Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston

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Monday, May 25, 2009

MEMORIAL DAY




Robert Lowell - For the Union Dead
"Relinquunt Omnia Servare Rem Publicam."


The old South Boston Aquarium stands
in a Sahara of snow now. Its broken windows are boarded.
The bronze weathervane cod has lost half its scales.
The airy tanks are dry.

Once my nose crawled like a snail on the glass;
my hand tingled
to burst the bubbles
drifting from the noses of the cowed, compliant fish.


My hand draws back. I often sigh still
for the dark downward and vegetating kingdom
of the fish and reptile. One morning last March,
I pressed against the new barbed and galvanized

fence on the Boston Common. Behind their cage,
yellow dinosaur steamshovels were grunting
as they cropped up tons of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.

Parking spaces luxuriate like civic
sandpiles in the heart of Boston.
A girdle of orange, Puritan-pumpkin colored girders
braces the tingling Statehouse,

shaking over the excavations, as it faces Colonel Shaw
and his bell-cheeked Negro infantry
on St. Gaudens' shaking Civil War relief,
propped by a plank splint against the garage's earthquake.

Two months after marching through Boston,
half the regiment was dead;
at the dedication,
William James could almost hear the bronze Negroes breathe.

Their monument sticks like a fishbone
in the city's throat.
Its Colonel is as lean
as a compass-needle.

He has an angry wrenlike vigilance,
a greyhound's gentle tautness;
he seems to wince at pleasure,
and suffocate for privacy.

He is out of bounds now. He rejoices in man's lovely,
peculiar power to choose life and die--
when he leads his black soldiers to death,
he cannot bend his back.

On a thousand small town New England greens,
the old white churches hold their air
of sparse, sincere rebellion; frayed flags
quilt the graveyards of the Grand Army of the Republic.

The stone statues of the abstract Union Soldier
grow slimmer and younger each year--
wasp-waisted, they doze over muskets
and muse through their sideburns . . .

Shaw's father wanted no monument
except the ditch,
where his son's body was thrown
and lost with his "niggers."

The ditch is nearer.
There are no statues for the last war here;
on Boylston Street, a commercial photograph
shows Hiroshima boiling

over a Mosler Safe, the "Rock of Ages"
that survived the blast. Space is nearer.
When I crouch to my television set,
the drained faces of Negro school-children rise like balloons.

Colonel Shaw
is riding on his bubble,
he waits
for the blessèd break.

The Aquarium is gone. Everywhere,
giant finned cars nose forward like fish;
a savage servility
slides by on grease.

18 comments:

Susannah said...

Beautiful, sorrowful, moving images, Shaw. You are a talented poet. Have this published - not just on your blog.

Hope your Memorial Day was well-lived. Take care.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Susannah,

You are far too kind.

I wish I could take credit for even one line of this poem, but I can't.

It was written by Robert Lowell, and is one of my favorite poems.

Thanks for the enormous compliment, though.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

“Non dulce non et decor" recalls
this poem (see especially IV and V) by Ezra Pound:

There died a myriad,
And of the best, among them,
For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
For a botched civilization
.”

About my generation’s response to an unjust war, there were street protests, anti-war marches, and body counts reported every night on the evening news along with videotaped images of flag-draped caskets returning home.

But what of the Iraq war and how the Bush/Cheney administration manipulated public opinion? They gave us the Orwellian term, Free Speech Zones, where protests took place NOT in full press view but sequestered … out sight, out of mind. They banned images of returning caskets and denied bereaving families a public validation of their losses. They suppressed those reminders of war that inform our consciousness.

Unable to bear witness to our tragedies in a meaningful way, the Bush/Cheney regime sanitized us into senselessness and left us disconnected.

Susannah said...

Shaw~ You're more than welcome. It's clear you have a passionate voice & can string more than a few words together! :) Thanks for sharing the poem. Hauntingly beautiful.

Susannah said...

"...reported every night on the evening news along with videotaped images..." Yes, Octo, I hear there were, but that's not my generation.

"Bush/Cheney administration manipulated public opinion...out sight, out of mind" Nice try, but sorry. See, my generation has this phenomenon called 24 HOUR NEWS on at least 4 channels(vs. 60min. TOTAL on 3), & this neat thing called the internet which supplies all manner of information - factual or not - from our country's perspective or not - composed by real journalists, or not. Oh & then there were the "imbedded" reporters who've actually been in combat, etc. w/ the troops (which would NEVER have been allowed way-back-when). Oh & then there's the Networks, major newspapers, most of the entertainment media who are unabashedly biased AGAINST the war, the troops (yeah, yeah, support the troops, not the war; right), & the Bush Administration. They had/have no compunction against lambasting our own military whose a#$-es are on the line...

Nope, I'm not buyin' what you're sellin'. Back in the good 'ol days, you may have gotten top spot on the 6:00 news, but today, we're swimming in it - all day, all night, every day...

Still, very nice poetry, Shaw. Thank you.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Susannah: "Nope, I'm not buyin' what you're sellin'."

Attempts by the Bush/Cheney administration to manipulate public opinion are well documented: No WMDs were ever found; former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neal admitted that the Bush/Cheney regime had planned the Iraq war even before 9/11; former security advisor Richard Clark admitted that our government ignored intelligence data; a CIA agent named Valerie Plame had her cover blown because Cheney was hell-bent on starting a war based on faulty evidence that had been debunked by her husband. And now we learn that Cheney ordered a former Iraqi government official to be tortured for evidence that never existed.

Susannah: “ They had/have no compunction against lambasting our own military whose a#$-es are on the line...

My oldest daughter, a career military officer at the Pentagon, served three deployments in Iraq for which she received two Bronze Stars and 7 distinguished service citations. When a soldier goes off to war, the entire family goes off to war; so don’t lecture me with your smug über-patriotism. You have just offended me! (Nor do you know what the hell you are even talking about).

Susannah said...

Hi Shaw & Octo~
My kids have all just gotten home from school, so this'll be quick. Interesting, Octo, that you completely ignored the point that I made. (You need to know that yelling at me online, & inferring certain characteristics about me for which you have evidence or basis doesn't intimidate me.) :)

And as for whether I know what the h#ll I'm talking about... Sir, you have no idea who I am or what experiences my family has had. So I'm thinking you're a little more self-satisfied than perhaps you should be on that point.

As for your daughter, God bless her & I'm humbled/deeply grateful by her service. Thank her when you talk to her next (but you don't have to say it was from the likes of someone like me). Just thank her.

As for the other details... Retrospective is arm-chair quarterbacking. EVERYONE believed WMD existed (for at least 3 administrations), gov't ignored intelligence data (??) I don't believe you're correct there, unless you're talking about the info. that they wouldn't/couldn't share w/ one another b/c of turf issues; or again, a retrospective look @ what was 'there all the time' & nobody acted. Believe it or not, Clinton, et. al. knew stuff too & ignored it. Our Gov't is made of people - Democrats & Republicans - who make mistakes, take things for granted, pass over things they shouldn't & later learn hard lessons from it. (Oh, I'm not lecturing here. It's just my own experience of being utterly human.)

And I, in my heart of hearts don't believe that anyone actually WANTED to start a war, anymore than I believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim terrorist disguised as our President, & wants America to die. (We just have yawning, gaping differences of opinion in how to do things, see?)

As for the tone of the rest of what you said...I'm sorry you're so angry. I can't compete w/ that. Take care.

Susannah said...

"for which you have evidence or basis doesn't intimidate me.) :)"

oops!
Of course, I meant "NO evidence or basis"

:)

dmarks said...

Octo said:

"Attempts by the Bush/Cheney administration to manipulate public opinion are well documented:"

They told it like it was, or like it was best known based on available information.

"No WMDs were ever found"

According to Pentagon reports, more than 500 were found. According to factcheck.org, about 50 were found. 50 or 500, or even just one, it makes "none found" to be completely false.

"CIA agent named Valerie Plame had her cover blown because Cheney"

She was "outed" in print without Cheney's involvement.

"the Bush/Cheney regime had planned the Iraq war even before 9/11"

So? Any administration plans for contingencies. In this case, a contingency if Saddam Hussein kept violating the cease-fire. This contingency (retaliation) would have never been involved had Saddam Hussein simply complied with the reasonable cease-fire terms. And 9/11 taught us that it made less sense to let regimes like Saddam's continue its aggression.

Susannah said "And I, in my heart of hearts don't believe that anyone actually WANTED to start a war"

That is so correct. This particular war was started by Saddam Hussein with his flagrant cease-fire violations, which included funding and encouraging a number of terrorist groups.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

DMarks, about the “intelligence failures” of the Bush/Cheney regime, here are the facts:

How does an “intelligence failure” explain the administration’s attempt to discredit and smear former Ambassador Joe Wilson, former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, former anti-terrorism chief Richard Clarke, former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, and other critics of administration policy?

How does an “intelligence failure” justify the almost 90,000 thousand Iraqi civilian casualties?

How does one explain “intelligence failure” to the 37,713 wounded soldiers now neglected by a government-on-the-cheap, just like the Vietnam era vets who were abandoned a generation ago?

How does an “intelligence failure” explain why our government failed to secure 250,000 tons of missing ordinance spread around Iraqi weapons sites … veritable shopping malls of explosives left for looting by would-be insurgents?

What intelligence justified the dismissal of 350,000 Iraqi Army personnel who, after being turned out of their jobs and unemployed, had little recourse but to join the ranks of the insurgency?

How can one so easily dismiss the “tactical errors, thousands of them,” admitted by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice during a visit to Blackburn England in 2006?

How can one justify the loss of 4,302 American lives since the beginning of the Iraq War?

Overall, the Bush/Cheney thugs rushed our soldiers into an ad hoc, itchy-trigger-finger war predicated on false intelligence, errors in judgment, gross mismanagement, and no exit strategy. When citizens demanded truth and accountability, the administration countered with subterfuge and smear.

Finally, here is what George Bush said at a White House Correspondents Dinner in 2004 cracking jokes about his “intelligence failure:”

Those weapons of mass destruction gotta be somewhere. Nope, no weapons over there. Maybe under here."

Only a roomful of sycophants and sociopaths would find this amusing.

dmarks said...

Missed this one: "They gave us the Orwellian term, Free Speech Zones, where protests took place NOT in full press view but sequestered … out sight, out of mind."

These were indeed free speech zones, and protected the free speech of ALL involved. These were done to protect conventioneers who were expressing their right to free speech and assemble. The protesters set out to harass and shut down the convenioneers (a denial of free speech and right to assembly). Relocating the protesters to some distance from the conventions denied no rights of free speech, but did deny the protesters their attempt to silence the conventions.

From the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law ....abridging the freedom of speech....the right of the people peaceably to assemble"

Moving the protesters from the immediate vicinity of the conventions protected the rights of both groups. No one has a "right" to harass, silence, and disrupt others' gatherings.
----

And on the last comment, you do have some good points when they are made about the conduct of the war since the major retaliation operations were launched.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Susannah:
Associated Press, updated 9:24 p.m. ET, Mon., April 25, 2005:

WASHINGTON - In his final word, the CIA’s top weapons inspector in Iraq said Monday that the hunt for weapons of mass destruction has “gone as far as feasible” and has found nothing, closing an investigation into the purported programs of Saddam Hussein that were used to justify the 2003 invasion.”


dmarks:
Orwellian "Free Speech Zones" violate the constitution:

Now the part of the First Amendment that says "Congress shall make no law...abridging...the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances" is also imperiled. When the far Left The Progressive and far Right The American Conservative both decry the creation of free speech zones into which protesters are corralled whenever the President comes to a town, one should pay attention. These Orwellian "free speech zones" are typically far away from the venue where the visiting President is appearing, so that he can enjoy a Potemkin village experience in which he sees only an adoring populace through his limousine windows.”

I am just sooo UNIMPRESED when you make up convenient, self-satisfied comments off the top of your head with no attempt to demonstrate any thoughtfulness or scholarship with citations and proper attributions from reputable sources. It makes the difference between a mindless rant and a credible comment.

Susannah said...

Octo~
Thanks for the link, but you're spinning your wheels for no reason, really.

I did not engage you in a discussion of the validity of WMD evidence or the discovery thereof. I did not engage you in a discussion of 'who-said-what-when...' You, sir, attempted to engage me.

My initial commment was simply, with well-reasoned argument, to disagree w/ your assertion that media was manipulated & thus, the Left had more exposure/voice in the Viet Nam era than they have in this one.

My second comment was that hindsight's 20/20 & "EVERYONE believed WMD existed."

If my comments are what you consider a 'mindless rant', then you sir, are a very sensitive reader, indeed. I can rant, trust me (or ask my husband). I can & do rant, but not on other people's blogs.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Susannah: "Yes, Octo, I hear there were, but that's not my generation. "

Susannah: "You, sir, attempted to engage me."

Actually, you were the first to engage me with a demonstration of age bias, and I responded in kind. Your trying to turn the tables is an example of "projection." You can look that up for yourself.

Susannah said...

Hope you're having a nice evening, Shaw!

(Now, on to another post or blog, or something.)

dmarks said...

Octo: I cited the Constitution.

Where does the "right to assemble" include the right to intrude in others' assembly?

Really, the free speech zones for "Left The Progressive" etc and those wishing to shut down others' speech and assembly consist of the 99.99999% of the nation that is not in the exact spot where the President (or any other protest target) is located.

Nothing was made up or "mindless". If you want citations, I can link to the text of the Constition, if you like.

I support the right of free speech and assembly. The maximum way to protect this might sometimes involve keeping harassers from intruding in someone else's event: preventing them from silencing others.

These harassers surely do not have free speech in mind when they seek to shout down a President or candiate or seek to "shut down" another's gathering (and the "shut down" term was explicitly used by those harassing the WTO and major national conventions).

The Constitution says nothing about "Potemkin villages", for and against.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

DMarks, you are being highly selective in what you chose to read from my above comments. You focus on “Free Speech Zones” as one of several examples offered but you ignore the preponderance of examples that lead to my conclusion. Not one but several examples with linked citations!

Furthermore, you are being conveniently inconsistent in your critique of my comments. First, you referred to “Free Speech Zones” in the context of political conventions. When I offered a link that referred to zones beyond the context of mere crowd control at conventions, you offered yet another rationale. You are simply being argumentative and tedious.

My remark about “self-satisfied comments” and “mindless rants” refers specifically to Susannah who visited The Swash Zone earlier today … not in a gesture of friendship but with antagonism and sarcasm. Here are my responses to her visit:

Susannah: “Maybe just a wee bit sarcastic …

By your own admission, not “just a wee bit sarcastic” but with a bad attitude.

Susannah: “In all sincerity, I am (...) a little worried about your stress level.

Condescending, manipulating, and a violation of my personal boundaries, notwithstanding the “sincerity” bit being disingenuous.

Susannah: “I do have left-wing liberal friends, believe it or not!

And I have conservative friends listed in the right column of my home page under the heading, “LINKS.” Friends, however, do not engage in snark. Our discussions are based on civility and mutual respect, which is absent in the subtext of your comments. My conservative friends stay on topic, whereas you veer off topic and call attention to yourself shamelessly.

Susannah: "Any & all of you are invited to my blog if you'd like to stop by."

As we say in The Swash Zone: “With friends like you, who needs anemones!

dmarks said...

Octo: I did read your link. My defense of the right to assemble and free speech applies to those who are not running political conventions as well. I am being quite consistent. The same rationale. Sorry consistency is "tedious".

The link's "can't have a Potemkin Village" argument to justify violating rights is curious, when you look at the White House. I guess that is the ultimate Potemkin Village, with the President being insulated from being harassed by protesters as he walks from the bedroom to the Oval Office. I don't think that is a bad idea, myself.