Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Veterans’ Day

Thursday, November 11th, 2004

For most of today, I wasn’t focused on November 11th being Veterans’ Day.  It was my birthday, and a day off from work.  I went for a run, ran some errands, had lunch with a friend, went to see the Incredibles with my family.

And then, washing dishes, I heard this NPR story talking with the producer of HBO’s Last Letters Home.  And hearing people reading out loud from their loved ones’ final letters, I started to cry.  We don’t get HBO, so I probably won’t get to see the documentary, but that little sample was enough to remind me to be grateful for every night that I get to put my sons to bed, even if they sometimes make me crazy in the process.

Veterans’ Day is November 11 because it was Armistice Day after WWI.  A friend told me that in Canada some people still wear poppies — I’ve never seen anyone marking the day that way.   I was inspired to look up the "Flanders Field" poem, which I had never read in its entirety before:

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."

I was struck by how martial a memorial it is, especially that line "take up our quarrel with the foe."  Not for McCrae is the ambiguity of Archibald MacLeish’s offering: "Our deaths are not ours; they are yours; they will mean what you make them."

My thanks to all those who serve and served in our name, and to their families who share the burden.

Why marry at all?

Sunday, November 7th, 2004

Why marry at all?

By Marge Piercy, from My Mother’s Body

Why mar what has grown up between the cracks
and flourished like a weed
that discovers itself to bear rugged
spikes of magneta blossoms in August,
ironweed sturdy and bold,
a perennial that endures winters to persist?

Why register with the state?
Why enlist in the legions of the respectable?
Why risk the whole apparatus of roles
and rules, of laws and liabilities?
Why license our bed at the foot
like our Datsun truck: will the mileage improve?

Why encumber our love with patriarchal
word stones, with the old armor
of husband and the corset stays
and the chains of wife? Marriage
meant buying a breeding womb
and sole claim to enforced sexual service.

Marriage has built boxes in which women
have burst their hearts sooner
than those walls; boxes of private
slow murder and the fading of the bloom
in the blood; boxes in which secret
bruises appear like toadstools in the morning.

But we cannot invent a language
of new grunts. We start where we find
ourselves, at this time and place.

Which is always the crossing of roads
that began beyond the earth’s curve
but whose destination we can now alter.

This is a public saying to all our friends
that we want to stay together. We want
to share our lives. We mean to pledge
ourselves through times of broken stone
and seasons of rose and ripe plum;
we have found out, we know, we want to continue.

We included this poem in the program at our wedding, and it’s been on my mind a lot these days.  I don’t have the energy for original writing tonight, so I thought I’d share it.