The Corn Moon

This time of year, I often remember my college days. I would sit in my dorm room, and in the carrels of the university library, and on picnic tables by Big Chico Creek, breathing in poetry.  I took in long, deep breaths as one does on entering a bakery on a rainy day.

There was an autumn feel to it; a descent into more sublime atmospheres. Leaves fell and crunched underfoot as we walked to class. In those days, there was no pumpkin spice everything. There was Bly and his snowbanks north of the house; Stafford with his images of geese and rivers; and there was Wright with his equine redemption and industrial grief, his momentous confession of a wasted life, “as the evening darkens and comes on.”

It’s the poet’s job to be outdoors a bit longer than others as the days shorten and The Corn Moon appears. As the fog rolls in at the end of the day and the pumpkins lose their green camouflage, we must continue taking notes.

There is a certain sadness in the house, even as the fires are banked for morning. Someone who shined our shoes won’t do that for us anymore. Somewhere deep in our ritual DNA, we begin lighting candles against the universal fear of what the shadows hide. Summer is over.

Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio

In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Therefore,
Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.

~ James Wright

top-mill-blast-furnace

 

A Lesson in Fundamentals

The right to protest peacefully (freedom of speech and expression) is a fundamental right afforded to every citizen by the US Constitution. It’s right up there with freedoms of equality and religion. But in my lifetime, I have never seen anyone protest peacefully and have that right respected. Tolerated occasionally, but never respected.

When I was born in 1961, people were being jailed in South Carolina and Mississippi for the act of sitting at a lunch counter. In fact, charges against the Friendship 9 weren’t dropped until 55 years later, in 2016.

lunch-counter-sit-in_c15-0-860-493_s885x516

The reality is that not only do we Americans despise and disrespect our own right to protest, we don’t really have rights of equality or religion. Because if we deny those rights to anyone, we don’t have them either. But my question today is this:

If it’s not OK to protest by simply sitting quietly, declining to participate, can anyone tell me what form of protest is alright? If a citizen has a complaint about society, how can he or she express it without pissing off a mob of idiots?

If you are white and think you have equality, you don’t; you have supremacy.

If you are Christian and think you have equality, you don’t; ask a Muslim.

If you’re a veteran and think you fought to give Americans their rights, you’re wrong. Our rights – if we really had them – come from the Constitution, not from the military. And by the way, the National Anthem is a custom, not a legal requirement. It’s not mentioned in the Constitution. Demanding someone stand for a song is like insisting they eat turkey on Thanksgiving. Or watch football.

The service of our military and our veterans isn’t dishonored by citizens exercising their rights. It is dishonored when people deny the rights to others which are guaranteed to all.

So if you think you can stand up and speak out without being told to sit down and shut up, try standing up and speaking out. Considering all the stupid that’s floating in the atmosphere these days, I wish you luck.

If you think you can sit down and shut up, try sitting down and shutting up. See if it works better for you than it has for Colin Kaepernick. But don’t feel sorry for him when he’s cut from the 49ers. That was a foregone conclusion before he tried to protest. Everybody knew it; he’s been injured too long to play. But he’ll make $12,000,000 this year anyway.

That’s why Kaepernick protested during the preseason, when fewer people are watching, instead of waiting until the final roster is done. He knows he won’t be playing the season, no matter what he says or does.

Unlike the rights the Constitution only guarantees if we’re willing to defend them for everyone equally, Kaepernick’s money is guaranteed. And unlike all the millions of us who don’t have the rights we think we have, because we don’t want men like Kaepernick to have right either, that dude’s got nothing to lose.

 

Those who survive?

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It begs the question:

Would it have been better to survive by means of collusion – in 1940s Germany, or as a Christian in 1920s Russia – or is it better to die fighting evil?

What sacrifice would you or I make to stop the imminent rise of evil, unenlightened despotism? If you could go back in time, would you kill baby Hitler? What would you do, back in 2016, to stop Trump?

Memorial

As we Americans once again commemorate our war dead, and pay respect to the families of those who “gave the last full measure of devotion,” I wonder:

Will we ever come to terms with the fact that many of their deaths were preventable?

They not only died for us, they died because of us and our pride, arrogance, and nationalist ego-centrism.

We Americans are sure that we can do anything we set our minds and collective will to do. Why not peace?

Why can’t we learn to treat other people with respect, and so to gain friends instead of making enemies? We are so hell bent in self-righteousness, so mired in fear of others – and so completely confused about who they are – that millions of us want a dictator in our highest office.

Our dead didn’t die so that America would be weak and terrified, but we are. After 9/11 we raised flags and were defiant and strong for a while, until Bush-Cheney told us to be terrorized, and so we were and so we remain.

History will not be kind about the fall of the American Empire. For 15 years we have declined into willful ignorance, the victims of fear and selfishness. Trump is the distillation of that consciousness.

We don’t deserve a new birth of freedom if we deny it to each other.

We don’t deserve safety unless we stand up for the refugees and give them refuge.

We are not worthy to consecrate a moment, let alone a day, in honor of our dead, until we pledge in our hearts and minds that no more shall die in vain.

 

Everything Waiting to be Born

There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.
— Charles Dickens

I have come into this body out of darkness,
out of the starless sea. I am not to blame
for what happened there. Those were difficult
times and I was nothing more than a thought.

The world just had faith I would eventually exist,
the way a pool of water imagines sunrise.
All night long, the waters dream about dawn.
Still I was loved; in stillness, I was loved.
In the Nightland we are all loved.
Which is why, in time, we all return.

I would not have you misunderstand.
Death is not natural, not a part of life
or an event in it. Life is life and death
is something else. We go on, but we go beyond.
So death is not something we can be ready for.
We are alive and live in the light,
and between light and its absence
there can be no compromise.

Yes, those were hard times. Everything
waiting to be born is under stress
and every thought – even those loved
beyond life, beyond time or even thinking –
is a prayer for change.
The darkness around us is deep.

And then I was, I am. Not the One I Am,
just me. Out of everything that is nothing
into everything that is. The infinite light
and this body, Being, and the others left behind.

From that moment until this and until the last
which comes at any unknown, unnamed time,
there is you. There is us and we have played
in high sunlight on the shore and in moonlight
climbing in her arc over these hills and all along
the great valleys. We have never been apart;
not separated by miles or by pain,
or even by the whole body of the world.
I wish it was that way forever, except that maybe
we’d forget the desperate rush of love.

Now I struggle even to remember the middle
of the journey of our life. I look for myself
and see trees, sometimes a man
in the crooked distance – just a speck
in a black coat, years from now.
And that man in the black coat turns,
searching, lost. I am powerless to help.

Still we have each other and these hours.
The climbing moon — bright in a night of breezes —
is sweeping in her gentle arc and singing of the sea.

 

Kyle Kimberlin
May 20, 2016

Note: This poem is for my Mom. I sat down in mid April to write a poem for Mother’s Day and managed to hack out the first 3 stanzas. The rest wouldn’t come. Finally, late last night, in the midst of a long binge on The Grateful Dead, it arrived. Replete with allusion to Dante and homage to Bly and Stafford, it fell from the middle distance homuncular, and with a sigh.