Friday, November 11, 2011

"The same war continues . . . "

As I have mentioned before, for an occasional infusion of creativity, I like to peruse the paintings of my friend Leonard Orr and challenge myself to describe each work of art in one or two words. For this one (above), I thought, "Veterans Day" because it brought to mind the Buddy Poppies that are designed and distributed by the VFW. These little red boutonnières have always been a part of my earliest Armistice / Veterans Day memories, when I would go to the cemetery and the parade with my parents and grandparents.

And for this one, I thought:
"In Flanders fields the poppies blow . . . "

Another fitting poem for the day:

Life at War

The disasters numb within us
caught in the chest, rolling
in the brain like pebbles. The feeling
resembles lumps of raw dough

weighing down a child’s stomach on baking day.
Or Rilke said it, ‘My heart. . .
Could I say of it, it overflows
with bitterness . . . but no, as though

its contents were simply balled into
formless lumps, thus
do I carry it about.’
The same war

We have breathed the grits of it in, all our lives,
our lungs are pocked with it,
the mucous membrane of our dreams
coated with it, the imagination
filmed over with the gray filth of it:

the knowledge that humankind,

delicate Man, whose flesh
responds to a caress, whose eyes
are flowers that perceive the stars,

whose music excels the music of birds,
whose laughter matches the laughter of dogs,
whose understanding manifests designs
fairer than the spider’s most intricate web

still turns without surprise, with mere regret
to the scheduled breaking open of breasts whose milk
runs out over the entrails of still-alive babies,
transformation of witnessing eyes to pulp-fragments,
implosion of skinned penises into carcass-gulleys.

We are the humans, men who can make;
whose language imagines mercy,
we have believed one another
mirrored forms of a God we felt as good—

who do these acts, who convince ourselves
it is necessary; these acts are done
to our own flesh; burned human flesh
is smelling in Vietnam as I write.

Yes, this is the knowledge that jostles for space
in our bodies along with all we
go on knowing of joy, of love;

our nerve filaments twitch with its presence
day and night,
nothing we say has not the husky phlegm of it in the saying,
nothing we do has the quickness, the sureness,
the deep intelligence living at peace would have.

by Denise Levertov , 1923 - 97
Politically acitve British - born American poet and educator

from To Stay Alive
New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1971

A closing thought for Veterans Day:

"I hate with a murderous hatred those men who, having lived their youth,
would send into war other youth, not lived, unfulfilled,
to fight and die for them; the pride and cowardice of those old men,
making their wars that boys must die."

Mary Roberts Rinehart, 1876 - 1958
American mystery writer and war correspondent


See also my previous Veterans Day posts:
Armistice Day (2009)

Wartime Soldier, Wartime Child (2010)


and my previous Leonard Orr posts:

End of Summer Sounds

Golden Paintings by Leonard Orr

Excellent Images

Happy Birthday Dylan Thomas

1 comment:

  1. From Herman Wilson: "Ah, wartime, for the first time in my life, I realized I was being trained as a killer: I had never shot a gun of any sort--even a BB gun--until I was drafted into the army and sent to Camp Blanding, Florida, for basic training in the infantry; then overseas to Europe and Germany for the last gasps of WWII. But I was trained as a "heavy weapons, 50 cal, water-cooled machine gunner" . . . . that was my job and I did what I was trained to do . . . perhaps I should say "what I was trained to be" . . . for Herman Wilson got lost somewhere in all that training and a mechanized robot replaced him. Years later, Herman Wilson came back into existence . . . not the same Herman Wilson, pre-army, but a new Herman Wilson. post-army, who needed a few years before he could accept himself, believe in himself again, become himself again--but never the same Herman Wilson. A new Herman Wilson came into existence, and out of that existence grew into a happy, satisfied, and content, new member of the human race and his own social world, learning to love the academic world. And in that world he found peace, happiness, and joy once again. Thus life continues . . . ."