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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Called to Account

I am just a poor boy
With the outlook of one
Who has starred too long
Into the sun.

Perceptions become doctrine
And doctrine prescribes actions.
Actions, ultimately build a life.
Therefore, my life has been a construct
Of materials
(Often shoddy)
Reduced to things I thought I saw
Or believed to be true.

I am the prime character
In the drama of my tale.
I am the general
Commanding the army
Of my ideas
Whether poor or noble
But probably both.

I perceive I have been
For all my years
Too much on the offensive.
I have contested boundaries.
I have gained and yielded territory.

Someday
When called to account for my actions
And to answer 
For pain I have inflicted 
And for the blitzkrieg beyond my boarders
I shall have but one answer
Brutally true…

...I have attacked
Because I was too weak to defend.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Made of Stone

I keep my cards close to my vest
And hope nobody sees
The man I was or that I am
Or what I came to be.

I don’t make any contact
With my hands and never with my eyes.
I don’t tell the truth
Because I live inside my lies.

Don’t ask me my name
My age, or ask where I came from.
If you try I promise you
I’ll just play mute and dumb.

I ain’t worth your time
Or trouble; just leave me alone.
I ain’t a man, it’s God’s plain truth
My heart is made of stone.

Now turn around and walk away.
You don't want to place this bet.
'Cause If you do, I swear, little girl
You’ll curse the day we met.

They Just Don’ Care

Well, the kids put me here last September
And, tell the truth, I don’t remember
Just why it was they did.
But after all, they’re just kids.

I sit at my window, most every day
And I think of how it don’ pay
To take life too serious.
But, ain’t it sure mysterious.

I worked my fingers to the bone
Tryin’ to make my family a home
And now they put me here.
Not one of ‘em lives anywheres near.

My Emily died two years ago
But those kids of ours don’ know
Or even remember the night
She gave up her fight.

My birthday’s sometime next week
But I don’ reckon one of ‘em will seek
To sit by me an hour or two.
Hell, that’s what I would do.

I sure do miss my farm.
Would it have done ‘em any harm
To let me end things there?
But I guess they just don’ care.

Waist Gunner

Forty thousand feet over Berlin
Not one of us ever thought of sin.
All we knew was that when we fly
Some goddamn Kraut would die.

In the city, fire blossoms burst in view.
We’d wish there was more damage we could do.
Blazing ack ack burst all around
Trying to drive us to the ground.

Fighters closed with us at the suburbs of the city
And, to a man, we thought wouldn’t it be a pity
If, after this hard run
We’d fall before some lucky German’s gun.

Donald died, sitting in the glass
But I flamed the one that got him as he passed.
Captain Lewis feathered number three
And I reconciled what would be would be.

We trailed black smoke all across the channel.
The Krauts shredded our entire instrument panel.
Focke Wulf 190’s with large black crosses
Half way home piled up our losses.

Until you smell the stench of blood and cordite
Or freeze with forty thousand feet of frost bite
There ain’t no way I can explain it to you
Unless you’ve been where I been, and do what I do.

When we landed, they hosed Donald from the plane
And to this very day I can’t explain
How the hell it came to be
It was that poor kid and not me.

I’m ninety years old this next September.
I wish to God I couldn’t remember
The minutes, months and years of that war.
But I did what they sent me over there for.

* Every year I pen a Memorial Day poem. This is this year's contribution. This poem comes from the witness of an old B-17 waist gunner I met. He was a kid in '43. He could barely talk about it, but as he squeezed this story from between his pale lips, his eyes saw again the black-stained skies over Berlin. I don't use the profanity he used...but what is more profane than war?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Grandpa

I was just a kid
How could I know
The cessation of breath
Was the coming of death?

I was a child
When I saw him
In a box
That wild, cagey fox.

I was a baby boy
And I was not that far
From my mother’s breast
When I saw him at rest.

I‘ve always wondered
About the man.
Who he came to be
Was never mine to see.

I never knew my Grandpa.
I was just a little boy.
But when he left
I was introduced to death.

Sharecropper

I don’t know the heat of days
Plowing dirt and growing dust.
I can’t feel the light-headed fear
Of not growing what I must.

I’ve never strapped my body
To a worthless, tired mule
And tried to break the ground
With only beans for fuel.

Arkansas escapes my memory
But I feel it in my hands.
Hands that folded in cotton prayers
Then watched the empty land.

My eyes never stared at tin roofs
Awake the whole night long
Then crawled out from my bed
At the mourning dove’s song,

My gut never knew the fear
Of leaving my job undone
Of never doing what was needed
Before the setting sun.

I’ve never been a sharecropper
But their blood runs through my veins.
So I guess I have no idea
Or any reason to complain.

Jenny

Tie a string on the ground
Then as you fly all around
That string becomes highways
You may follow.

It will stretch end to end
Become your best friend
As long as you fly
In the daylight.

When the sun sets, rules change
So you’d better arrange
To set it down, eat dinner
And sleep under your wing.

You've set down in soft heather
And awake to good weather 
To continue your
Barnstorming journey.

The air is thinner and colder upstairs
So you’d better beware.
Have a good coat, warm gloves
And eye goggles.

I failed to mention one thing:
My plane’s open wing
It’s a biplane
With a windy open cockpit.

I don’t have a stereo, heater or radio
But it’s truly the way to go
For a fly-freak
And purist, like me.

If I see you, I’ll dip my wing
You may hear me sing
To the music of my century-old
Radial engine.

You may love your car or truck
But I consider it luck
That I’ve been blessed with
My old fashioned Curtiss Jenny!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Wrong Thing Right*

I never said the right thing
But I said the wrong thing right.
I’d sleep the whole, entire day
Then I’d stay out all night.

She’d lean upon my shoulder
And cry for just awhile.
But I’d tell her to shut her mouth
And drive another mile.

All she ever asked me for
Was a little bit of love.
All I ever gave that girl
Was the fist inside my glove.

I can’t say what makes a woman
Love a fool like me.
She was just a tiny little boat
Swallowed by an empty sea.

Nights are long and lonely now
Ever since she run away.
I wonder where she went off to
But thoughts like that don’t pay.

It ain’t exactly pain I feel
‘Cause I don’t feel anything.
But if lies and hurt were castle walls
I’d be her lord and king.


*Nope. I have my own stories, but this tale isn't one of them.

Rich Killers

A few ounces of steel
Formed the poor kids last meal
And a bit of copper for his dessert.

Maybe he deserved it, they said.
Either way, the kid’s dead.
It's just one more sad tale, either way.

The gunman thought he was a cop
And it was his job to stop
Any kid of another skin color.

We all pretended we cared
When the whole episode was aired
Every night on all the news networks.

The jury let the pretend cop go
And made the whole world know
Killing is what we sometimes "get" to do.
'
So, the killer sold his gun
For a fantastic monetary sum
While we’ll sit back and scratch our collective heads.

Maybe we all should “weapon up”
And stir the poison in our cup.
Maybe someday we can be rich killers too.


* The gun George Zimmerman used to kill Trayvon Martin was auctioned today for $120,000. Some collector will display it as a piece of Americana, and loudly hail his Constitutional right to bear arms. Do not mistake me...I own a gun. It is secured and locked away. I think the degradation of our society makes self-preservation essential. I was trained by SWAT experts when I served law enforcement. But Zimmerman is far outside the framework of what our society was intended to be...will Texas now auction their death gurneys? Will Florida sell "Old Sparky"? God help our poor nation. They should melt every gun used to take a life.

Never Mind Her*

In a tenement home
She lives all alone
Where nobody
Seeks for to find her.

She has only bread
Maybe some soup to be fed
And goes to sleep hungry.
But, never mind her.

There are thousands like this
Perhaps millions on that list
But, no matter
Don’t think twice of her.

You’re going to be a star!
You’re bound to go far.
Tomorrow she dies
But forget her.

She’s an unfortunate lass
But your sorrow will pass
When you find you’re so much
Better than her.

Another will take her place
Another featureless face.
But you’re what’s important.
Never mind her.



* I suppose a few decades of working with tragic persons like the nameless woman in this poem has colored my perception of our "Great American Society." It has made me a cynic regarding our culture. But I know their names, the bridges they sleep beneath, and the hunger with which they live. You do no not have to cross oceans to find displaced, haunted and hungry people. Trust me on this.