If Insufficient Grace

T Mcgrath
Thomas McGrath (1916 – 1990)

War Resisters Song

by Thomas McGrath

Come live with me and be my love
And we will all the pleasures prove—
Or such as presidents may spare
Within the decorum of Total War.
By bosky glades, by babbling streams
(Babbling of Fission, His remains)
We discover happiness’ isotope
And live the half-life of our hope.

While Geiger counters sweetly click
In concentration camps we’ll ****.
Called traitors? That’s but sticks and stones
We’ve Strontium 90 in our bones!

And thus, adjusted to our lot,
Our kisses will be doubly hot—
Fornicating (like good machines)
We’ll try the chances of our genes.

So (if Insufficient Grace
Hath not fouled thy secret place
Nor fall-out burnt my balls away)
Who knows? but we may get a boy—

Some paragon with but one head
And no more brains than is allowed;
And between his legs, where once was love,
Monsters to pack the future with.


Have we lost the moral compass of peaceful resistance somewhere?  Possibly the worst thing that ever happened to the peace movement was elimination of the draft. It gave permission to politicians, the Pentagon and the entire industrial war complex to move forward endlessly without question, without the questioning resistance brings. When you have an all volunteer fighting force, it becomes a matter of choice, except for when it isn’t.  For many, the GI bill offers the only path to being able to afford a college education. But it is a mighty tuition that still is paid by the young men and women who sign up for something that might change them forever, for good or for bad.

We now fight wars that go on and on and on, without any proper declarations and no sense of purpose to bring them to a close.  No resistance, no moral outrage, there is only this overly patriotic fervor that allows us to ignore the impossibility of the situation. Every Presidential candidate promises to end the things begun by their predecessors while campaigning and then if successful finds that their hands are tied with the same tethers to stupidity as the President before thm.

Is there such a thing as a just and honorable war? I was in San Antonio this week.  I walked over and went through the Alamo museum.  I was struck with tge thought as I read the timelines that led up to the crushing defeat with somewhere upwards of 250 killed at the Alamo; “Is death the only way men inspire others?” Would the names Bowie, Crockett, Houston be known as heroes if they had negotiated a truce?  Would they be held in equally high regard if they had saved the lives of the civilians and their own men rather than lead them to a proud but certain death for a piece of ground that would change hands many times again before it become the state of Texas?  The myth of American independence is tied to the myths we create of the nobility of self sacrifice with a gun in men’s hands, rather than the nobility of a pen or a poem or retreat.

Thomas McGrath was one of the writers investigated by the FBI for being a communist and forced to testify at the McCarthy hearings. A long commitment to resistance, McGrath was a prolific writer and though his appreciation is vast among academics and other writers, he labored in many other jobs to support his habit of writing.  Primarily a poet as a writer, he wrote screenplays and novels as well, his left leaning politics took him out of the mainstream in literature, not that I think it mattered to him.  MacGrath was a proud North Dakotan.  He wrote with a sense of purpose informed by his beliefs.  The documentary below a good overview of his life and writing.

 

 


All The Dead Soldiers

by Thomas McGrath

In the chill rains of the early winter I hear something—
A puling anger, a cold wind stiffened by flying bone—
Out of the north …
and remember, then, what’s up there:
That ghost-bank: home: Amchitka: boot hill ….

They must be very tired, those ghosts; no flesh sustains them
And the bones rust in the rain.
Reluctant to go into the earth
The skulls gleam: wet; the dog-tag forgets the name;
The statistics (wherein they were young) like their crosses, are weathering out,

They must be very tired.
But I see them riding home,
Nightly: crying weak lust and rage: to stand in the dark,
Forlorn in known rooms, unheard near familiar beds:
Where lie the aging women: who were so lovely: once

 

Never Such Innocence Again

PhilipLarkin
Philip Larkin

Go Now

By Edward Thomas

Like the touch of rain she was
On a man’s flesh and hair and eyes
When the joy of walking thus
Has taken him by surprise:

With the love of the storm he burns,
He sings, he laughs, well I know how,
But forgets when he returns
As I shall not forget her ‘Go now’.

Those two words shut a door
Between me and the blessed rain
That was never shut before
And will not open again.


MCMXIV (1964)

by Philip Larkin

Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day;

And the countryside not caring:
The place-names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat’s restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word – the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages,
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again

There Is Nothing Like The Sun

EDWARD-THOMAS 2
Edward Thomas

The Sorrow Of True Love

by Edward Thomas

The sorrow of true love is a great sorrow
And true love parting blackens a bright morrow:
Yet almost they equal joys, since their despair
Is but hope blinded by its tears, and clear
Above the storm the heavens wait to be seen.
But greater sorrow from less love has been
That can mistake lack of despair for hope
And knows not tempest and the perfect scope
Of summer, but a frozen drizzle perpetual
Of drops that from remorse and pity fall
And cannot ever shine in the sun or thaw,
Removed eternally from the sun’s law

 


There’s Nothing Like The Sun

by Edward Thoma

 

There’s nothing like the sun as the year dies,
Kind as can be, this world being made so,
To stones and men and birds and beasts and flies,
To all things that it touches except snow,
Whether on mountainside or street of town.
The south wall warms me: November has begun,
Yet never shone the sun as fair as now
While the sweet last-left damsons from the bough
With spangles of the morning’s storm drop down
Because the starling shakes it, whistling what
Once swallows sang. But I have not forgot
That there is nothing, too, like March’s sun,
Like April’s, or July’s, or June’s, or May’s,
Or January’s, or February’s, great days:
August, September, October, and December
Have equal days, all different from November.
No day of any month but I have said—
Or, if I could live long enough, should say—
“There’s nothing like the sun that shines today.”
There’s nothing like the sun till we are dead.

 

Loved, And Were Loved

Image result for Flanders field"

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
. .That mark our place; and in the sky
. .The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
 . Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
.        .       . .In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
 .The torch; be yours to hold it high.
.If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
. .           .    In Flanders fields.

 


We Shall Keep the Faith

by Moina Michael (1869–1944)

Oh! You who sleep in “Flanders Fields,”
Sleep sweet—to rise anew!
We caught the Torch you threw
And, holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

Up The Long, Delirious, Burning Blue

WW1_howitzer
World War I Howitzer

On Seeing a Piece of our Heavy Artillery Brought Into Action

by Wilfred Owen

“Be slowly lifted up, thou long black arm,
Great gun towering towards Heaven, about to curse;
Sway steep against them, and for years rehearse
Huge imprecations like a blasting charm!
Reach at that Arrogance which needs thy harm,
And beat it down before its sins grow worse;
Spend our resentment, cannon,—yea, disburse
Our gold in shapes of flame, our breaths in storm.
Yet, for men’s sakes whom they vast malison
Must wither innocent of enmity,
Be not withdrawn, dark arm, thy spoilure done,
Safe to the bosom of our prosperity.
But when thy spell be cast complete and whole,
May God curse thee, and cut thee from our soul!”

 

Original Copy of Wilfred Owen Sonnet On Seeing

High Flight

by John Gillespie Magee Jr.

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”

 

Her World Never Knew A Yard Un-Dogged

ancient rock painting

 

The Dog

The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love.
I’ve also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.

Ogden Nash

De’an

by Heid E. Erdrich

Dogs so long with us we forget
that wolves allowed as how
they might be tamed and sprang up
all over the globe, with all humans,
all at once, like a good idea.

So we tamed our own hearts.
Leashed them or sent them to camp’s edge.
Even the shrinks once agreed, in dreams
our dogs are our deepest selves.

Ur Dog, a Siberian, dogged
the heels of nomads,
then turned south to Egypt
to keep Pharaoh safe.

Seemed strange, my mother sighed,
when finally we got a hound,
. . . a house without a dog. 

Her world never knew
a yard un-dogged and thus
unlocked. Sudden intrusions
impossible where yappers yap.

Or maybe she objected
to empty armchairs,
rooms too quiet
without the beat
of tail thump or paw thud.

N’de, Ojibwe say, my pet, 
which also suggests ode, that spot in the chest,
the part you point to when you pray,
or say with great feeling—great meaning,
meaning dog-love goes that deep.


There is ancient rhythm to the dance between dogs and humans.   It could be asked, who domesticated whom?   Did our canine brothers and sisters see as an unruly, unorganized clan in need of fostering and decided to bring us into their fold, as their own lost “tribe” as it were, or do we still persist in believing the myth in the manifest destiny of man?   Ask a dog, they will tell you the truth.

I have no doubt that dogs write poetry.   After all what is poetry?  An emotion the author creates within ourselves, and dogs are masters at creating emotions within us.  If we are looking for examples of unconditional love in our midst, most of us would not have to look farther than a dog in our household. God Dog may be the oldest and shortest palindrome in the English language other than I. I do think that this is a coincidence as language arises from our subconscious more than it does our conscious times when it comes to creating names.  Don’t believe me, name a new puppy sometime.  So next time you are petting your dog who has lovingly put he or she’s head on your knee and you feel your heart rate slowing and your mind becoming calmer, give thanks that this ancient bond is alive and well in your life.   Soak in the unconditional love and loyalty that is connected to you.  And then ask what can I do to wag my appreciation?


Lost Dog

by Ellen Bass

It’s just getting dark, fog drifting in,
damp grasses fragrant with anise and mint,
and though I call his name
until my voice cracks,
there’s no faint tinkling
of tag against collar, no sleek
black silhouette with tall ears rushing
toward me through the wild radish.

As it turns out, he’s trotted home,
tracing the route of his trusty urine.
Now he sprawls on the deep red rug, not dead,
not stolen by a car on West Cliff Drive.

Every time I look at him, the wide head
resting on outstretched paws,
joy does another lap around the racetrack
of my heart. Even in sleep
when I turn over to ease my bad hip,
I’m suffused with contentment.

If I could lose him like this every day
I’d be the happiest woman alive.

Polarized To Change Its Spin

 

Scherzer
Max Scherzer – Washington Nationals 

Particle Physics

by Julie Kane

They say two photons fired through a slit
stay paired together to the end of time;
if one is polarized to change its spin,
the other does a U-turn on a dime,
although they fly apart at speeds of light
and never cross each other’s paths again,
like us, a couple in the seventies,
divorced for almost thirty years since then.
Tonight a Red Sox batter homered twice
to beat the Yankees in their playoff match,
and, sure as I was born in Boston, when
that second ball deflected off the bat,
I knew your thoughts were flying back to me,
though your location was a mystery.