COMET FALLS HIKE, MOUNT RAINIER
My brother only slows
for Salmon Berries, ripe and orange,
mid week, mid August, he knows
this mountain where we bring
what we've lost, feet on the ground,
paradise with switchbacks
and elevation gain, only
a couple of miles off road,
and after a record snowfall
we arrive in time
harvesting water and light.
So much light inside the light.
Milton talked about this
and we remember, this light
He was talking about angels
and how they make love
without elbows and knees.
Water over us and on us,
my brother surrounded,
light-soaked, takes one step
towards the vision
receiving him. He wobbles
holding him to stone.
15-18 August 2017
COMET FALLS PHOTOGRAPHER
Her tripod set between trees
after the last switchback
looking into the falls
in her early 20s.
My brother and I
stop for a last look
from where we stepped
behind the fallen world.
I'd love to take your picture
she says. I have uncles
with your same names.
In the last year
I lost 95 pounds.
I'm still learning how to see.
18 August 2017
BRINGING GRAND DAUGHTERS
TO PARADISE ON MT. RAINIER
Roots and their surfacing network
make steps for children
and hiding places for chipmunks.
They know trail mix
in their packs can't be shared.
They walk the trail
the week caterpillars arrive
in wild flowers. It becomes
their trail mission to keep each one
from being stepped on.
Walking with pastoral ears, prophetic voices,
they hear rumors.
How many senators again?
What's real and what's fake
is sharp, nothing blurred,
Their selfless acts of witness
bring butterflies into our politics.
SATURDAY IS THE LONGEST DAY
Thoreau, lost in Mt. Katahdin fog
caresses us all in the wildest moment
of his life--and this is recorded,
news lovers. The dream
I wake from prompts me, Don't laugh.
Jesus man meets me at the Railroad Station
that sells five dollar coffees. He promises
passing rain showers, Don't miss the chance
to be re-freshed. This is the Gospel Hour.
From the back yard garden I hear
train whistles, feel the stress of bonsai
trees during the record heat wave.
12 August 2017
THE SCHOOL IN THE STEPPING STONES
Block by block through the Imperial City.
Tagged by medics when they were brought in,
the words for where, "...Near Hue,"
during a firefight. We were south,
in Qui Nhon, the evac hospital
that took GIs hit during this particular
Year of the Monkey. January 31, 1968.
I'm skiing in Japan on R&R
a resort called Zao, near
where Basho walked on his way
North. Ignorant of Basho,
ignorant of Hue, but those mortars
hitting the airfield on my return
remain with me still. Basho
where I walk, black pine, rock,
running water, book.
Ink in every book. I stood
on the citadel eight years ago,
returning, trying to imagine
revolution with modern weapons.
Impossible task. One who stood
with us in the rain, fell,
broke her ankle.
Tourist evac'd from the Sacred City.
My job in Qui Nhon.
Trying to imagine.
Moral injury is language
we use today, listening now
to casualties from all sides.
9 August 2017
LINES FOR THE GINGER MAN, LINES FOR ETERNITY:
REMEMBERING SERGEANT MAJOR THOMAS PENDERGRASS
He flew to Seattle to be with me on my birthday.
50 years ago tomorrow. Career soldier.
The Ginger Man, Hemingway. James Jones.
Father, too. Like Writer-Dad.
Pendergrass by the Hemingway statue in Pamplona
in the black & white photo in my hand.
But before that. SFC Pendergrass,
already in Panama, when I arrived.
I was 20. And how lost?
Heaven help the ginger man.
He gave me that book.
The Ginger Man: I'm sick of people.
The less I have to do with them
for the rest of my life the better.
I don't care if I die. Had I found
that book? Pendergrass put it in my hand.
And then brought James Jones'
From Here to Eternity. Just months
before, in basic training, I was locked
into my uniform by Army chaplains,
saying, We believe in this war.
P-Grass, drinking 15 cent beers with me
in the Em Club while I learned
my way in the government hospital.
I hadn't only lost as a pacifist.
I'd lost Karen by being a fool.
I found myself in Robert E. Lee Pruitt, Jr.
Pendergrass cancelled his own writing
to listen to mine. I memorized Stevens
and Eliot, reciting; I found the difference
between triage and evacuation. Only way
to Karen went through Viet Nam.
We could drive. With orders, in a VW
through Central America--crossing
into Mexico from Guatemala on a Sunday.
Border closed until we paid la mordita.
Seeing Oaxaca from the South.
Where are we? The career soldier
would get us to Texas, where we
would both go home. But this soldier-
writer GI, would fly to Seattle,
50 years ago today, to be with me,
with Karen, with family on my birthday,
my 22d, born the day Fat Boy
dropped the bomb on Nagasaki,
making me sicker now than it did then.
Mom and Dad were at that dinner.
But it was the soldier who flew
with me to California to ride the 747
to war. Heaven help the Ginger Man.
Get out and push like the rest.
The war would come to us at Tet
at different places. Evacuation
would become sustaining marrow.
Evolving, organic. Hand carried,
hand delivered, by a soldier carrying books.
8 August 2017
FOR THE AUGUST MOON
Sing crumbling song
Soothe the throat
with some butterscotch
THE MAN ON THE CORNER
WHO FLIES THE TRUMP FLAG
INCORRECTLY BELOW THE STARS AND STRIPES?
He's a hire.
Jim, you don't know that!
It was revealed.
I trust the source.
He couldn't shake it
He couldn't make it be known
This hot parched burning
AFTER A BICYCLE RIDE
EARLY SUNDAY MORNING
"I'm so sorry you have a neighbor
who flies the Trump flag." A friend
It's easier to drive by
than it is to enter
and sit in the pew
DREAMING THE SYLLABLE COUNT
I was there but I wasn't
I wasn't there but I was
The body is the bread of heaven
The place where God speaks
August 3-8, 2017
THE END OF CONVERSATION BEGINS HERE,
HERE BEING THE VIETNAM WAR,
NOTES AND FRAGMENTS
FROM KEN BURNS, LYNN NOVICK, TIM EGAN,
KARL MARLANTES, ENRIQUE CERNA
AND TABLE TALK DURING THE PREMIER
OF VIETNAM, THE NOVICK-BURNS FILM
TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
I. The Luncheon Conversation
We believe, Burns says, that America's
involvement in Vietnam is the most important event
in the second half of the Twentieth Century. Our
courageous conversation began in 2006.
The current White House is obsessed with leaks
like drunken sailors. History doesn't repeat itself,
but it certainly rhymes. This was a decade of agony.
It went on because it seemed easier to muddle through.
We hope to show you today, how we set the table.
Lynn Novick adds, Our country is awash
in un-processed trauma. Our efforts here
try to show there's no one truth in war.
Tim Egan, moderating asks about
grotesque inequality. He asks if this film
attempts to change the narrative of the country.
In a democracy one adds, you only have
so much time to win the war. New scholarship
over the past 40 years provides the distance
needed to have the conversation. We forget
that Ho Chi Minh was once a pastry chef in Boston.
Keep historians out. Talk to people involved.
You can find the evidence to find
what you want either way, Novick says.
The war took on a wisdom of its own.
Burns compliments. There was not
a governor on the engine of their enthusiasm.
Everything is available, Novick says.
Remember, Burns says,
There were three nations. Now there are two.
II. Conversation After the Film's Premier
Public Broadcasting convenes the conversation.
Investing in talk that makes us smarter as a nation.
Ken Burns confronts disunion, and lack of civility,
claiming it began with the Vietnam War.
He says, PBS has been his home for forty years.
But he's not that old!
Nine-Inch Nails and Yo Yo Ma
contribute to the music.
120 pieces of music in these 18 hours of film.
They ask the artists and the bands
for permission to use the music.
To an artist, every one said Yes.
Burns calls it the best music
in the history of the world.
Jimi Hendrix's family is in the audience tonight.
Is Burns excited about this?
Lock the doors, he says.
We're going to show all eighteen hours tonight.
You'll get out of here sometime tomorrow afternoon.
He outlines the format: 9 clips, 52 minutes.
Then Carl Marlantes with he and Novick,
Enrique Cerna asking questions.
We see Marlantes' unit on Hill 484.
We hear him talk about ghosts and ancestors.
Bring them out and embrace them.
Everyone in the theatre, my generation,
give or take, with crossover.
Many with wives, husbands.
Ones who came home.
A kind of synchronicity with anyone
sitting next to you.
Different than being at the Wall.
Something happening. Something to carry.
26-28 July 2017
THE LOST HAIKU
Emerging from dream
Daily walk in song
Song in many stops
Invisible second line
Breathing counting beats
Summer stop into waking
Second line of song
Where does the missing line walk
21 July 2017
GRILLING BEFORE NOON
Working a gift-bag of Kiawe Charcoal,
kee-ah-vey, from Hawaii, hard-wood,
the chicken goes on just after breakfast,
nobody's coming, trying to shorten
words simple. To say,
My hair is not on fire, or, My hair is on fire,
and know the difference.
(This, a praise song to the Senator from Montana.)
Weber Kettles have three vents that turn down heat,
and I'm a small part of Weber nation.
Jubilee Year for Karen and I,
reunited between Panama and Vietnam
during The Summer of Love. All debts off.
Van Morrison's Brown-Eyed Girl.
Making love in Karen's Chevy.
Where I started for this morning
when responsibility and chaos
broke through my fire-wall.
Those new digs you're in, Google
has photos of that grand park.
Lucky strike, your image for this life.
Transistor radios. Remember?
Music we hear, not fit for the oval office.
18 July 2017
HOW DO THESE POEMS
Shade with me
some, blue quilt
warmed, head clearing
from parenting pain
child-strike slight breeze
urging me, urging,
Walk the yard
Go in and out
by all light
black diamond vinyl clear
these are the Monday Morning news
my feet sandalled,
naked no shoes to tie
still life in blues
17 July 2017
TESTIMONY, DISPUTE, AND ADVOCACY FROM BELOW
That each breath is a gift from God
remains real strange these years later
after first stumbling and fall. It was me,
arguing, the Bishop only smiled. The book
that breathes new life re-surfaces
in my own garden. My own?
Where tentativeness ceases,
listening never does, So says
the Biblical scholar raising
language to alter that
which defends me,
a liberating way. What
is required? Walking
the poem across the abyss
without a net. What is required?
Of the man: Withholding
nothing of his being. Not me
looking for God, rather
God seeking me out.
Terror is anything but domestic.
Just breathing, already edited.
Fall down in joy and blindness!
Fulfillments already exceed the promised.
So many ways to read when new.
In, with, under, against.
Turning and returning.
Imagine the one who would protect God.
The one who calls Saturday the longest day.
14 July 2017
ENCOUNTERS WITH THE ESCHATON
Freedom from miracles
freed me for breath-words.
Forming like crickets--A
Burning with freedom
and on fire. Others saw
something they wanted
nothing to do with. Anger
sent me off.
I was in wind
that allowed me entrance
to sky. Over
and over I sang
gospel, breaking lines
on the half-hitch
just before placement
of the comma. Tiny
of songline. Jesus
sitting on a stone
smiling and safe,
listening to whispers
of a great feed.
12 July 2017
TRIPTYCH FOR RUDOLF BULTMANN
Dedicated to Father Stanley Marrow, S.J.
I. I HAVE A BULTMANN STORY, TOO
It starts like this.
I'm thirty years old.
Returned GI from Panama, from Viet Nam.
Finish school on the GI Bill.
Married. Three small children.
Forty years ago I found that man
who took on those questions.
Me. A protesting protestant.
Stanley Marrow, S.J. Iraqi.
Living in community with priests and nuns.
Three summers. Three years.
Stanley rolled away every stone.
He took every question.
He took every security.
Every turning point.
It all happened.
Over and done with.
It all began then.
Then I came home. That was 40 years ago.
This will take some time. I still have six days
before I turn the two books back in
come from Interlibrary loan. One came
from George Fox University in Portland--
the thesis of the young man from Princeton.
A thousand pages and a hundred bucks.
One paragraph from Christian Century--
a starting point. The other one,
Other, bless your heart,
the biography of the man come to me
across cultures and closed doors--
closed, if not forbidden. Six days.
I promised myself, given the chance,
my devotion and waking hours for the time
I have the books, if they came at all.
Their notice of arrival comes when I'm on the road,
costing me the first two days totalling twelve.
This is crisis. Deciding makes me smile. A president on a battleship.
No time for insider joking in code.
The yes and the no.
I was young and back from the war. The one in Southeast Asia.
During the bad time. To be fair here, I already belonged to literature.
I don't know. I was Medevac Sergeant at the Evac Hospital. In personnel.
Everybody counted, and we counted them sending them out.
I can't say to safety, because most of them were going home,
back to the States. Round the clock new year. This way home, GI.
In those months. That time. Those poems came years ago.
GI bill. Following literature.
I found Amos. Hosea. Couldn't find Jesus.
Before Bultmann, before Stanley,
the Icelandic pastor hounded me. Both of us with North Dakota roots.
Rural. Small town. Town family among farmers.
Diaspora on the front end.
Diaspora on the front end.
Him, into the beyonds. Beyond psychology, beyond religion,
wanting to write it. He wanted what the poem gave me.
I found Merton and C.S. Lewis from others.
He gave me Heschel and the prophets, he couldn't get me to Jesus.
First blush. Euphoric. Post-Bultmann. Pretty cool dude.
I'm the one liberated. Oh yeah. Look around. I try to tell it.
I try to say what happened. What I know.
I try to say where I've been. What happened.
I knew better coming home from Viet Nam.
I knew to shut up.
This was so much bigger. This was given to me.
Not a pastor now. Not anybody in pews either.
Sounding his name. Tongue explosion. A bolt of the blues.
The best that ever happened became the worst.
Name recognition. Oh. Yes. It turns out he doesn't matter.
The librarian calls. Both books, Spanking new. Never been opened.
Bultmann's eyes on the cover of the biography
dominate--the right eye directed at someone not identified,
the left eye in shadow. No attribution for the image.
Konrad Hammann. Marburg credentials. Translated
into English by Philip Devenish. This book presented
to The Guesman Collection for Biblical and Ministry Studies
at the Beverly Library, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.
A Lutheran convert to Vatican II.
Let that one play out.
I've been with the Chinese poets. The ancient ones.
And others. So many beautiful ones.
Always asking about Stanley.
Stanley says he talks with children to learn the language.
Bultman's name under my breath.
It's been, well, it's been good, it's been,
what it still is, a wonder walk.
And now, the surprise of these books.
1 July 2017--11 July 2017
II. LETTER TO KONRAD HAMMANN,
AFTER MY GRAND DAUGHTER'S LITTLE LEAGUE GAME
--and to Philip Devenish, English translator
American Christians here have POTUS' back
in Germany this week at G-20 talks.
A starting point of sorts. A context
for my reading of your Bultmann.
Delights come early countering depression.
Yesterday Donald Trump says three times,
Nobody knows for sure. Kerygma?
Early delights, Professor Hammann, as I said.
I expected treasure, but to be giggling on page 11!
You first, Emancipation from received tradition,
followed by Bultmann: Deliverance without compromise.
Stanley Marrow, four decades ago, my teacher,
in an auditorium of nuns and priests: We swoon
imagining Jesus on the cross for three days,
not seeing those on crosses for thirty years.
My context. A married Lutheran. Aversion
to traditionalism myself? I write from arrested
development, your book a medicinal purge.
The way you bring us Bultmann: Faith
not making truth claims, but personal experience
making contact with unconditional power.
Back and forth of dance. Compatible daring.
Redemptive. Eternal forces revealing themselves
in temporal events. Do you ski? Professor Hammann,
you and Bultmann descend through snow
on alternating edges. The right sort of foolishness
and high spirits. Trouble reveals divine strengths.
Alone in the pew, this was my time of testing,
but I couldn't see it. Crisis of the bourgeois world.
The faithful person, never the natural person, always
the person killed and brought back to life by God.
The two of you together crossing time.
Free from every entanglement. Sitting with your book
I say to myself, I'll be funny, exploding in tears.
Across time, I held on to Stanley and Vatican II
as doors closed daily. Reading poems, writing.
Tracing sources to their source in primitive form.
Whose voice here, authentic? What has been redacted?
Who are these fools? There is no 12-Step Program
for Bultmanians in America. After the euphoria,
I begin asking pastors about Bultmann. Who?
Oh. He doesn't matter. Young theologians
at the Master Narrative workshop? No.
A perverted state is at enmity with God.
Persecuted Jews, Gospel of John, the Demythologizing Lecture.
I spend three of my 12 days with your book here.
How many hours looking at photographs?
Can I thank you again without condescension?
Muzzling decrees and the confessing church, No.
At Eucharist once, in community, common cup
turns into a vineyard at harvest, with wild dancing.
Years later in Lutheran marriage encounter
the pastor takes the bread from my mouth.
The Catholics tease me relentlessly.
Ask Jim, Lutherans know their Bibles.
Word encountered in proclamation.
Crisis occurring in the moment Jesus comes.
P.S. Baseball game tied: 13-13.
3-8 July 2017
III. AFTER READING DAVID W. CONGDON'S BOOK
[951 PAGES] IN THIRTEEN DAYS, HIS PH.D. THESIS,
THE MISSION OF DEMYTHOLOGIZING:
RUDOLF BULTMANN'S DIALECTICAL THEOLOGY,
A LETTER TO THE AUTHOR FROM YET ANOTHER EDGE
Blue Bultmann painted by Oliver Crisp is a good start.
Sunrise hues on forehead and under the left eye, reach
beyond paint and into text. Promise of light to come.
Mission to modernity. It's about time
someone from your generation writes this thesis.
After 12 days, your big book on interlibrary loan
on its way back to George Fox University Library.
What is the condition for a modern theology?
Be sure and run it by those suffering in pews.
They're waiting, David Congdon, Dr. David Congdon,
Welcome. Here, everything fabricated
is banished--Bultmann at 28.
Mission turned towards interpretation.
Wave to your friends. This will take awhile.
Tension and pull, back and forth.
Paradoxes testing metaphors to breaking points.
The poem gets to yes only after saying no.
Tergiversator they called him? Tergiversator.
We know that one without looking it up.
Resurrection occurs identically with faith itself.
Hidden, you say--the Bultmann appeal.
A word clear in itself Bultmann says, asking Barth in a letter:
How do I say this to my children?
Dr. Congdon bringing the next two:
How do I say this to myself?
How do I hear it to myself?
Entanglements, ideologies, and guarantees.
Free of these, the word clear in itself,
beginning. I write from the pew,
liberated 40 years ago, by an Iraqi Jesuit,
who took every false teaching he could find
before giving me back to Luther. My wait?
40 years-plus, from Fr. Stanley Marrow to here.
I write from the edge of gratefulness,
a garden, mostly poets, but this weekend,
a pastor, in his 70s, low bullshit tolerance.
Cooking Mexican. Corn on the grill.
Chiles--de arbol, pasilla, habanero,
with Nopales, scored, like fingers.
Once you start telling people the secrets,
they sit up in their chairs. Isn't keeping secrets
sin as much as the fear? Who carries more fear?
Laymen or pastors? The pastor remembers
Arthur Võõbus, in seminary. The Estonian
carrying manuscripts on his back.
Every seminarian killled. Looking at him,
Mr. Dean Stewart, I am very disappointed in you.
I expected more than a book report.
Only being open, not created, self-revealing.
The unnumbered dead never counted in pews.
Laying out the Bultmann program. How big, this wait?
Some of what's remembered isn't remembered right.
What froze changed in the storage. What took root
grafted itself seamlessly. How it gets heard
reveals the eschaton. No guarantees
in the poem, walk the image to the abyss,
I can be wholly other, only when the dream
is wholly other also. How many times do we die?
How do I tell you this is real?
Time to soften up under an aging crust.
Your companion Bultmann's on the shelf.
When God arrives, he's already here,
been here forever, already beyond.
God's word is money that doesn't spend.
I'm reading my margin notes
inside the art of understanding.
May we, in your words,
take this strange world seriously.
From here, I find Hammann's biography,
one way only, love, perpetually beginning.
10 July 2017
APPROACHING MY 72 BIRTHDAY
I pour Cheerios
into a glass bowl,
adding one big handful
of frozen blueberries.
Every day I do this,
a latecomer to Cheerios.
to Grape Nuts and Raisin Bran,
gone. Reason? No.
being the American
breakfast cereal of the poor,
Cheerios three times a day.
I'm talking children.
I add blueberries
to ensure the anger.
3 July 2017
LOOKING AT THE FAMOUS PICTURE BOOK,
that one by Maurice Sendak
Into all that resillience--
where he had all that trouble
on the day that book
fell into me, a library of heat,
outside in my car flipping
pages in sun-flashes, over
what was taking place
with all children,
there, there now,
now that I have this,
God is trusting me
to handle it. Big sister,
wonder horn, and Mom?
here and elsewhere
while father's away.
in pink and blue,
with the ladder,
hooded, snow drifting
in circles into the bell-horn.
Papa was away, too--
where I wished him.
Music closes our eyes
carrying us. Learning
to love all that happens,
we cry, Thief! tearing
at our opening sunlids.
Our mother's clothes
are made of thread
from Grandma's golden
spool. Why call it,
Mistake, falling out
into outside over there?
This given music
for us to bear
into the hearing place.
Oh the naked little toes!
Heard sea clouds!
Breathing air bubbles
churning free from foam,
Big sister, Big brother
capable in love's necessities
led by children's child.
29 June 2017
SUNDAY DRIVE IN YELLOWSTONE
It's a road of hellos and goodbyes
and this day, Sunday, is mostly a day
where leavings take place in moments
full of ways confusing us all. The last thing
in beginning calls for grand children
to get out of the community pool
and assemble by the teepee
for photographs. One child will go
with us following pictures.
It's Sunday, as I said,
all in all things are ok.
Nevertheless, it's a sad time.
It's a sad time all over this country
and there are gaps in the story.
I've been reading geology,
a man not good at numbers.
Wife, granddaughter, and myself,
drive through Yellowstone
crisscrossing the Continental Divide
every few minutes. Wild rivers
meander. I collect names of creeks
for a friend who writes creek poems.
Three days ago on the Nez Perce Trail,
I wrote the year, 1889,
that a photograph was taken of Chief Joseph,
that hangs in a mostly empty restaurant
in the town of Kooskia. Highway 12 West,
following the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers,
wild ones, was completed in 1962.
John McPhee's epic, Annals of a Former World,
the copy I'm reading, is old enough to be placed
on the free book table in the sun outside
the Ellensburg Library. Lakes don't last,
he says, and I remember this sentence
as we drive by Yellowstone Lake.
The Great Lakes are only 20,000 years old.
My granddaughter, turned 10
on Summer Solstice. Her parents call
on grandma's phone to tell her they've gotten her
an IPhone 5 for her birthday.
Lakes don't show up on the geologic record,
McPhee writes. In rock columns,
more time is missing than is there.
What is there commemorates moments,
drops of rain. Reason enough
to risk everything for love,
that short everything and all
that may even be forgotten
in the course of a long day,
of a Sunday drive. Those sad goodbyes
of grandchildren are not even permanent.
It's true they're all away from home,
but they'll see each other
on the 4th of July, bank on it, even
surrounded as we are by violence
and, well, if you're in America,
you know. Nothing's wrong
I say to my wife, what is more natural
than children's tears? Sunday morning,
I read my first poem in days:
a father kayaking with his daughter
worships in the Church of the Outdoors.
Fifty years ago, a soldier in the Canal Zone,
wearing dress Khakis studying Wallace Stevens,
I memorize Sunday Morning,
and when I muster out after returning
from the war in Vietnam, I write
an essay comparing Sunday Morning
to Kristofferson's, Sunday Morning Coming Down.
Late coffee and oranges, I say to my wife
as my granddaughter naps in the back seat.
Other things happen on this day,
good things, I remind my friend
moving into, for him, a new house.
We'll have a sage ceremony.
Another poem reminds me
all places are sacred,
not only this first national park.
It jolts me, bitter irony
in the naming of Old Faithful.
Children incredulous with adults
look off in child-scream
eye-speak in deep magma.
Field workers in accelerated time.
25 June 2017
Jackson Hole, WY
Phil Garrison, essayist and poet, walks the border crossings from Central Washington State to all parts Mexico. This film accompanies Phil to Apoyo Food Bank, Ellensburg and returns to his back yard deck, as he talks and reads. These conversations take place as his book, What That Pig Said to Jesus, goes into bookstores. Phil Garrison walks with the immigrant, source and voice. June, 2017
WHACK, WHACK, WHACK,
GO THE DRUM STICKS BEATING
ON THE BACK OF CHURCH PEWS
CELEBRATING YOUR MOTHER'S
GRADUATION GIFT TO YOU--
A PLANE TICKET TO SEE
YOUR DAD IN EL SALVADOR
--for J. S. M.
Yesterday I made a list
of books, movies and poems
for you to read before
you travel to be with your Dad--
crossing them out immediately--
My God man, this young woman
was just accepted to study
at the University of Washington!
She wore more colors for honors
than you can find in the rainbow!
My daughter told me about you
when you were in Kindergarten,
with stories of your walk
through it all with that smile
that comes from your mother.
Big stuff. Crucible stuff.
El Salvador, birthplace of God
liberating people, sets a high standard
for the rest of us. Let me point
to just one: a small Lutheran church
called Resurrección, composed
of ex-combatants from the guerra civil,
led by Obispo Medardo Gómez.
In the back against a side wall,
look for La Cruz Subversiva,
two boards painted white,
signed by campesinos. This
cross went to prison
for the sins of state
against the people. You're free.
You'll understand on contact.
Finish Magna Cum Laude at the U.
17 June 2017
P.S. Love from us. See me about that list of books
before you leave. Jim
THE HELICOPTER FROM THE MIDNIGHT SKY
NEAR THE RIO BRAVO WITH ITS LIGHTS ON
AND SWOOPING LOW, DISPLAYS A BANNER
FOR CITIZENS OF TWO COUNTRIES
--for F. L.
Not many get these, ciudadano.
But not many graduate from community college
during the same time they spend in high school.
How in God's name did you do this?
You didn't give many clues
backpacking to Holden Lake,
you just kept crossing off switchbacks.
OK, OK, there's more to life
than climbing mountains.
Your Mom taught you salsa dancing,
is that right? Like soccer,
this is the world's dance for good reason.
You're good with questions.
You get me talking. This past year
all those meetings with Lutherans
looking for someone wearing
God's collar for people like us
who could tell a good story.
Did we find the right one?
Not our call. That one goes
to God. We told some stories
during drives to and from,
you laughing, me cursing,
God listening in. Fuming
last night at the news,
a friend sends a poem, giving me
what this poem needs: Unless
you have a crucified God,
you don't have a big enough God.
Do you say, Amen, to that, Francisco?
That Whup, whup, whup of chopper blades?
¿La migra? No. Jesus coming to get us both.
17 June 2017
P.S. Love from Karen and I.
Have a blast at the U.
You know your God is big enough.
FOR M. S. BETWEEN TIMES
FOLLOWING GRADUATION FROM ZILLAH HIGH SCHOOL,
A CONGRATULATIONS AND A THANK YOU
When I miss you during worship
you appear in that quiet way
that serves as your signature,
surprising me again, with words,
I was in the choir loft, praying.
With that kind of courage,
you pass every test any teacher
could dream up. Suppose dreams
only come from prayers rising
from empty choir lofts!
I was in the pew
surrounded by La Raza,
our people singing,
empty myself, scouring
words for enough
to carry me through lunch,
nothing more than that.
Your words, Hey Jim!
crossing out every no,
bushwhack me back to yes.
P.S. Work and pray. Have a blast.
17 June 2017
WALKING MORNING SUNSHINE
Walk the morning
robins so fat
they can't fly
hover in tiny
North Park Grove
perched on roof
of Canadian Chokecherry
Juneberry Bush itself!--
for berries to ripen--
even, dissing me
hidden in leaves
for their great bellies
11 June 2017
THE ROAD TO MABTON
WHERE THE ASPARAGUS GROWS
He has been writing about
war all morning. He closes
his notebook, done for the day.
He looks around for music.
3 June 2017
FOR, BUT NOT NECESSARILY TO, THE WRITERS
OF OUR WAR IN VIET NAM AT THE POINT OF MY JUBILEE--
ANOTHER EXPLORATORY MEDITATION
First of all, thanks. It wasn't always me who found you.
So many of you were put in my hands by someone else,
so in a sense, you'd already been screened, my friends
had said, I think there's something here for my friend.
You didn't come in any order.
your name just came up, and comes up first.
Barry put Facing It in my hands,
and Joan brought us together at Hugo House.
Your elegant hands hold all that will not fall.
I've followed you in poem and story and music,
I, too, find life in the blues, and follow you
into crevice and songline. In your distance
you are never far away. It is your face
I see when I greet my friends. You are the one
I find reading the ancient poets of China.
It doesn't matter what you say.
You swing in generosity.
Larry Heinemann you are the solitary survivor in us all.
You are Paco. Letters from Viet Nam
helped me find out people after the evacuation.
In Seattle on the stage of conscience, we sat, bumpershot.
Gloria Emerson, you are Jody Aliesan, loving in time of war.
Jonathan Shay you gave us Achilleus. You gave us Odysseus.
You have taken us all the way to moral injury.
This is a meditation in green.
Semper Fi, Marlantes. You give me the walk my friend made.
The friend who said, Keep your silver star. Your memoir?
I passed that on to my son-in-law who calls me Dad.
This is the sideways fuck. You didn't know about your own cancer?
This is the loss of Denis Johnson this past week. You are a voice
of the black GI. You are the voice of us all. I never tried to reach you.
You had that kind of beyond. The Monk's Insomnia,
that early poem. A mango salsa laced
with habaneros. Seconal drifts down
from the moon after Vespers. A boy sets out
thrown from the furnace of a star.
Tim O'Brien, you are the things we carried
and the things we carry. This is all warm-up to you.
The what. It is to you I turned back to.
You were there early.
I loved Cacciato, and I loved the way
he walked away. You weren't Robin Williams,
you weren't the deer hunter. Student Body President.
Because that's not supposed to happen,
that counts. I learned some geography,
I put stuff in your pack O'Brien. Too much.
Here's some of it. What you gave us in the carrying,
carried the generation. Each one a veteran of Vietnam.
I don't know you said that, but I did, early,
and said it in your name. I say it again.
And this: the unlikely voice. Minnesota.
Need more? Student body president.
How unlikely is that for 11B grunt,
Quang Tri Province, 1969. A couple
of interviews that stuck. One, domesticated
PTSD. Bringing it down from shellshock.
Bringing it home. Anyone who's been divorced
knows about PTSD. Your gift to our generation.
That and time. If the Jungians opened up
Tet and 1968 for me, your work helped me carry it
for another twenty years.
I was incountry
the year before you came. When it all came down.
We evacuated the guys you wrote about a year later
walking Binh Dinh Province.
I wouldn't have missed
your part with the Big Read in Ellensburg this fall,
both of us in our 70s. We talked some, and stood
with other vets for photos after lunch. That was good.
Thanks. The big surprise, however, came two days
earlier in your craft lecture. Phil and I walked in
a few minutes late. Parking. Found those
single open aisle seats and I took one up front.
[Phil was one of the ones waiting for me
in January, 1969. He gave me the Iliad and Homer.
When my son was born he called him Astyanax,
son of Hector. One of the vets I'm talking about.]
The craft lecture. About writing? This is why I came?
Turns out it was. Testimony and confession.
Witness to what happens to any public voice.
Coming in late, you tell me if I miss, and where.
Here's from my notebook:
Black blazer. Beige shirt. Skinny tie.
Red baseball cap, HENDRIX in black caps.
The Killers. Hemingway. I think first about my father.
Him handing me that book.
VFW. Father drinking in the VFW. Backgammon. Selling insurance.
The turkey capital in Minnesota.
Cat in the Rain. You'll come back to that one. What can't be said.
Hemingway's ice berg....Some things to say to my father. So he would stop drinking vodka.
That one binds us more than the nam. The war right there. A reader's own joys.
Bad and mediocre stories don't leave room for readers.
This isn't much of a craft lecture--but it's crafty like Odysseus.
That's from Phil in 1970.
Who in the audience understands the plot of his own life.
Yesterday, for example. There isn't always an explanation.
Fiction's job--not to explain. Deepen why.
How the misfit becomes the misfit. Stink of the half-truth.
Dislexics don't make serial killers
Dad placed Hemingway in my hands as a boy.
He wrote Cat in the Rain six decades ago.
Living below the water line I re-read those 650 pages of stories.
My father had his Hemingway.
A story completed by vanishing fathers.
My voice broke in an auditorium
when the young man approached me
about the Marine Corps, Now
I'm sure I'll be going.
Poor, dumb, useless fucker.
Smoke, watch, CNN. One man's torment is another man's...
Space break. April 12, 2016, turning 70.
(A year behind me in the war, too.}
Two young sons. There was no answer. There never is.
The Killers--his sons the same age he was when his dad
gave him Hemingway. "What about Oly?" "Oly is done running."
70 years old. It shows. I'm trying to be a good father.
We played those nine holes together.
None of us uttered the words, Nine more holes.
No longer the writer. I swore off writing sentences.
Gave up writing entirely in 2002.
No longer a writer. Work at being a father.
What had once been fun for me, hardened.
The confession. Father. Sons. Hemingway.
Five hours a day, not 12. Time for soccer.
My loathing for not making sentences
remains a big problem. I have memories
of Miss Beck, my 11th grade English teacher
and her breasts. Now, once in a while,
this is how it once was, some time ago.
Hemingway, he got there and he got there right.
Mailer said, Are you that Viet Nam writer?
We all stand one another's shoulder's.
I live with the rebuke in Mailer's voice.
Annoyance bordering on violence.
We build our spanking new houses on seized ground.
I wanted to express my own helplessness.
My own inability to utter no to a word I despise.
Mailer, Vonnegut, Hemingway.
My father's medals, my own homecoming
circle back to Harold Krebs. Wonderful reasons.
Never bad ones. Where's my son? Blown in a tree.
War comes out in the little moments.
Most people lock their doors at night.
That's it. I sit with it. The man I imagined. The man in the room.
The real war story is the one you tell today.
The one about craft that didn't happen.
That one. I came for the one in the iceberg.
The Big Read/The Notebook/Bonsai Garden
27 April 2017--3 June 2017