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
50 YEARS LATER, AFTER THE SUMMER OF LOVE,
AFTER TET, AFTER HE CAME OUT, SUMMER OF 68
He kept his head low,
and he had nothing to do
but get to Karen
working the letters--
practical dreaming isolated.
How did this uniform happen?
Why did he keep his stripes hidden
in rolled up sleeves?
What was that about?
When he came home
he found all the teachers.
Everyone of them.
That answers part of every question.
Among the books and records
he found something else.
In an odd little paperback,
on a remaindered shelf.
Don't let yourself get promoted.
Dress in such a way
every time out of the house,
something's not quite fit.
Even with hair.
Stay clear of the Windsor Knot.
Now he had practiced this
for 50 years. Jubilee.
It had nothing to do with God
unless God had all everything.
It had to do with walk, with breath.
25 May--2 June 2017