The Great War–and…

28 02 2011

Barbed wire in a Lorraine wood

Today Frank Woodruff Buckles died at the age of 110. He was the last United States veteren of WWI.

each second seemed an hour, each minute an eternity

he did not see combat but he was over there and survived. And then he was in the Philippines in WWII, a civilian POW, and survived.

Footfalls echo in the memory/Down the passage we did not take

I have no right to this history–and I, with a bit of shame, was thinking today,  of how all my obsession with WWI is like looking into a distorted mirror. And really, what truth can be found in that sort of reflection?

Just unhurried ghosts are there
Hanging in the wire

I read about this old man, who I never met, will never meet, did not know of, only now I know that he died.  I have no right to his history but I miss it.  I never even knew it existed and now it has passed.

until that day no man had, during those many months since the first battles, stood on that same ground in daylight and lived

all time is unredeemable


quotes are by T. S. Eliot, PJ Harvey, Private E. N. Gladden


Great Wars

23 02 2011

I write to you beneath this tent

While summer day becomes a shade

I have been thinking about The Great War

the vultures/are gathering now and famished hawks are poised!

my great grandfather left Germany for good in 1911, just before the war, of course, and though relatives in Germany must have fought, there are no family stories, that I know of, about that particular war.

what is the glorious fruit of File:Ruins ypres.jpgour land

We have stories about the Civil War, WWII, Vietnam

the fruit is deformed children

But not WWI.  To the United States as a country WWI is distant and far away.

(Not one man has

In time in space

not one woman has

but not in being

revealed the secrets

like Afghanistan

of this world

like Iraq)

I hope France will not become nervous

battlefield reminders and relics in gallipoli

I wonder if I am caught in a Romantic daze

The Germans are dangerous but they are not maniacs

but really, I think not.  There is something icy cold in learning what I did not know about The Great War and in her aftermath.  Looking back, in our rear-view vision in the wind from the wings of Walter Benjamin’s angel, we see the turning and the reckoning that must have been unheeded.

My inquietude increased from hour to hour

For were whatever might have been learned from the war been learned, been taken to Paris, or to heart, would we be where we are now?  Or would there have been a different world to rise out of the ashes of Amiens, Verdun, the Marne, Ypres, the Somme, Gallipoli?

on battle ship hill I hear the wind sing

Shouldn’t we all be listening to the ghosts?  Are there ghosts?  Or is that just the sound of my own breath?   

The human heart is the start of all matters pertaining to war

Am I only reflecting back and forth upon my own self the ideas of the trenches and the wires and the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. 

I have this feeling, reinforced by consistent and regular references in various places to the The Great War (most recently, PJ Harvey’s most excellent Let England Shake), that there are real answers in the study of The Great War to my current unrelenting sense of unease. 

But the more I dig, the more I read, the more photographs I pour over, the fewer answers I find.

File:Mounted troops moving along the Ypres road.jpg

Do you see him looking back?  He is looking backward and what makes you think he ever returned.  Even if he did, carrying this with him in his head, he is dead by  now and this, his turning, has died with him


For Death was young again

The longer I look, the greater my obsession, the more I think that the glass I am looking into for some sort of truth as darkly and cracked as are all the mirrors of the world.


quotes are by Kaiser Wilhelm II, PJ Harvey, Maréchal de Saxe, Barbara Tuchman, Robert Graves, Gottfried Benn, Charles Lanrezac, Guillaume Apollinaire

I do yoga because

7 02 2011

it gives me tiny moments of actual grace.


6 02 2011

Don’t come to me complaining about the weather.

As ye sow, so shall ye reap

We are inside

They that sow the Wind

This, Motherfuckers,

is climate change.

Reap the Whirlwind

Enjoy it folks, we’ve given it to ourselves and now we’ll bake or freeze or blow away or drown, pulled out to sea.

and if it were just to be us, we humans, we Homo fucking sapiens, I might not care so much except we are taking a lot of other species with us.

There she goes

I don’t care so much about the people (except sometimes I do).  I do care about my children.  Really, the part that has me wanting to feel my hands around the throat all of those in Washington DC too ignorant or cowardly to do a damn thing, is my heartbreak for my babies.

My beautiful world

it may be sentimental or maudlin

And there is that me that is complicit too.

but it also creates in me a murderous rage

We live in an old chaos of the sun

In the cloud cover I see it, under the earth I feel it, in the scent of the snow I taste it, on my arms, on the cuts and bruises, under my nails, in the massive waves, in the tiny storms

in the winds

that blow

and wild is the wind

so wild is the wind

This rage, I keep it in my pocket, but here it is, out a moment, a little glimpse for your pleasure and then I’ll put it away goodnight.

Life’s more hidden, obscurer griefs

geh’ ich dahin/I drift away

Within my Garden, rides a bird–

Upon a single Wheel–

It has never been my intention to feel so very angry.

quotes are from Emily Dickinson, The King James Bible, Nick Cave, Dimitri Tiomkinm Ned Washington, Wallace Stevens, Friedrich Hölderlin