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The Rose Under Boot

Les ennuies, les chagrins s’effacent
  —Edith Piaf

  How strange it must be
to sing while your country is occupied
by foreign forces.
She, Edith, sang while the Nazis
were in Paris. I have some of those recordings:
scratchy, dark, reminding me of Casablanca
or those other films made while the war was raging
in Europe. The Sparrow dined with her
occupiers, sang as the boxcars rolled,
played footsie with black boots under café tables,
above an Underground that suffered,
soldiered, shunned collaboration, the cushion
of a secret three-fourths majority. I have to ask myself,
how would I
have reacted in the same situation? Would I choose
safety over freedom?
  But then there’s Gorecki, toiling away
at his compositions
with Soviet tanks rumbling in his native land.
His symphonies reflect an inner strength
all the while recognizing
the emotional shrapnel that pierced
his Poland, still scarred. Could my discipline and
resolve have been translated to the page
with this kind of
power? Like Vera Lynn in White Cliffs of Dover;
accepting her fate, but with hope.
It seems doubtful that this bravery
could come from me. I see these two artists,
and others like them, as being illuminated
in a shaft of golden light,
twirling, preserved, strong, perfect.


‘Open the drapes…’ -Corey Mesler

The field behind my
slopes downward, wants to be flooded
and often is in the cold rain
that follows these new year days;
its soil, its soul
for crop. There are dreams in that dirt
dreams of bulb and sprout.
I stand at my window, nose cold to the
touch. My breathing, yes, I’m alive,
fogging French-panes. And it all opens
on grayness.
My struggle is a quiet one. I’ve chosen
not to tell others, not from shame, but
lack of energy. Not even music
accompanies this thief, the knob turned
far leftward to click, the click the only
Dread of sleeping, waking, eating, living
fade. I know the postman comes,
delivers my warming
in a brown green cardboard box that holds
I’ve sent for, desperately, but I wait
counting breaths,
dreaming dikes against my

My friends are having heart attacks now,

getting diseases, divorces, cracking up.
When will the other shoe drop? I can’t think
of one family that hasn’t been touched
by tragedy, loss or some misfortune, including
my own…and I remember thinking,
maybe in my early thirties, while lying in bed,
head resting on my cupped hands and facing
a nighttime ceiling, that things were good.
Actually being aware of it. Well,
I wasn’t aware.
And the cruelty of it all
is that ‘mortality’ was always there; mortality
is essence. Life is for dying.
Even stars burn out. This should be something
embraced and even celebrated.

It really should.

It eludes me, though,
it darkens my edges, wastes
my time. I didn’t used to think like this.

I didn’t used to know so much.

If A Nuclear Pulse Detonated Above Our Hardware

If a nuclear pulse detonated above our hardware
where would my words be? The blast wouldn’t kill me,
unless you count the gouge through which my soul would course.
My typed phrase would dissipate, would seek another lake but would find
nothing to bind it in a volume of touch.
On my wooden deck, under January,
I commit to becoming like the ancients,
who passed on their words not by writing in the sand
but by speaking out. Paper burns. Screens fade. Data corrupts.
Rocks become beach. But voices
are bridges to bridges to bridges.