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

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



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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