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Lucius Furius Jan 20
I say there is no physical beauty.
This skin, this flesh, this bone
are but the clay of which we make our beauty,
the instrument on which we play our beauty.
  
Witness the failure of funeral directors to please true aesthetes:
the dead Ingrid Bergman lacks the beauty of a living bag lady.
  
Tennis masters
given K-Mart rackets
win gracefully,
while the high-school violinist
playing a Stradivarius
fails to delight us.
  
Thus noses, lips, ******* have no beauty in themselves.
Perfect features are easily distorted by
anger, sloth, irritability, or conceit.
But in a rare few
energy, grace, composure, and sensitivity
are blended in such a quantity
that they overflow
and color with an exquisite beauty every pore of the body,
fill with a subtle music every gesture, every word.
  
I say there is no physical beauty.
This skin, this flesh, this bone
are but the clay of which we make our beauty,
the instrument on which we play our beauty.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/audio/SoF_005_beauty.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm ).
Lucius Furius Dec 2018
This desert is our life.
From the dry earth we gather roots and melons.
Over the endless sands we hunt the gemsbok and the springbok.
  
Sometimes the ga roots are shriveled and bitter.
Sometimes men are sick with thirst and hunger.
  
When there is water we drink and sing and clap our hands.
When there is food we eat and dance and clap our hands.
  
The eland does not come to us and ask to be eaten --
one must know how to make the arrow and poison it
and where to look and how to hide and shoot. . . .
  
What man is so foolish as to expect more? To expect
the rain to be always falling, his eggs full of water and
his stomach full of meat?
  
You have strong animals to carry you.
You have much food and water.
Your digging sticks are hard and sharp.
Your shooting-sticks are like lightning.
  
You are a powerful man and a good man.
I can see that in your eyes.

But what you offer is a dream.
  
You can give us water and meat.
You can fill our hands with tobacco and perfect beads.

But you cannot give us happiness.

  
A man can only drink so much and then he is full.
If a man is always eating honey, he tires of it and becomes sick.
  
And even if all life were sweet --
what man is not food for lions and dogs?
A man who has tasted in his life no bitterness will find death very bitter.
  
My mouth longs for sweetness
but sweetness brings bitterness
and in the end they are one.
  
So I ask you:
Take your digging sticks and your shooting-sticks.
And do not leave them behind.
Go to the green lands you came from.
We shall walk in this desert as we always have.
(The occasion for this speech is the arrival of an expedition
headed by a European in a Bushman werf around the year 1900.)

Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/audio/SoF_007_bushman.MP3 .
Note: This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Lucius Furius Oct 2018
No garden flowers for me,
no gaudy, painted flowers
(hotel swimming pools beside the ocean).
  
Give me wildflowers --
ironweed and jewelweed,
chicory and Queens-Anne's-lace.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/audio/SoF_008_garden.MP3 .
Lucius Furius Sep 2018
I
"She's lovely . . . so natural."
A corpse pumped full of formaldehyde.
My grandmother? That prodigious maker of
pies, cakes, stuffing, and cranberry ice?
That lover of Burger King restaurants,
amusement parks, presidential elections, and long summer rides?
Her flushed face is like stone.
This body is a mockery of her being.
(Her fearless motion is done.)
  
   II
She gave us life.
Crass, fond, willful. She gave us life
like turkey and stuffing.
She is the answer to our dark questionings.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/audio/SoF_012_grandma.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Lucius Furius Sep 2018
I remember how you used to care for the flowers
and arrange the vegetables at the stand.
How carefully you drove the tractor.
  
I remember you coming out of a cornfield at dawn,
soaked with the dew, laboring under your basket.
  
All the tiny things you looked after --
kittens and toads.
  
And the strange foods you gave us!
  
O Gretchen, wherever you are,
I hope you've found peace.
  
How did you live in that harsh world?
Where did you hide your fragile spirit?
  
O Gretchen, wherever you are,
I hope you've found love.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/audio/SoF_013_gretchen.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Lucius Furius Aug 2018
I left my mittens in the Smokies.
It was that night at Maddron Bald on the ridge
after we'd hiked from Davenport Gap --
12 miles, 4,000 feet.
The girl gave us icicles.
Dazed and breathless, we pitched the tent
and scrambled into our sleeping bags.
  
The morning sun felt good -- Sterling Ridge
on our left, Cosby far below to the right;
Mt. Guyot with its spruces and firs;
lunch at Tri-Corner ****; then down through
the rhododendrons and mud to McGhee Springs.
Raven Fork -- the beech tree, the icy water,
the boulders, the sunlight.
Cabin Flats and Smokemont -- the rain,
the people with pancakes.
  
Campfires, backpacks, flapjacks, barley;
sunshine, lichens, blisters, . . . wood-smoke.
Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem:  humanist-art.org/audio/SoF_018_mittens.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
Lucius Furius Aug 2018
How distant my Swabian* youth seems now.
I made a glider which really flew, you know.*
Not far, but yes, it carried me! I soared!
  
Some accused me of being a showboat,
of tooting my own horn. . . . I learned early
that the laurels don't go to the meek or the bashful.
  
Yes, I was a ****. Those aristocrats
on the General Staff* belittled the Fuhrer--
but where had they gotten us?
I liked his enthusiasm and optimism.
We were in a hole; he led us out,
got the economy going again,
restored the Sudetenland and Danzig.
(Danzig where Lucie and I had been married!)
  
I thought Poland would be the end
but when we attacked in the West
I didn't shrink away.
My troops and I were the very spearhead:
strike quickly; do the unexpected.
  
Who was I to deny
Germany's world-wide destiny?
  
The African war agreed with me.
The open space gave a latitude to my strategy
lacking in hilly, forested Europe.

The victory at Tobruk is often cited
as the height of genius, military.  
I, myself, prefer what preceded it:
the retreat into Tripolitania--
salvaging men and tanks, shortening supply lines,
lulling the British into complacency;
turning and stinging at Agedabia.

El Alamein: the Fuhrer and I part company.
"Victory or Death", he cabled me.
I disagreed: my men would not die senselessly.

We were desperate for gasoline.
Ship after ship was sunk trying to deliver it.
(Lax Italian security, no doubt.)
  
We were outnumbered five to one.
I favored withdrawing immediately,
consolidating troops in Europe.
The Fuhrer wouldn't hear of it.
  
I flew to East Prussia to confront him.
He'd grown pudgier, more strident--
wouldn't give an inch.
I sensed that not just Africa
but the war as a whole would be lost.
The weight of the forces against us was crushing.
The only question'd been their willingness to fight.
That had been answered at Stalingrad.
  
I fought on in Italy and in France,
hoping to convince the enemy
that the price of taking Europe--
especially Germany--
would be too high.

I really thought we had a chance
to stop them on the beaches.
But now that we've failed, our destruction's inevitable.
  
I've tried to make the Fuhrer see reason:
surrender to the British and Americans;
don't let our country be overrun by Russia.
  
He condoned ******--
ordered me to **** the French Jewish soldiers
who'd surrendered at Bir Hacheim,* for instance,
(I didn't) -- and much more. . . . And yet,
and yet, I couldn't quite bring myself to wish him dead--
and certainly never took part in that plot--
though, yes, I knew of it . . . after a fashion. . . .
Defending myself to that group would be hopeless. . . .
Lucie and Manfred must be spared
the humiliation of hearing me declared a traitor.

I bestrode the plains of Africa--
Rommel, the invincible--
always with the troops where the battle was most critical.
I was crafty and brave,
dared to act when others shied away.
I was the apple of the Fuhrer's eye;
idol of the German people;
scourge of the British military.
All the world applauded me. I lost--
but only when outnumbered overwhelmingly.
  
Now I sit in the back of this Opel*--
an outcast, a criminal--
waiting to take a cyanide pill.

We failed to assess properly
the will of other nations to honor treaties
and preserve their freedom.
And, more basically:
Were we right to force our rule on other people?

Icarus-like, we flew too high.

We were bold and strong
but it seems, in the end,
in the end, not supermen.
Swabia: A region of southwestern Germany (around Stuttgart) which had been a dukedom in the 10th to 13th centuries.
  
glider: In 1906 Rommel, age 14, and a friend built a full-size, box-type glider.
  
General Staff: High-level officers with formal military education. Rommel, having come up through the ranks, lacked such training.
  
no doubt: Rommel was correct in thinking that the British knew the exact destinations and sailing times of Italian supply ships, but was wrong as to the source of their information: it was coming from German ("Enigma") radio transmissions which the British had learned to decode.
  
beaches: Rommel was in charge of the defense of the coast against British/American invasion.
  
Bir Hacheim: A fort at the southern end of the "Gazala Line" (in Libya) which Rommel outflanked in his attack upon Tobruk in 1942.
  
hopeless: The army's Court of Honor (Field Marshal Keitel, Generals Guderian and Kirchheim) had been presented with evidence of Rommel's involvement in the plot on ******'s life (false) and his attempts to arrange an armistice with the British (true). With ******'s approval they had given Rommel a choice of committing suicide (and having his treason hushed up) or of going before the court (and, no doubt, being hung in public).
  
Manfred: Rommel's son.

Opel: The car which the officers who presented Rommel with his choices had driven from Berlin.

Hear Lucius/Jerry read the poem: humanist-art.org/audio/SoF_02_rommel.MP3 .
This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems ( https://humanist-art.org/scrapsoffaith.htm )
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