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Nat Lipstadt Apr 25
Family biz takes us on the Acela train to Washington, D.C.,
a many-hour tour of the Monuments upon the Mall inclus,
never on a prior agenda, despite semi-frequent visitations,
but this time, rose early, in the cool morning, to touch and be touched

She asks if we have time enough for the Vietnam War Memorial,
time enough plentiful, no inkling her purpose was manifold, nay,
woman-fold, relating a story of a first teen boyfriend, they vowed,
to never lose touch, tho they became geographically distanced

On New Year’s day, a promise to each other, to speak on the phone,
they do honor this commitment, he will call, for in your early years,
solemn promises, honor, memories potentialities, galvanize bonds;
first love’s easy camaraderie birth tender promises, kept well-tended!

Till one year, no call comes, and desire, necessitates her to be
the protagonist, only to learn that Gerald, drafted in ‘68,
did not return, his parents inform her, the story told wistfully,
a Ranger locates his name, her reflection strains to reach his letters

Only I see her eyes filling and brimming, the shoulders ever
so slightly sagging and know this moment needs memorializing,
for we shed tears so rarely, that this youthful relationship, now more than threescore extant is why we built this black granite wall

Visit the Jefferson, MLK, Washington’s obelisk, and of course
the author of “of the people, by the people, for the people,”
a humble visage, humanizes his grandiose, white robed presence,
assessing his potential measure of life assassin-shortened, we exclaim

”if only, what might have been!”

but no tears are shed, but for a name of a young man,
taken before his prime, who enabled a girl to taste deep own-self, at an age we barely ken the words revealing our true emotive, or understand the color palette of serious, meanings of how we tick…

she’s easy overcome, I wonder, was she inside feeling, exclaiming,
”if only, what might have been,”
but no words emitted, only tears, that a tissue so softly takes away,
I think who among us, yet sheds sad tears for the days of our youth?

this poem in fufillment of my obligations, witness, memorializer,
arm to be leaned on, carrier of Kleenex, compatriot tear-shedder,
empathetic, sympathetic and recording secretary
that our past, is never truly past,

it is just waiting for a reflection,
resurfacing one more time
on a high polished black
granite slab


black granite mirrors sandblasted refresh cut scars into our consciousness and for some, our conscience, as one who
rarely thinks of and forgets to reflect on the life lottery he won,
back in 1968, so he was not called to serve, exclaiming

”if only, what might have been!
In Memoriam
Gerald Levy
Lawrence Hall Mar 21
Lawrence Hall

                                       China Beach Spring Break

                             “Remember we are special guests here;
               we make no demands and seek no special treatment.”

                                -A Pocket Guide to Viet-Nam, 1969

We called it China Beach; I don’t know why
Those wonderful beaches are in Viet-Nam
But apparently no Vietnamese were allowed
Behind OUR wire along OUR beach, OUR surf

Shabby little snack shacks and latrines
And in his shabby little tower a guard
In his striped helmet and aviator shades
Yawning through his moment in history

The beaches of Fort Lauderdale; I don’t know why -
That’s where the young go now to die
Lawrence Hall Sep 2022
Lawrence Hall 3d
A Poem is not a Helicopter
Lawrence Hall

                                     ­    A Poem is not a Helicopter

                                                  For­­ Al Duquette

A helicopter is not a poem
A helicopter flies in three dimensions
If all of the systems are fitted just right
Otherwise, it does not fly at all

A poem is not a helicopter
A poem flies only metaphorically
If we rearrange the parts aesthetically
The poem might fly much better than before

One carries our friends wherever they want to go
The other carries our love to our friends

More exposition than I have ever written:

Al is my fellow volunteer in prison and was one of my mentors when I began. I am in awe of him because he flew helicopters with the Air Cavalry in Viet-Nam and then offshore with Petroleum Helicopters Incorporated. He is almost obsessively left-brained in all things and I am an old hippie so we are often on two different metaphorical channels.  After some mutual suspicion we came to the realization – because the prisoners pointed it out to us - that in working with a class together we communicate the same ideas in different ways, and so are more effective.

Al sees no point in poetry, although he appreciates the little poems I hand out to the lads as class openers. I think this is because they (the poems, not the prisoners) are short and simple, almost always rhyme, and are mostly Victorian parlour poems which contain a moral lesson and encouragement. This week, while waiting for the guards to bring us the fellows, Al said that prose is made of words and poetry is made of words and in both categories we choose the most effective words, and so what makes a difference. I replied that a poem is not a helicopter, that not all the bits have to fit together in only one way. Prose is indeed a matter of the right words in the right places but that a poem is a matter of even better words placed in even better places (This is not an original thought; I don’t remember where I learned it.). Al accepted my answer, but of course maybe he was merely being polite!

Written by
Lawrence Hall
Has anyone survived, that remembers 1969,
Everyone, was experimenting with drugs,
You’re still alive, you were supposed, to die.
Peace & Love were the greetings, with,
Bright colorful flowers to brighten up each day,
Sharing, looking for the cool, positive in each other,
Giving hitchhiker’s a ride, no one in that extra seat anyway.
The Wood stock concert, held in muddy farm fields,
That season the farmers, lost some yield, as a pond,
Was their bath tub, they passed around, and shared meals,
Touching each other,
Showed love, sharing a sandwich, or ****, was no big deal.
Hundreds of thousands, left their homes, to protest,
Their feelings, and what they believed, they stood up proud,
The way Americans should be.
Protesting the politicians, for picking, shipping young people,
Across the seas, to fight in Viet Nam, they didn’t know why,
Or believe, the day they left, the last time for many of them,
Their homeland, they would ever see. Events that change history,
Marijuana legal today, politicians taxed it, so now it’s good, ok,
Those boys that came back, from war in body bags, they still lay.
The Original: Tom Maxwell © 3/30/2022 AD
Lawrence Hall Oct 2021
Lawrence Hall

                              Why I Wear a Boonie Hat

Mostly to try to avoid speeding tickets
And maybe someone will say, “Thank you for your service”
And pay for my coffee in gratitude
But they just stop at “Thank you for your service”

Sometimes I meet some other old man
And we ask each other where we were
Memories – some of them surprisingly good
Others dark enough
                                      And we were so young

My boonie hat keeps the sun off my head
And the fluorescents in the Social Security office
It makes me look like John Wayne in The Geriatric Berets
Not really. Maybe a different angle…how’s that?

And young women come up to me to say
That their grandfathers were in Viet-Nam
A poem is itself. So is life.
“At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it, we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely ... I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is every- where.”

― Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Surprising God, how does one surprise God?

I have heard the door or gate is not locked; it is always open.

Every day I think of Mike,
he told me about the river boat he was on,
the murky river water, many small boats alongside,
action all around. He was a sailor on a ship,
what the hell was he doing on a river boat,
he often asked, even now.
Can’t remember the name of the river,
but it was Nam…

You come home from war… you are different now.
No one seems to know that, “but glad your back bro,” they say. Yes, you are home, but then there is the addiction, not of killing but of forgetting.
The time comes to report, remembering one’s service, out in the woods, away from it all.
There is that standing at attention, hair and beard trimmed, at muster for the last time…
There was a strange silence afterwards,

How does one surprise God?
I have heard the door or gate is not locked; it is always open.
I am a vet from the Vietnam Era. This poem came point of a personal experience and loss.
Lawrence Hall Oct 2020
Lawrence Hall

                                    I­ndochine - An Anniversary of Sorts

On the 26th of October 1970 I returned from 18th months in Viet-Nam and a brief side-trip into Cambodia. I was literally just a boy off the farm when I went, and was still quite young when I wrote the following artless lines, with their conventional allusions, forced rhymes, and usage errors, on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th anniversaries. Perhaps there is one from the 1st anniversary, but I can’t find it. Well, we are all are looking for something most days: a poem, truth, meaning, or some other trifle.

…the war – the frights…the smell of h.e., the horribly smashed men still moving like half-crushed beetles, the…corpses…all this shows rarely and faintly in memory…and often seems to have happened to someone else.

        -C. S. Lewis, “Guns and Good Company,” Surprised by Joy

                                        26 October 1972

The pecans are falling now
Onto the court-house lawn
Geese fly overhead, southbound
Misty dusk and chilly dawn

Two year from Viet-Nam
Two eternities from the Vam Co Tay
Elections now, and speeches
And I guess I’ll have my say

But the finality briefly denied me
Found many another man
And they’re not here for elections
And Autumn on the land

                                            26 October 1973

I sit and smoke my pipe and think
Of things that I have seen
Easter seals and steering wheels
And jungle hot and green

I sit and smoke my pipe and ponder
The imponderable of God and man
The evening star over a flare-lit war
And souls as grains of sand

I sit and smoke my pipe and mourn
For the murdered

Many miles, and three years today
From the muddy, ****** waters
Of the Vam Co Tay

                                         26 October 1974

Many miles
And four years today
From the muddy, ****** waters
Of the Vam Co Tay

All the death-hurt eases
And dreams are quieter now
But the hurting never ceases
And I can’t see when it will, or how

Four Octobers
Four Autumns today
From rain drizzling on the slimy banks
Of the Van Co Tay

“Go and make the world safe for democracy –
Like we did in 1917,” my aged ancestor said
Dear old man, he never lived to know
That sort of thing is dead

Grim memories
Of flare-lit nights and steaming days
Of men dying screaming
On the Vam Co Tay

The finality briefly denied me
Found many another man
And they’re not seeing the wild geese flying
Or Autumn on the land

Many miles
And four years today
From the muddy, ****** waters
Of the Vam Co Tay
A poem is itself; memories are doubtful.
Michael R Burch Apr 2020
by Michael R. Burch

This poem is dedicated to Harvey Stanbrough, an ex-marine who has written eloquently about the horror and absurdity of war in "Lessons for a Barren Population."

No, I will never know
what you saw or what you felt,
****** into the maw of Eternity,

watching the mortars nightly
greedily making their rounds,
hearing the soft damp hiss

of men’s souls like helium escaping
their collapsing torn bodies,
or lying alone, feeling the great roar

of your own heart.
But I know:
there is a bitter knowledge

of death I have not achieved,
and in thankful ignorance,
and especially for my son

and for all who benefit so easily
at so unthinkable a price,
I thank you.

Published by Romantics Quarterly, Poetic Reflections and Poetry SuperHighway. Keywords/Tags: Vietnam War, maw, mortars, rounds, souls, escaping, bodies, corpses, death, heart, roar, bitter, knowledge, thanks, thank you, service, honor, duty, courage, bravery, heroism, patriotism
Marco Apr 2020
the tide, a never-ending olive green
the advance made silently in
the pitch black night,
dark as the leather on their feet.

wading through the water
a muddy yellow tinged with blood
dripping like machine gun fire
opened fire in the jungle thicket

the river is full of them
treading panic water  to escape
treading on landmines -
little pots of death leaving crates,
cutting arms, legs, limbs gone,
lost in the panic water

soldiers in the river,
men in the panic water,
friends in the throes of death
clinging to each other,
kissing olive canvas with red lips
"Tell my girl I love her if I don't make it back!"
holding each other while holding their breath
listening, listening for the next agent to fall
like rain

and orange the rain on viet cong,
the american hatred dropping like bombs,
on ferns and palm trees losing their green
on children losing their voices from all the screaming and crying
their fathers tired of fighting and hanging loose
like landmine limbs,
in the reeds by the river,
waiting for death.
Michael R Burch Mar 2020
Ali's Song
by Michael R. Burch

for Muhammad Ali

They say that gold don't tarnish. It ain't so.
They say it has a wild, unearthly glow.
A man can be more beautiful, more wild.
I flung their medal to the river, child.
I flung their medal to the river, child.

They hung their coin around my neck; they made
my name a bridle, "called a ***** a *****."
They say their gold is pure. I say defiled.
I flung their slave's name to the river, child.
I flung their slave's name to the river, child.

Ain't got no quarrel with no Viet Cong
that never called me ******, did me wrong.
A man can't be lukewarm, 'cause God hates mild.
I flung their notice to the river, child.
I flung their notice to the river, child.

They said, "Now here's your bullet and your gun,
and there's your cell: we're waiting, you choose one."
At first I groaned aloud, but then I smiled.
I gave their "future" to the river, child.
I gave their "future" to the river, child.

My face reflected up, dark bronze like gold,
a coin God stamped in His own image—BOLD.
My blood boiled like that river—strange and wild.
I died to hate in that dark river, child,
Come, be reborn in this bright river, child.

The poem above has been set to music in a YouTube video by Lillian Y. Wong.

You are free to copy the poem for noncommercial use, such as a school project, essay or report, or just because you like it and want to share, but please credit Michael R. Burch as the author.

NOTES: (1) Muhammad Ali said that he threw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River after experiencing racism in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Confirming his account, the medal was recovered by Robert Bradbury and his wife Pattie in 2014 during the Annual Ohio River Sweep. The Ali family paid $200,000 to regain possession of the medal. Ali later made a joke about the incident that caused him to toss his medal into the river. He said that he took his medal into a white downtown restaurant and ordered a cheeseburger. The waitress told him, "We don't serve negroes." Ali replied, "I don't eat them either. Just bring me a cheeseburger!" (2) When drafted during the Vietnam War, Ali refused induction, reputedly saying: "I ain't got no quarrel with those Viet Cong; no Vietnamese ever called me a ******." (3) The notice mentioned in my poem is Ali's draft notice, which metaphorically gets tossed into the river along with his slave name. (4) The poem was originally published by the literary journal Black Medina. It has since been published by Other Voices International, Thanal Online, Freshet, Poems About and Poem List.

For Ali, Fighting Time
by Michael R. Burch

So now your speech is not as clear . . .
time took its toll each telling year . . .
and O how tragic that your art,
so brutal, broke your savage heart.

But we who cheered each blow that fell
within that ring of torrent hell
never dreamed to see you maimed,
bowed and bloodied, listless, tamed.

For you were not as other men
as we cheered and cursed you then;
no, you commanded dreams and time—
blackgold Adonis, bold, sublime.

And once your glory leapt like fire—
pure and potent. No desire
ever burned as fierce or bright.
Oh Ali, Ali . . . win this fight!

(I stole this poem
From Muhammad Ali.)
—Michael R. Burch

The poem above was written in response to the Quora question: “Can you write a poem titled “Me”?

In My House
by Michael R. Burch

I was once the only caucasian in the software company I founded and managed. I had two fine young black programmers working for me, and they both had keys to my house. This poem looks back to the dark days of slavery and the Civil War it produced.

When you were in my house
you were not free—
in chains bound.

Manifest Destiny?

I was wrong;
my plantation burned to the ground.
I was wrong.

This is my song,
this is my plea:
I was wrong.

When you are in my house,
now, I am not free.

I feel the song
hurling itself back at me.

We were wrong.
This is my history.

I feel my tongue
stilting accordingly.

We were wrong;
brother, forgive me.

Published by Black Medina

Poet to poet
by Michael R. Burch

This poem imagines a discussion between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who spoke so poetically about his dream of equality, and a poet who speaks in parentheses.

I have a dream
(pebbles in a sparkling sand)
of wondrous things.

I see children
(variations of the same man)
playing together.

Black and yellow, red and white,
(stone and flesh, a host of colors)
together at last.

I see a time
(each small child another's cousin)
when freedom shall ring.

I hear a song
(sweeter than the sea sings)
of many voices.

I hear a jubilation
(respect and love are the gifts we must bring)
shaking the land.

I have a message,
(sea shells echo, the melody rings)
the message of God.

I have a dream
(all pebbles are merely smooth fragments of stone)
of many things.

I live in hope
(all children are merely small fragments of One)
that this dream shall come true.

I have a dream . . .
(but when you're gone, won't the dream have to end?)
Oh, no, not as long as you dream my dream too!

Here, hold out your hand, let's make it come true.
(i can feel it begin)
Lovers and dreamers are poets too.
(poets are lovers and dreamers too)

I, Too, Have a Dream
by Michael R. Burch writing as “The Child Poets of Gaza”

I, too, have a dream ...
that one day Jews and Christians
will see me as I am:
a small child, lonely and afraid,
staring down the barrels of their big bazookas,
knowing I did nothing
to deserve their enmity.
I, too, have a dream ...

My Nightmare ...
by Michael R. Burch writing as “The Child Poets of Gaza”

I had a dream of Jesus!
Mama, his eyes were so kind!
But behind him I saw a billion Christians
hissing "You're nothing!," so blind.

Less Heroic Couplets: Miss Bliss
by Michael R. Burch

Domestic “bliss”?
Best to swing and miss!

Less Heroic Couplets: Then and Now
by Michael R. Burch

BEFORE: Thanks to Brexit, our lives will be plush! ...
AFTER: Crap, we’re going broke! What the hell is the rush?

Less Heroic Couplets: Dear Pleader
by Michael R. Burch

Is our Dear Pleader, as he claims, heroic?
I prefer my presidents a bit more stoic.

Less Heroic Couplets: Less than Impressed
by Michael R. Burch

for T. M., regarding certain dispensers of lukewarm air

Their volume’s impressive, it’s true ...
but somehow it all seems “much ado.”

Less Heroic Couplets: Poetry I
by Michael R. Burch

Poetry is the heart’s caged rhythm,
the soul’s frantic tappings at the panes of mortality.

Less Heroic Couplets: Poetry II
by Michael R. Burch

Poetry is the trapped soul’s frantic tappings
at the panes of mortality.

Less Heroic Couplets: Seesaw
by Michael R. Burch

A poem is the mind teetering between fact and fiction,
momentarily elevated.

Less Heroic Couplets: Passions
by Michael R. Burch

Passions are the heart’s qualms,
the soul’s squalls, the brain’s storms.

Keywords/Tags: Muhammad Ali, boxing, violence, The Greatest, race, racism, racist, discrimination, black, slave name, Vietnam War, Olympics, gold medal, God, Muslim, Islam, Islamic, tribute, mrbali, mrbrace, mrbsport, mrbsports, mrbsong
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