer's
notebook, page torn from ring wire, inserted
upside down into typewriter, Hi love. Anything
here? I'm wondering, the date not triggering
the war mirroring ours, in America. I write
from the 85th Evacuation Hospital,
Qui Nhon, South China Sea: After Tet,
when we had our turn in Hell. Language
of the times, to Karen: ...terrible about
Martin Luther King. Last night I sat in
with four colored guys and on the radio
we listened to the eulogies and sorrow
expressed concerning the assassination.
These guys were hurt pretty hard and they
are not going to take it lying down. They
are young and millitant and deserve
the rights that we have. They are going
to riot all over this summer. I don't know
how bad that it will be. I want you
to be very careful. We can do more
for civil rights by just being ourselves
to all of the people that we meet.
That's what the letter says. No changes
in spelling or punctuation. That's it.
Who I was at 22. In June, Bobby Kennedy
will be shot as we prepare to rotate home.
What's still to come
walking into November, 1967.
Not as many folks around as I ask
my question: Where were you in 1968?
Believe me, politicians emptying
the treasure chest for the powerful
know their numbers. So many touchstones.
I cite twocca every chance I get: Gary Snyder
in Mountains and Rivers Forever, this:
Then the white man will be gone.
His follow-up. White man is not
a racial designation, but a name
for a certain set of mind--when
we all become born-again natives
of Turtle Island. James Baldwin
before and after: No label, no slogan,
no skin color...The Price of the Ticket.
As long as you think you're white,
I'm going to be forced to think I'm black.
It is the unalterable truth. All men are brothers.
A painting of Coltrane hangs in my room,
inspired by A Love Supreme, painted
by the artist Rex DeLoney, given to me
when he went home to Little Rock.
A love supreme. Acknowledge it,
bright paint. When my friend dies,
what I send his son. When I'm alone,
what I listen to at night. Returning, then,
some of us didn't go back to that country.
15 November 2017
COWICHE CANYON, 14 NOVEMBER 2017
I. Ears for What's Coming
During the day-to-day life,
not just hours on the trail
solid with your trekking poles,
There ain't no man righteous,
no not one, Dylan live
from 1979, in my head
heading out. Sunny,
cold and windy. Photograph
sage on top before descending
to Cowiche Creek. Intersecting
creek and trail in canyon,
eat just-picked Yakima apple
down to seed caves, then eat
the seeds, all of it, watching
two hawks circling sky
shelling peanuts into paper bag
before starting back up.
A Merton quote from one friend
exploring Chuang Tzu's letter to Wu:
One thing is necessary. Merton quoting,
What is your original face before you were born?
And then an advent poem from an old pastor friend,
with a line from Barth, with Jesus saying
the divine life is all, Without you
I do not care to be the Son of God.
Brilliant Barth. My defensive question
surfacing between steps, Did Barth
make it easier for professional clergy
to get rid of Bultmann? I don't know.
I call the hike a Van Walk for Morrison,
then after I unpack my lunch on a rock
above the canyon, change it, now
Van Sandwich. Sending an image
on my camera phone to a friend,
he writes back, Van Louse Stairway.
This every day music every day.
Below this rock
the bridge is out.
fresh ground peanut butter
and apricot jam sandwich.
II. 50 Years Ago This Day : The Battle of Dak To
I've been incountry
at the 85th Evac Hospital
at the 85th Evac Hospital
a quarter of a tour, 90 days
to prepare for November
and the 33-day battle of Dak To.
Torn-up eyes and uniforms
mirroring what can't be said
coming off stretcher after stretcher
from chopper and planes.
Intimate stuff. Kon Tum Province
in the Central Highlands
in a series of never-ending battles.
Initiated again, emotionally shut-down
nurses lead medical teams
through acts of love, passion
unleashed and without measure.
Training and practice
enters collective primitive.
3 Nov 23 Nov, 1967 then, starting then.
Intimate in the
Central Highlands of South Vietnam.
The 110-hour fight for Hill 875.
Border battles to distract American
and South Vietnamese forces away from cities
in preparation for the Tet Offensive.
Today it can be seen on the Internet.
Search and destroy.
4th Division where my friend was
and the 173d Airborne Brigade--
Westy's fire brigade all shot up.
Intense fighting until the NVA
On one day November 23,
the day I would be married
the following year,
107 dead, 282 wounded.
The 4th Division too, my best friend's location.
So many different casualty counts--
here's one--208 dead, 645 wounded from the 173d.
Friendly fire alone killed 41 GIs on November 19th.
Earle Jackson, 173d medic who served on Hill 875:
"There is something gut-wrenching
about severely wounded men
that I will never forget.
It is that most become delirious and almost
always cry to their mothers."
All of this coming through us in men's eyes,
dead trees embedded in fear-filled faces,
torn and bloodied fragments of uniforms,
battle images that will make our country
one of the casualties. Wild terrain,
half the mosquitoes in the world
and a million leeches on sharp ridges covered with double
and sometimes triple canopy jungle
Dak To Vietnam photos,
Trees without limbs.
Trunks of a holocaust, a memorial in themselves.
The black and white photos in the museum in Saigon.
The dead journalists. Ho Chi Minh City.
Reliable ferocity. Dante's 3d Circle of Hell.
Karen takes me back for our 40th Anniversary
ten years ago today, 50 years ago, too, from today.
These are facts, and some of them, partially mine,
partly collective, adhering to each of us,
counting 50 years from that day to this one,
on a hike, eating apples. The love those nurses
gave to those incredibly young men
passed through us that November,
some like me, accessing possibility
beyond anything we had known.
Cost and blessing in clothes giving
themselves away each day
from hospital wards to sky flights,
up the Northern Loop Trail
of Cowiche Canyon.