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Sunday, 11 September 2005
A small offering for all the lost
Topic: poetry
Prose fails me today, the 4th anniversary of 9/11. So here's something to commemorate that and also a relevant 60th anniversary.

The war’s over!

August 9, 1945.
My mom’s got the worst
birthday present: her first miscarriage.
If I existed I’d see a faraway look and hear
a dish drop from her soapy hand.

Dad’s begun a childless law practice
in two mother tongues. Some clients
call him Janek, some mister.
There are too many calls.
Past the kitchen door, his office ticks
with deeds and wills rolling
off the typewriter, sings
with Polish over the phone.

My parents, so, so young in wartime,
recent graduates
of the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works
and Bell Aircraft, are in no mood
for chestbeating.
Let the nation declare Japan is dead,
long live the rest of us.

Let glasses clink elsewhere,
let others cheer the dancing
downtown, let a hundred million
bowling balls
clean up the last pins.

But today in this house,
show respect.
Mom is getting
that faraway look
down to a science.
Hiroshima is smoke,
Nagasaki a new sister cloud.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 11:51 EDT
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Monday, 29 August 2005
History of Cattaraugus County
Topic: poetry
Another poem on the farming/working class, this one revived by my recent biking trips in the North Country and Southern Tier:

History of Cattaraugus County

Down the gully lies the cage
of a Plymouth towed there in the Fifties

by some farm kid on a tractor.
And while I’m dreaming I’ll guess

he lived in that house with the roofline
still clipping the horizon.

Don’t knock. The house dropped its guard
when lumber was honest, and now the weather

comes and goes, no questions asked,
through walls reduced to an invitation.

Even the road signs at the corner,
weathered with a soft brush,

hide something under their laurels
of creeper. All visible speaks of a living

or the lack of it. No new pastures
for this kid, he'd had his fill.

He had the wind and rain
from Lake Erie to answer to

and a future anywhere
but under his boots.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 14:37 EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 August 2005 06:08 EDT
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Wednesday, 17 August 2005
Topic: poetry
Here's one of my poems about the Depression and the Bradigan family's collective memory. West Chicago, Gary, downtown Toledo and Fort Wayne reminded me how little things change for the working class.

--- for men between the wars

Around to the back door they come,
as asked, for a boiled potato, an egg,
any little thing, putting a meal together
house by house the length of Pittston.

They used to be themselves, now
they’re a favorite uncle or a distant cousin
needing a shave, even wanting one.
We’ve got no advice to give
with the handout, and they’re thankful.

We see ourselves joining them.
Down the streets we go,
losing track as the sun shifts.
We head to the river for company,
grinding our way down clay chutes
till the knees beg off. Some of us fish,
some smoke. Here's the double quiet
we wanted, but we must listen
to a coal truck on the level,
straining behind a padlocked gate
while some guy jiggles the keys.

Everybody's got to live.
But when reports go around,
everybody's sister looks twice.
The more they look our way,
the less they see.

Honest men can’t do better.
And an honest man is always at war.
Peacetime, payback time.
One, two, many. Follow the bouncing ball
to the last note:
A man sweeps his hands under the weeds,
and there it is, a glove, even a coat
with a little life left for the taking. Grab it
and get lost.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 11:41 EDT
Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005 15:21 EDT
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