Saturday, October 01, 2011

Various Old Soldiers

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Sacramento
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Caschwa, Sacramento

(Tomb of 1000 soldiers
Phaunos, Dryads and Oreads
The mystique of the Black Forest)

Out on the lawn sits an old
tree stump like a grave stone
Beckoning us, forcing us

To bow our heads and
Look down to envision
A soul that has risen

To speculate how many lives
Were touched by this life that
Is now dry roots and stump

How many souls were enriched
By its nurturing and sheltering
Without complaining

It is the onset of Autumn
And no more leaves will fall
From this proud old tree.



To give a voice to
Community concerns,
Special interests aside,
To equally serve the people
Rather than to write executive
Orders that punish those without money.

If only that money would grow on trees,
And if only it was cost effective to
Preserve those trees…



Goodie Two-Wings was a flawless angel
Except for his deathly fear of heights.
One day he shut his eyes tightly and
Descended to Earth, where he found himself
Waiting in line at the Unemployment office.

Because he was attired in immaculate white
From halo to toe, the staff thought he was
Suitable for placement either as a painter’s
Helper, a hospital worker, or an ice cream
Truck driver.

Goodie declined painting, as it would have
Required him to climb tall ladders, and passed
On the hospital, since workers there were
Commencing a bitterly contested labor action.

So Goodie got a truck and a route and started
Building up lots of happy clientele. And he’s
Still out there…somewhere…


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

His memory had halted at the gates
Of his property. Even the color
Of the light had an ancient quality
About it that was impossible to discuss.

One could visit him only in
The evening when shadow held
The reins and it was impossible
To tell his age. His speech
Showed little signs of region
Except for a soft accent that
Hinted at Argentine Spanish,
Perhaps a southern flair to it.

One evening he told a story
About a long-ago fire that
Had claimed most of his library.
He spent almost all of that story
Describing the smoke, its color,
The directions it took at various
Heights. He named the winds
That had directed the destruction.
His description was most
Remarkable. The rain that
Eventually quelled the fire
Was described in the same detail.

For some reason he gave the
Particular rain a name,
El Deshielo, the thaw; it had
Changed everything for him.

I did not see or hear from him
For a long time. Once, in October,
I went to his house to inquire
After him but was stopped
By the housekeeper who turned
Me away, claiming he was not
Well and was not receiving.

Not long after that time
I received a knife via messenger
From him. It was of beautiful
Steel and showed exquisite
Workmanship. With it came
A note saying “This will do
The work. You will need to know
Nothing further. It is for the best.”

I saw him once after that,
A few days later. He was very
Ill and could barely speak.
On his bedside table he had
Stacked three books: Dante,
Don Quixote and Cancion
De Cielo. “Este es el Deshielo.”
He said, touching the books.
The room was too dim to see
Any expression on his face.

I thanked him for the blade.
He dismissed me with a gesture
Of his hand that looked like


—Photo by Janet L. Pantoja

—Janet L. Pantoja, Woodinville, WA

In El Salvador,
the doctor says his mission
is “to save lives.”
We can only visit
Mamá two hours a day.
Who knows how she is doing
behind closed doors the other
22 hours alone in the ICU?
She can’t talk . . . there’s a
breathing tube stuck in her throat.
She can’t say: “I hurt.” Or, “Let me go!
My life has been a long one—
almost 99 years long. I have lived
long enough to see my children wed,
long enough for 9 grandchildren,
long enough for 5 great-grands!
Three months I linger here . . .
poked, prodded, procedures,
tracheotomy, tests, transfusions,
infections, injections, antibiotics.
The food is terrible too—
it comes through a tube up my nose.
You call this living?”


María Isabel Pantoja Espinal, 1912-2011?

—Janet L. Pantoja

Life has lost its luster in San Salvador.
Loving Mamá of 6 plus 9 grands, 5 greats.
Mi suegra linda—now lies confined
to a hospital bed in the ICU Intermediary.

Life-lines to earth keep her “alive”—why?
I ask, we ask, my husband asked.
“Listen, our mission is to save lives,” the Doc
replied, rather miffed.

Life is more than lying in a bed,
hooked up to tubes, sedated,
unresponsive, stagnated
at age 98-1/2!

Please let her go—
we wish, we want.
She’s done.
Man’s hand, not God’s,
keeps her here:


Today's LittleNip: 


Just Desserts:
What kids would order
Who don’t like the main course

Pearly Gates:
That little opening in the shells
Of marine bivalve mollusks

My Cup Runneth Over:
It is time to exercise the warranty

I Do:
Short for “I insist that you go along
With whatever I do.”

Forever and Ever:
How long it takes to get relief
From dental pain

Fate unsealed, leaving us nothing but



Coupla notes: You'll have to travel a bit to get your poetry fix today—either to Berkeley for Watershed, to Grass Valley for the premiere of Julie Valin's new book from Six Ft. Swells, or up to Vinton on Hwy. 70 up in Plumas County for the oldest cowboy poetry gathering in California. All worth the mileage, though—of course. Details on the blue board.

About Taylor Graham's "Poet-Miner" poem yesterday, Carl Schwartz (Caschwa) writes: Other sources have it that John Harris lived from 1820 to 1884. That said, perhaps a more fitting title for someone who lived from 1820-1824 would be Poet-Minor. All children are poet-laureates in training, constantly viewing the reality around us and expressing it in other terms, sharing their delight and amazement. Oops! Sharp-eyed Carl caught the typo that TG and I missed. Thanks, Caschwa! (Let's leave it on the post, though—see if folks in the future notice it...)

—Photo by Katy Brown