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Anniversary of U.S.S. Arizona

After standing on the decks of the memorial for the U.S.S. Arizona,

I wrote this poem to honor our fallen comrades on the

50th Anniversary of that day, December 7, 1991.

It is included in my book, Autumn Leaves.

 

We came to pay you tribute,

O’er encrusted decks we stood.

And because you are deserving,

We rendered as we could.

 

Oil seeps up to surface light,

Rainbowed tears of those below,

Doomed forever to silence

Those many long years ago.

 

“Forget me not,” you whisper.

“Perish the thought,” say I.

“Though you sleep beneath the sea,

Your memory shall not die!”

 

“Remember Pearl! Remember Pearl!”

Soon became our national cry.

Our country rose in anger

On a vengeance trail to fly.

 

We shed our tears; we shed our blood.

War took an awesome toll.

Still we fought on to victory

While you topped our “Honor Roll.”

 

So rest in peace, fellow comrades,

The victory has been won.

We’ll not forget the price you paid

Seven December, Nineteen Forty-One.

USS Arizona0002 USS Arizona USS Arizona0001

Note: Oil still seeps out of the hull of the U.S.S. Arizona, creating rainbows on the water above it.

My Epitaph

Gaze upon this empty shell

But shed no tear

For it served me well.

 

There were many things

It couldn’t do

So I’ve slipped it off

Like a well-worn shoe.

 

When I wore it,

There was pain…

It got burned by the sun

And soaked by the rain.

 

When it got old,

It couldn’t run

Or hop and skip

Or dance in fun.

 

Chairs and beds

Had to be arranged

To keep it warm

When the weather changed.

 

Its hair thinned out,

And its eyes grew dim…

A burst of energy was

But a dreamy whim.

 

The body grew wrinkled,

But the brain increased.

Knowledge and wisdom expanded

As mobility ceased.

 

Life’s run is over now.

The spirit seeks a better place.

Time for the old body to rest,

But, wow, what a race!

What Now?

When a man has traveled far places,

Leaving footsteps on foreign land and distant shores.

 

When he has walked over lofty rugged mountains,

Wandered his valleys and fished his many streams.

 

When he has sown his seed, nurtured his offspring,

Spoken his thoughts and satisfied his thirst for knowledge.

 

When he has fought his battles, ran his life’s long races,

Feels his flame grow dimmer and the horizons of his vision weaken.

 

When dreams fade and hopes are but a study in futility,

And he no longer does for himself, but must rely upon others.

 

Growing older, feeling weaker,

Lapsing into periods away from reality — —

 

Feeling less and less like a man.

What Now?

Africa

This poem comes from Autumn Leaves:

I hear the cry of Africa,

See her saddened plight —

Lackluster eyes, no hope or dreams,

Watch day and night.

 

Listless resignation,

Men gaze o’er vast parched plains,

Useless to plant in dried-out earth,

Waiting for blessed rains.

 

People far past anguish,

No more tears to shed,

No food, no clothes,

Hard earth for a bed.

 

Hunger pains diminished,

No longer feeling pain,

Too little food, too late,

And no one to blame.

 

I hear the cries of Africa,

Mourning on the winds,

In wake of death,

Starving hands reach quietly for their friends.

 

Haunting face of children

As hunger stalks this land.

No quarter given, and death lurks

For both beast and man.

 

Women stand bewildered,

Eying their helpless brood,

Wasting away, to laugh no more

For simple lack of food.

 

I hear the cry of Africa,

Wafting o’er the dry blasted sand,

People of proud heritage,

But what future in this drought-stricken land?

Building Blocks

This thought comes from Autumn Leaves:

As even coral reefs die

When certain conditions exist,

The building blocks created

Over years on top of tireless years

Just crumble and decay

Back from whence they came.

Coral reef

Coral reef

Viet Nam Remembered

This poem comes from Autumn Leaves for “Viet Nam Remembered”:

A few quiet moments,

Gazing at each name.

A moment of respect

In drizzling rain.

 

This polished black “V”

Gashed into the earth,

Names of dead recorded

Instead of birth.

 

As I stood there soaked

In beleaguered calm,

Recalling memories of buddies

In a place called Viet Nam.

 

I remember young faces,

Etched in grimy fear.

Muddy fatigues sagging,

Weighted down with gear.

 

Orange blossom napalm flashes,

Jellying up a hill.

Sweating soldiers cuss

While mustering their will.

 

Incoming rockets roar

Amidst bursting mortar shells,

No thought of Heaven

In this little piece of Hell!

 

Med-E-Vac choppers lift off,

Another wounded body gone.

Ashen-white face reveals

A friend left alone.

 

Maybe these inscribed names

Fit faces in my mind.

Scenes vivid and real

Forever enshrined.

 

Although it’s officially over,

Still there’s no end.

As I stand here quietly

With memories of friends.

 

Who has the answer,

Why we fought this war?

What did it accomplish?

What was it all for?

 

The answer now has become muted,

Grown hazy over time.

But you’ll never forget them

When you see their shrine.

 

Bronze at Viet Nam War Memorial

Bronze at Viet Nam War Memorial

Viet Nam War Memorial

Viet Nam War Memorial

 

 

Chakras

This comes from Autumn Leaves:

I am —

Pulsating,

Vibrating,

Lotus lit,

Flowing,

Calmly free,

Energy forces,

Dancing light,

Centered,

Waiting

To Be.

Ira Stiles

This poem comes from Autumn Leaves:

I remember Ole Ira Stiles,

Used to come to town now and then,

Spreading warmth with his ear-splittin’ smile,

And, just as suddenly, gone again.

 

Nobody knew where Ira called home;

He seemed to wear all that he owned.

The big friendly smile never left his face,

Except when he bowed his big head in grace.

 

I’m told a certain sweet thing fell in love

With Ira’s big smiles.

When news reached him of the maiden’s whim,

Ira quickly covered some miles.

 

Folks never saw his smiling face again,

But have you ever touched a star or held the wind?

Sometimes I think of “Ole Smiling Ira,”

But I believe his last name was really ‘Mariah.”

 

 

 

 

Last Call

This is from Autumn Leaves:

It’s already been said and written,

But a few more lines I’ll dare

The warning to sound,

The bell to ring

For he who still has to care.

 

Find truth and understanding,

Love that knows no bounds,

Make straight His path,

Accept His cross —

Before the trumpet sounds.

 

Pisces

This comes from Autumn Leaves:

Pisces people grab a shooting star

And hold on tight,

Living, working, playing, and loving

With all their might.

 

On fire with exuberance of love and life,

And, like the salmon

On their upstream struggle,

They live, spawn, and die.

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