Saturday, May 29, 2010

Washington March-May 1969-Recall

Protest-Written 1992

We war in Bosia, the Cubans beat themselves to death worrying about Castro while they get their balls cut off at home. Bobbitt pays his bills with a sewn-on penis, the Haitians get nothing for nothing, the Jamaicans wait table, the Huizengas of the world invest in solid waste to say the least. O. J. Simpson slices up history and wants to talk about it, paid per view, and Pizza Hut puts pepperoni and cheese in the crust. America sits numb as a Klondike Bar while the world heats up the ovens for another go. Kids all over everywhere whack off momma's head, shoot Papa for a trip to Disneyworld and if you don't like that, cancel your NO Fault, NAFTA contract and lease a car.

I read stories of wandering crooks and I watch jobless kids hooking in Holiday Park. I try to imagine some reason for driving up and down I-95, in small wars of little people gone crazy in a swirl of defeat, and broken brains. What happened to us?

1969. I see the swirling day under big sky Washington Monument, how the hill fills with sweeps of beards and hoots and soft sweet songs of somewhere new. All day sweat sticks to us like new dawn. All day we wait and listen to the speeches. Coretta King slices the air with cool oration of where she's been, suffered and how we're here because of wars over there and wars to be fought at home.

We eat what we can in the slippery grass running up the hill in the heated day of a war that can't seem to end, and I'm afraid because I'm still in the Navy, that a camera will catch my military haircut. The FBI and CIA takes pictures. The screaming little guy in the teeshirt next to me could be a narc, a pig.

All day we wait. Linda's tired but willing, her long face and longer red hair pushed back over her shoulders, her ten year old daughter, Michelle excited, barely knowing why, wants to be with me and wants to know something besides endless treks from one husband or boyfriend to the next. Her little picket fence smile is full of hope and grit as we swim along with the swirly crowds up and around and the endless swaying hot dog vegetarian day runs clear to the Lincoln Monument.

All day the excitement grows; all day we hope for what we're not sure of, a stop to the evil war, the war that "over there," the war that has one ship wondering what the other did, the Westpac, COM 4, Westmoreland's water buffalo counts, South Vietnamese abandoning battle stations to stage their own coups five miles away so the American troops get cut to pieces by their own mines trying to recapture Catholicism in the mud. All day long the guns pump, recoil big orange smoke rings into the flashy newsy nights. TVs in all the wardrooms and officers clubs from Hon Matt to Saigon, blink a story choreographed in teenage boy sweat and blood fed buy NBC and little Dan Rathers poking their noses down gun barrels and trenches for the sometimes made up battles with medals.

We wait by the big bump Washington Monument reaching to a sky that no longer holds real air, wait for the dark, the hand-held candle threaded through an ever bobbing hungry desolate night. We march down off the hill to Pennsylvania Avenue toward the dome, to the curve in the road, the S that sweeps to the White House, the candles forming a stream, a poetry, the hum the silence overcoming us, the lights in the White House steady, the windows empty, the thundering silence lost in that breathtaking night the President isn't home and won't come out of his so-big White House ever, as long as we all shall live.

Now it all seems so long ago and these days, hope knocks on the door with its hand out. How can we cope? How do we detach? All the soldiers have gone home to fight another war. We dream of the hushed night of candles. We hear the anthems echo down the hall. We wait for the phone to ring. Now I wonder where Linda and Michelle went. I stand under Orion on a one in a million cold Florida night. I wonder what have we learned?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Tool Shed

From House in the Attic

I walked back through the house to the tool shed. Wasn't that where a man was supposed to hide out? A blue drop cloth draped the tractor mower; the leaf blower had been detached and stored in the back corner next to the snow blower attachment. I stared at the snow blower chute. I stepped up and took a close gander. Standing over the blades didn't frighten me, but I was deeply respectful. The blades looked so benign, so cold, so still. But I felt like they were alive and just waiting for me to crank up the tractor. I imagined the feeling of my whole arm grinding up in that machine. I heard the blades jam for second, then the thunk, the infinitesimal hesitation, the blade winning, the crushed gore sensation, the blood and tendon and yellow fat shot into the new falling snow. I saw my arm in the chute all the way to the elbow and felt the flash terror that no one would come and get me out. I remembered the white heat and this mess that was luckily only my hand hanging in front of me. I held my broken hand with my good one and listened to the wind and the silence between the wind. I put my tongue on the roof of my mouth to control the fear. In a few seconds it worked.

I looked at the hanging tools, the cans of lubricating oil, neetsfoot oil, WD 40, hanging paintbrushes, a small American flag stuck in an empty mayonnaise jar. It had forty-nine stars. I smelled oiled machinery and leaves, the dank cement floor, the faint odor of grass and fertilizer. How many people have stood in all the tool sheds everywhere? Portifino, San Miguel Allende, Odessa? Men who escaped the house, to fix, to screw, to bolt, to mow, to shovel, to fertilize something. I heard the little pops of the oil can pressed at the bottom, the slurpy thick gush pumped into the little holes in all the tiny corners of all the lawnmowers and moving parts in my life. There was a little spill on the cement floor, and a toss of sawdust on the spill. Hand pushed lawnmower blades clicked through long summer, whirred in the air over the edge of the terrace, balked in the rocky back lot. Invisible June bugs bore a steady song through the heavy air, and never ending grass kept right on growing. Teenagers romped in their new bodies, raced through the warm nights fueled by super-electric hormones, the fresh smell of swimming and hot dogs. The chatter and shriek of their dreams echoed across all the little afternoon ponds and lakes and swimming pools everywhere. How magical tool sheds are, I thought. How forgiving and deadly, how seemingly cool even in summer when the spider dances its eternal ballet, wraps its fresh flies in a mad whirl of deadly ribbon along the window panes, and up into the dark beams. Now, the tool shed was leaf quiet. Cobwebs covered the window and outside I saw a small blue rubber ball lying in the wet February grass. Beyond that, birch trees. I heard the wind race low along the lawn. It rushed right at me. I turned my head and it raced off. I cupped my left hand in my right held it until both hands felt like they were the same temperature. I felt closer to home for the first time in years.