Monday, June 11, 1984

TO ALL THE PHOENIICIANS LOST AT SEA

TO ALL THE PHOENICIANS LOST AT SEA
        "The worst day of violence
          since the Muslim revolt in February."
        – San Francisco Chronicle, 6/121984


June 11, 1984
The dead lay on bloodsoaked stretchers
in corporate doorways
Doctors shouted for more beds
There was no space left
in the hospital morgue
Witnesses said women –
some in nightgowns and slippers,
rushed out to bring
their children home
from school
and two men wept
in a Beirut parking lot.
Poets write of Central America
I can't talk about El Salvador
I have no Nicaraguan poems
My Central America is Beirut.

6/11/1984

Friday, June 1, 1984

Obligatory Hug, June, 1984, Russian River Writers' Guild, Maureen Hurley





LETTER TO “CRAPPA”


 For Roger Kent 1906-1982















Who are we, and where are we going?
—Gauguin

We called you Crappa with a “C”
& you roared with laughter
until your milky eyes watered & your lungs failed.
You said, A toothless son couldn't get it right,
& like a typo, the name Crappa stuck.

While the oxygen tank stood guard by your bedside,
you returned the war trophies:
the New Guinean stone axes to the Bishop Museum,
& the yosegaki banner of heavy raw silk,
with its faded orange sun, to Japan.
Beneath the signatures, rust stains,
or was it old blood?
I wanted to ask: What village, whose son?
Someone translated: Given to ____
in the Great Pacific War fought to the end.
If you believe in it you win.

With the flag, you sent a snapshot of you on the beach:
a young man holding the enemy flag
& the Japanese prisoners all smiling
smiling for the unseen camera. Silent, posed.
Like a knife, the shutter severed a moment from time.

These tropics suck marrow from bone.
You told us about those boxes of freight
marked TYPEWRITERS—FRAGILE, DO NOT DROP.
Inside those boxes, whiskey.
The news nearly leaked out
when someone dropped a box & said, Damned heavy!
Why the hell you need all those typewriters for?
In our dreams we are always traveling towards paradise.
All those dead waiting in Iron Bottom Bay,*
their bones like coral—

All those names calligraphed on the sun,
& the islands: Guadalcanal, Tinian, Iwo Jima
needed witnesses.
But you never told us how it really was:
the ocean, the palm trees & the inevitable waiting.
Generations of fish have spawned in the iron reefs,
grinning skulls, & stained coral sand—
rusted war trophies no one will return.

As coral ages, it whitens like hair.
Like the sky must have done
that terrible second dawn.
Who will tell us the stories
when all the old men are gone?

When the Japanese sent a photo
of the family & flag reunited,
you tried to keep your hand
on top of the new flag from trembling.
The alizarin disc was brighter
than new blood without history,
the thin silk breathed & quivered,
waiting to make an escape.

Honolulu, HI

6/1984,
rev87 (was there a first draft in 82?)
rev. 8/95
Roger Kent oral history
*Guadalcanal

1989 Chaminade Literary Review
1987 Blue Window

















AFTER CÚNLA



What is left of me?
Don't take the thighs of me,
Only take the bones of me. . .
Only bones, says Cúnla.
—from an Irish song


Spavin and shankle the moss
to the north sides of the oaks
so we won't get lost.
A bridge of light sways
beneath a canopy of trees.
a path, a lantern for Diogenes
blossoms beneath our feet.
Who is counting the bones
among these fallen years?
Who is counting the bones?

And the piny woods whisper
among the dead
and the dead are whispering
among the piny woods.
Can you not hear them?
They listen to the rhythm of your bones.
It keeps them still on this earth.

Beat the bodhrán slowly.
Knuckle bone, thigh.
Play the all songs
to show them the way home.

Can you not hear the bones of me?
Can you not feel the hands of me
as we crawl barefoot through the snow
towards Savannah?
Only bones, says Cúnla.


6/84

Trail of Tears


I tried to revise and expand this 11/92.

Magabark/ Medicine Bundle collaborative art show at the Falkirk Center

My poem was a version of In the San Geronimo Valley, Ann Faught of Woodacre was my collaborative artist. Bill Witherup curated the collaborative show. His artist was William T. Wiley. Carl Dern's poet was Susan Kennedy. Kathy Evans also had poems in the show at the Falkirk Center. Don't know the artist.

My poem  In the San Geronimo Valley, Ann Faught, visual artist.
I made art postcards as personal invitations to the show.
I also created a collaborative poem scroll.


Bill Witherup's medicine bundle, which was the genesis of the show.

Bill Wiley's piece based on Bill Witherup's poem
 
I didn't label slides, thinking I could read them. Carl Dern & ? poet