Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Redbuds for the Fallen

My poem, Redbuds for the Fallen is posted at


by my friend, sherry pasquarello.

Thanks, Sherry, for posting the poem and your kind words.



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Monday, January 29, 2007

Another book recommended and two New England States

This week, a book I should have read years ago - and that you should read as soon as possible. Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods come out in hardback in 1998 and in trade in 1999. For some reason it took 7 years for it to make it to mass market paperback, but it has and I have finally read it as a result.

Bryson's Walk is a very humorous account of his tackling the Appalachian Trail which runs from Georgia to Maine. Bill and his hiking partner, Katz, hike the lower portion of the trail into the Smoky Mountains National Park, then skip to Virginia and the Shenandoah. Later in the year, Bill "car-hikes" portions of the trail in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Vermont and New Hamphire, finishing in the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine short of the AT's end.

Along the way, he meets characters, gets in a bit of trouble, and is frightened by deer he imagines is a bear. And you will learn something, actually a lot of things. For a couple of examples, the highest winds ever recorded were on Mt. Washington, NH and why they are no chestnuts left in the mountains.

A fun, entertaining read and highly recommended.


This week's states are Vermont and Massachusetts.

Poetic States XXXIV – Vermont

Gray Raiders and Green – St Albans

In ‘64 they slid across the border,
twenty-one cavalrymen on a mission
to attack the Union 600 miles
north of the Gray’s Northern border.

Raiders sweep down from Canada,
bandits after cash and horses
in a vain attempt to assist the South
the day Sheridan smacked down Early.

In ‘66, Fenian nationalists arrived
to rescue Canada for Irish freedom,
an effort as unsuccessful as secession,
as foolish as the bomb that took Mounty.

In ‘54 Hollywood Gray reinvaded
with Van Heflin and Ann Bancroft
as lovers and Lassie’s Timmy,
history as false as Birth of a Nation.

No Hollywood rewrite was made
for the green insurgents’ failure,
only an united Canadian and statues
and parades among the border states.



I love what Hollywood does to real events - little in the movies can be believed.


Poetic States XXXV – Massachusetts

From the Jetty

The sailboat slid into Bedford Harbor
as effortless as an albatross
soars over Nantucket Shoals
Behind me, sheets flapped
on the cottage clothesline,
pink and yellow strips
on a field of the bluest white.

At the bow, a girl of a woman,
undressed too light for the Nor ’east
shouted words I could not hear
in a language I could not understand,
although she appeared close enough
for me to smell what she had for lunch,
what wine she drank with it,
and what she did before and after.

She threw her words again;
her voice lost in the noise
of cries of children on the beach,
worried parents,
excited dogs,
nervous gulls.

I shrugged incomprehension.

She laughed, tossed hair
the color of wild strawberries
and slid into the cabin as easy
as a hermit crab into a new shell.

I turned and walked along the jetty,
one eye on the harbor, another
on the ground for stones
I could chuck at cans in the surf.

Tonight, when I go into town
for Friday’s chowder, I will listen
for a language I do not understand.


I have been chided in the forums for not including enough of what makes each state special in the poems. That's never been my goal. The States are a hook to explore - not for travelogues or state history.



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Monday, January 22, 2007

Yellow Fever and Poems for Military Dead

scores destroyed
the beginning of the end
according to Tony Snow

A snow job. The splurge more like a sewer backing up into our kitchen.


Let me add another book to my recommendations of books about disease and disaster: Molly Caldwell Crosby's The American Plague: The untold story of Yellow Fever, the epidemic that shaped our history (Berkley 2006).

Molly's well-researched volume relays the 1978 Memphis outbreak, the worse in US history and then moves to Cuba to examine how Walter Reed and his associates determined yellow fever's cause and ways to control it.

The bonus is that Molly is poetic in her descriptions as seen in this paragraphs from her epilogue:

Of course there are elms in Elmwood, though they were planted after the fact to complement the name. Their massive, gnarled trunks rise high above the earth, and their roots spread deep beneath the ground, branching out amid the bones. There are also oaks. And there are magnolias with hard-shell leaves curling along the limbs, raining the dead ones like petals. It is quiet in the way that only those vast, old cemetaries can be. The only sound is the wind gathering leaves and the train that runs along tracks that edge the property.

Her first book, Molly deserves to be read and win awards.


This week a respite from Poetic States - almost. Instead I offer three memorials to dead military who served in Iraq. A collection of other memorial poems by several authors is at http://operationpoem.blogspot.com/2006_06_01_operationpoem_archive.html

One of mine is as Poetic State also.

Poetic States XXXIII – Pennsylvania

Capt. Christopher Scott Seifert

They knew your infectious smile,
the notes you riffed on your saxophone,
your burst of speed in track
as your raced the Delaware River,
how you loved your wife and newborn.

I know you by your death
the day Sgt. Hasen Akbar
broke the band of brothers,**
a grenade tossed into sleeping troops –
eleven wounded,
Major “Linus” Stone murdered,
you shot in the back
in Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait.

I will never know why Akbar slew
the men he served and trained with.
I don’t really care, his motives
do not justify your execution
or his whenever it occurs.

I can only hope the garden
your mother made at your grave
will bloom until there is peace,
and Benjamin will treasure
his father’s purple heart
as long as the city of Easton
cherishes the Bars and Stars she
flew for your country’s independence.

** Teresa Seifert at Maj. Stone’s funeral

*** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Flag_of_Easton%2C_Pennsylvania.svg



PFC Devon James Gibbons, June 23, 2006
Port Orchard, Washington

I did not know you, at 19 young enough
to graduate the year before my granddaughter,
the year after my grandson. Old enough
to vote, but still a kid in many ways.

Ninety percent burned April 11th,
three limbs amputated, who did you hang
on for 10 weeks, through countless skin
grafts, pain enough for a regiment?

No more rooting for the Wolves,
fireworks over Sinclair Inlet on the 4th.
No more digging clams at Manchester,
bike rides along Beach Drive.

No more sand and heat in your Bradley,
suffering in a Texas hospital,
no more concern for your brothers
still in harm’s way.

Number 2506,
I did not know you.


Emily Jazmin Tatum Perez
Cadet Command Sergeant Major

with thanks to Larry Jaffe

the U.S. death toll in Iraq was "minute."
--Rupert Murdoch

As in trifling, of little importance,
inconsequential, a flash in the pan
not worthy of a moment’s notice…?

Perhaps a small number,
easily absorbed in the scheme of things
for the greater good – freedom and security
and the American way of life

until my attention is brought to one
who might hold the future in her palm
with her gentle way and caring

She wanted to be a soldier
and as in everything she did
excelled as a cadet, a leader

The death of one soldier may be trifling
to one who has only urged conflict
from the safety of a corner office
in a tower at the center of universe

but I cannot help but wonder
what the continued life of a soldier
who worked for Aids patients
might have meant to our hopes

I will never know, but do know
her life or death was not slight
as the fall of a wounded sparrow



This last weekend was one of the worse in the war's history. Each of the dead soldiers, sailors and airmen deserve a tribute. Poets, post your own at Operation Poem.

Until next week.

Be warm

and smile.


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Monday, January 15, 2007

Catching up - Oregon, Indiana and Nebraska

So W has a plan - a bad plan, but a plan - one that is no better than LBJ's in 65 or Nixon's but a plan - one that accomplishes nothing but more dead US soldiers but a plan.

How soon before the next president takes over?


The January and final FireWeed is ready to read at www.mindfirerenew.com. I have to give up the zines for health reasons, but others are considering how to keep them going.

Thanks to all our readers, contributors and editors. I hope we fired up your mind a time or two.


I know how I skipped Indiana and Nebraska, but Oregon last August...a mystery of sorts...but there are here now. The States index is in the post for January 5, 2007.

Until next week.



Poetic States XII – Oregon

How Green Was My Valley

The Great White Worm burrowed
beneath Willamette grasslands
where turf, wineries, hazelnut
and ranch houses are now harvested.
No one noticed or cared the white
became extinct while Rachel Carson
saved brown pelicans for tourists
in Southern California coastal towns.
There is not a lot of cute in worms,
white or any other color, even mauve.

When Ben and I saunter through
hay fields near his Jefferson home,
I imagine the earth trembles
as if the giant still lives below.
Perhaps it is just a earthquake tremor,
but I would not be surprised it survived.
The center of universe is near the source
of the Santiam’s northern branch,
and turf and grass seed farms
are similar to the its ancient habitat.

Patios and driveways though…



Poetic States XXVII – Nebraska

Heard on a Prairie Wind

Her voice out sings the morning meadowlark,
goldenrod curls glisten with afternoon sparks.
She strides grasslands sure as a bull bison.
A smile, I grin at my good fortune.

The daughter of immigrants, Viking stock,
she holds family together, a rock.
Beneath cottonwood by the Platte’s banks,
she loves me even when I’m sour, a crank.

Our idyllic dreams are not meant to last –
tornados rage, hail and dust’s fury blasts.
Children die, stillborn, the older sicken.
Our sod-built home is dreary, a sad den.

A sweet prairie life hard, she wastes away;
I carry her to where gulls sing, palms sway.


Poetic States XXVIII – Indiana

A Gary by Any Other Name
for Patricia

When I hear Opie sing “Gary, Indiana”
in his high-pitched childish voice,
my step becomes lighter
and smile wider –
even the harmonic tones
of the Jackson family do not
make me feel as carefree.
When I hear the roar of the Indy 500
rumble across the brickyard,
I reach for 4 on the floor,
push down on a reluctant gas pedal
and remember when 500 miles
seemed as far away as Mars moons.

When I read your poetry,
I am as enchanted as if you rose
from the Wabash and clasped me
to your bosom while we cannonballed
downstream to party at Mardi Gras.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Stem Cells, and the States of Florida and Virginia

An article out of the Washington Post opines that amniotic fluid cells might be used to treat a variety of diseases. The possibilities are staggering if the research pans out. And as a SF reader, even more than staggering. Imagine storage of fluid for every newborn, so it would be avaibable for treatment at any stage of a person's life - the cells would not reject. Treatment of newborns for birth defects could be common. Of course, we will find a way to do less moral things with the cells - designing humans might be one.


I've updated the Poetic States index posted last week, except along the way, Georgia turned into Virginia and will probably be pushed back in favor of New Jersey.

Until next week.



Poetic States XXIX - Florida

A Mighty Wind

In Zero-six, no storms scoured our marches;
in Zero-seven, the experts predict a Zero-five.
If they are wrong, will you forget the past,
how you’ve been ravaged again and again?

Miami in Twenty-six, the land boom busted.

Okeechobee in Twenty-eight, three thousand dead.

Andrew in Ninety-two, most expensive in history.

Jeanne in Zero-four, the entire state blanketed.

Orlando now part of the Magic Kingdom,
Miami a major metropolis,
east coast crowded with condos
built on sand out of sand.

When Barry hits, Chantal or Erin,
folks will run to Home Depot, grab
plywood, nails, batteries and generators;
At the Pump & Go, there will be a run
on gas, water and chips
while oranges remain unpicked.

When Gabrielle churns the Glades and Humberto
flattens the Keys, Willie Gumm and Miz Hattie
will refuse to evacuate because they rode
out Betsy in Sixty-four and the government
ain’t never got it right and never will.

Condo construction will cease
until the season ends and bankers
rev up their loan offices, the boom
in full swing until Okeechobee Redux.

For the story of the horrors of 1928’s hurricane see Eliot Kleinberg (2003) Black Cloud: The Great Florida Storm of 1928. Like the 1927 Mississippi Flood , Rising Tide, Kleinberg's documented inhumane treatment of blacks in the worst of times, and raises the question if we are immune from the effects of several natural disasters in a row.


Poetic States XXX - Virginia

Arlington Ladies

Founded during our last long nightmare
to assure fallen soldiers received a sendoff
beyond officialdom and grave diggers -
no one buried alone

Dedicated to compassion,
women of all ages comfort
widows and mothers or simply
themselves several times a day

Each life important,
each death honored

I call it grace…and we need
more grace in our lives.*

A few soft words to mourners,
a note, a touch,
in private, after, tears…

*Past Air Force chairwoman of the Arlington Ladies


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Friday, January 05, 2007

Indexing the States and one forgot last year

I started them in June 2006 and have posted all but IV Arkansas (which is posted below), some in every archived month except October. I’ve been asked in a couple of forums where they are posted, so I’m putting this index up to answer the question and help me archive them.

I -- Washington -- July 11 2006
II -- North Dakota -- July 11
III -- New York -- July 19
IV -- Arkansas -- January 5 2007
V -- North Carolina -- July 25 2006
VI -- Idaho -- July 19
VII -- Texas -- July 30
VIII -- Delaware -- July 30
IX -- South Dakota -- July 30
X -- Hawaii -- August 1
XI -- Michigan -- August 1
XII -- Oregon -- January 15 2007
XIII -- Montana -- August 3 2006
XIV -- Ohio -- August 3
XV -- Kansas -- September 5
XVI -- Iowa -- September 5
XVII -- Louisiana --September 5
XVIII -- Rhode Island -- November 28
XIX -- California -- November 28
XX -- Minnesota -- December 14
XXI -- Maine -- December 14
XXII -- South Carolina -- January 4 2007
XXIII -- Arizona -- January 4
XXIV -- Mississippi -- December 27 2006
XXV -- Alabama -- December 27
XXVI -- West Virginia -- January 4 2007
XXVII -- Nebraska -- January 15
XXVIII -- Indiana -- January 15
XXIX -- Florida -- January 9
XXX -- Virginia -- January 9
XXXI -- New Jersey -- February 12
XXXII -- Georgia -- February 12
XXXIII -- Pennsylvania - January 22
XXXIV -- Vermont -- January 29
XXXV -- Massachusetts -- January 29
XXXVI -- Illinois -- March 7
XXXVII -- New Mexico -- March 7
XXXVIII -- Tennessee -- March 12
XXXIX -- Wyoming -- March 12
XL -- Colorado -- March 21
XLI -- Wisconsin -- March 21
XLII -- New Hampshire -- March 27
XLIII -- Oklahoma -- March 27
XLIV -- Utah -- April 3
XLV -- Maryland -- April 3
XLVI -- Missouri -- April 13
XLVII -- Nevada -- April 13
XLVIII -- Kentucky -- April 17
XLIX -- Connecticut -- May 6
L -- Alaska -- May11

DC and territories to go, three poems


Poetic States IV – Arkansas

Over the River, through the Woods

When we arrived at Ben’s at the edge
of the Ozarks, his family left their meal
to prepare ours – ham, chicken, potatoes,
fresh strawberries – all grown on their farm –
as Ben told us about raising hogs
in the hills and dealing with government men.

In Jerusalem, we sat on the porch of Aunt Rose’s
unpainted house as gravel trucks rumbled by.
She told us stories of how the town changed
in the 75 years since she’d married
after the first war, and fed us strawberry
shortcake from the supermarket.

We tried to avoid turtles
on the road back from Ben’s,
but we could not.


Until next week when we add two or three more….



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Thursday, January 04, 2007

A New Year and New States

We turn over a new year, the old ended on an execution of a villian, the new with the funeral of a hero.


A bit of a cold today, so I simply leave you with two states I skipped and one new.


Poetic States XXII – South Carolina

Crab Cakes

When I was a working stiff,
I traveled east to shipyards
at Norfolk and Charleston,
conferences during the day,
food, drink and parties at night.

In the bays of the Ashley River,
we would find seafood
nearly as good as home –
red fish, prawns, soft-shell
crab, which I avoided.

I would sit in the middle
of a dozen crab cracking diners,
crustacean and lemon juice flying,
I normally got more on me
than the eaters had on them.

In addition to lobster,
I’ve found the delight of crab cakes
with or without hush-puppies.
though the smell of crab flesh
might defeat me if I tried them.

If I travel back to Charleston,
I will give them a whirl -
after all, I’ve had craw-dads –
but I would still eschew gator.


Poetic States XXIII – Arizona


On a straight stretch of Interstate 10
about halfway between Blythe and Phoenix,
as the driver can practice speeding,
you wonder if any land is more desolate
and if any cactus is uglier than a Saguaro
(exempting the Mojave Joshua tree).
Descending in the Harquahala Wash,
you read a road sign that says,

In the event of a flash flood,
drive to higher ground.

Western movie lore teaches flash
floods originate from rain storms
in the mountains and are upon
unsuspecting travelers before
they have a clue, which leaves
the question of why the I-10 warning.

Or maybe if is like the cries
of those who predict
global warming,
disaster in Iraq,
the housing bubble will burst,
the southwest will be annexed to Mexico,
there will be a shortage of Tickle-Me-Elmos…

We won’t credit the prophets
until it is too late or lack the ability
to tell which sign is bogus
and which we should heed.


Poetic States XXVI – West Virginia

It’s All Relative

A face as wrinkled as a dried apple,
a smile as bright as a week old baby,
she seems happy with the long life she’s led
in hills west of the Monongahela.

A centurion in a straight backed chair
on the lawn before an unpainted house -
her photo in a stained Geographic
rescued from an overloaded attic.

She might have been a great aunt or cousin
fond of homemade as those who moved out west.
I won’t know, my family wouldn’t discuss
family trees or mountain history.

Whether or not she and I related,
I am sure that her smile was meant for me.


I'll be back next week, hopefully without this cold...