Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Heaven Rest Them Now

Beside the silent water lies a green
expanse of grass, raw gashed, and granite scarred.
A deep black mirror gouged in glory there
reflects the great gorged beast unsated of
his glutton banquet, this sullied flesh and stone,
these many thousand souls more fortunate
than we escaping refugees, we maimed
of mind and limb and heart — at seventeen
but babes, at eighteen ageless witnesses
to lifetimes such as most will never see.

This visage without mercy, old as man,
revealed in polished stone, forever prowls
through shadowed valleys in man’s heart. Beloved,
unloving demon seeking endless gore
in sacrifice, is never satisfied
of death nor far removed from us who’ve known
the altar through his evil eyes ourselves.

The grief a hundred million mothers loose
will not allow the senses to be shut
against the murky Hell these red-shot holes
have stared across. A flood of perfumed rain
from all the world’s seas would never wash
the smell of blood from off this stone,
nor soothe the jagged wounds within this rock,
the tears with names, inscribed upon this face.

Copyright 1993 by Pete Freas.
All rights reserved.

A little about the poet:
Pete Freas is a Vietnam veteran; he served as a Navy gunship helo pilot (HAL-3) in the Mekong Delta (June 1969-June 1970) and did Combat search and rescue (HC-7) in Tonkin Gulf (January 1973-June 1973). In September 1991, Pete retired from the U.S. Navy as a Commander with 26 years of service.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Rah-rah, Sis-boom-bah

a cheer with seven faces

I. By the swept shores
away from Pompeii,
volcanic with ash,
we shed our inhibitions
and entered the cool gray sea,
unabashed until our clothes were stolen.
Along the pebbled beach
we laughed until the tears
filled the Adriatic
and Alexander would approve.

II. A candle,
short and flickering,
has been lit for me
at the Vatican.
But it is weak
and the wick
has gone blue and traveled faster
than the wax
will allow.

III. An intercontinental cheering squad
is all of one wish, yet
the cheers and chants
the longing looks to field
are not reality enough.
The home team,
dancing on foreign soil,

IV. And I have fought
against a dead man,
and I have lost.
The dead man’s love,
once visited,
is stronger, still alive.

V. A poem,
short and flickering
has been written for me.
It is tempted with light and dark
and a sun
in a broken morning
like the first morning.

VI. At the Saybrook breakwater,
where dead husbands return
to be living fathers,
we stretched out in the cool sand,
our bodies lightly touching,
our fullness playing out
under dawn’s first glance.
In that early morning pre-light
there was no sound
except the waves
and two bodies becoming one.

VII. The bell above the crematorium
shudders five times
as the heat
eats the flesh
leaving the gray ash of bone
and a spring-like memory.
I shudder to think of the heat,
a consummation
of what was once joy
and whispers.

First published in Skipping Stones, September 2003.

Copyright 1983-2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Soft night’s rain

In reply to Melanie Almeder’s “Verge”

We are no less
than the lesser things

built on the struggles of the many
who came before, footsteps following footsteps

like a mindless cacophony, a circle
beyond all understanding, history repeating

history, the masses and the individual, a resonance lost.
The touch of rain on the roof, a rumbling

deep in sleep, and night nestled close
like a calf to his mother, is protection from the unseen;

the sound of rain rolling back generations
to the primordial, a dance of water giving

life, gives all. Even now we see the gift: imagination
greets us, a touch breathed in, some wisp

of breeze uplifting, wide-winged hawk pulling skyward,
a sweep of updraft caught in the sunlight

before the rain. I reach out, to touch, to capture
some splash on my hand. You, too, have reached out;

under a summer mist, our fingers
touch, unintended but planned, some intervention,

history preceding history, pushing us to brushed flesh,
a touch and a pulse between us, unmet and tempted.

Here, we are, new stories built on the past,
a building inward, mindful of the place we came, mindful

of the other, soft glances tempered by the ever falling mist,
open-eyed joy at the touch and a wonder of things not seen.

Our eyes see clear in the crystal rain, heaven-sent and fresh.

Copyright 2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

As the priest was saying Mass

(Lille, France)

Today, as the priest was saying Mass,
I thought of you.
Impure were my thoughts,
clashing with the Gloria and the Sanctus,
fueled by the girl in front of me,
her jeans ripe with a fullness obvious.
I thought of you,
and wondered where you were,
Confederate Summer touching your blonde hair
as the sing-song of a language not understood
swirled about me,
my mind trying to focus on the goodness and the purity,
the image before me of Christ, arms open,
and yet the girl, weight shifted to one leg,
an accent of curves
and a fullness of flesh
singing Alleluia in this granite temple.

First published in The Powhatan Review, Summer 2003.

Copyright 2003 by Peter A. Stinson.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.
All rights reserved.

Friday, September 26, 2003

To those dead: has peace returned?

smooth and black
cuts deep into green ground.
Names engraved.
I, miles away, have not traced with stiff fingers
the crevices created by names,
but have felt my soul rip apart, causing
ever widening fissures in my pulsating heart.

Fourteen years ago
my father wore combat green
in a place called Mekong Delta;

Fourteen years ago
my father prayed Holy, Holy, Holy
to the sound of the mortars’ piercing destruction;

Fourteen years ago
my father placed palm and fingers hard against
hoochmate’s neck while blood spurted in time
with heart beats.

Men that survived those years gathered today
to touch hard stone and read names
of those who did not live.
Will I someday be a name on cold black granite?
They lived in sweat,
led green and red lives,
died under jungle blue skies.

Where was the peace?

On the occasion of the dedication
Of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial,
November 14, 1982.

First published in The Trinity Review, Spring 1983.

Copyright 1983 by Peter A. Stinson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry 360 with permission of the author.

Monday, September 01, 2003

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