Thursday, March 31, 2011

Artist's way

(dedicated to Anahita Hamidi)

The young woman found herself floating
in a small dinghy some miles from shore—
oars gone, rudder broken,
a wild cloud on the horizon,
the bag of cookies almost empty—
I’ll write, she said.  That’s what I’ll do. 
And with some blue left in the sky, a bit of algae,
some heart’s blood and her imagination
she wrote and wrote. 
Fish began gathering around the boat
to discuss the work amongst themselves. 
Everyone’s a critic, she said.

I wonder what happened
to the young woman in the dinghy— 
and if the fish were improved
by reading such a searing work— 
and if the storm ever made it to shore
in the face of such a life?
                              Rhonda Palmer

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Art of Braiding

It is one thing to be woven as a child,
to be a beautiful bead on the long braid of
ancestors who smile benevolently,
through the centuries 
on my perfect self—
sitting quietly in an airy room of possibility,
windows open to the soft breeze of potential.

It is quite another thing to be plaited
with that brisk twisting motion
perfected by generations of mothers
laboring intently over squirming daughters. 

Now I am one small tuck of a generation,
turning precisely in time to say goodbye
to perfect grands and greats
walking serenely across an airy plain.
They also turn,
moving into a future I will never see,
which carries yet some
broken, golden strand of me.
                               Rhonda Palmer

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fairmount, Indiana

James Dean

My Dad is buried near James Dean, of slouching leather fame.
They high schooled together in this farm town
but James achieved escape velocity—
—flew his one orbit, became a shooting star for us to wish on.
Dad and 47 other kids worked one Midwestern foot
in front of the other toward a well-deserved old age,
carrying a generation of rebels on their quiet shoulders.

Now Dad and Jim share this dirt, and surrounding trees
whisper what the living can never know.

Burr Stephens

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Sleep is a kind of “little death.”  We are strangely vulnerable as we sleep, heads thrown back, neck exposed, soft belly available to any ravening beast.  We build our shelters, our towns, our walled cities, and say it is for commerce or safety from war but I think it was only a way to keep the wolves from our bellies at night.  We get tired and need to sleep and what kind of plan is that, I ask you?  I would get so much more done if I didn’t need to get ready for bed, sleep, spend time waking up and undoing the hairdo my bed has given me. 

But sleep gives us dreams.  In dreams we repair the trauma of the day, gird up our loins for the work ahead.  In dreams we sometimes fly.

I can imagine that dreams were the first indication to some distant relative of mine and yours that the world was not as firm as it might seem.  I can imagine that our clever relative (an old woman sitting by the fire, holding a sickly grandchild and trying to get drops of broth into its mouth) thought about what she had seen at night and concluded that there was something outside of her self, something she might have discourse with.  She might not have seen such a clear distinction between the dream-world and her own world—might have concluded that death itself was just a kind of waking up.  She would have shared this with her family when that sickly infant died, when she herself lay down to do the same. 

Every morning we awaken to a new world, “. . .a new day with no mistakes in it yet."
- as Anne of Green Gables described it.  We invite our new world to enter our lives in any number of ways.  With coffee and the Times.  With MSNBC and a litany of woe.  With prayer and outstretched hands.  With boxes of cereal and bananas and finding shoes and lunch boxes.   Perhaps we pause to reflect on what we have learned as we slept. 

And as we find our pajamas and brush our teeth before sleeping, perhaps we reflect on what we have learned through the waking hours, for we have surely learned something new. 

It is my strong suggestion that we use these obvious transition times in our day to reflect deeply, because at the end of life (that major transition time) we don’t have the energy or cognitive ability to do any real reflection.  There is nothing sadder than watching someone die who doesn’t know why he was here or what just happened in the brief 70 years he was given. 

Reflection is a way to show light.  To be as much of light as we can during this little life we thoughtlessly call “ours.” 

At night,
when darkness gently removes our sight—
when we are left alone
            in a strange and loveless land—

then do we wake a little to the light beyond light,
            like glittering fish, leaping

to taste the ineffable sweetness
                                                            Of stars.
Rhonda Palmer

The scientific study of dreams is known as oneirologyOneironaut is a term sometimes used for those who lucidly dream.  (have dreams that are directed, or controlled.)

" as one standing in His presence, weigh in that Balance thine actions, every day, every moment of thy life. Bring thyself to account ere thou art summoned to a reckoning. . ." Baha'u'llah 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Love, death and Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent ponders love and finds that he is filled with infinite glory,
and a swirl of stars a-borning.

I love this world so much.
The crumbling brick walls hung with reddened ivy,
swollen rivers and dust-filled wind—
the hunger to eat, the hunger to know.
To be in this world is to be hungry:
wanting more, wanting stars.

Angels could not be more in love
than I am in love
because love holds loss
and angels haven’t lost so much as a key. 
Hungry humans lose everything:
every sustaining note of music fades.
We stand hollowed on a brick-heap 
with reddened ivy clinging to our legs;
swollen eyes stung by a dust-filled wind.

To be human is to look up,
alone at last—
into a starry night,
praying that the connection we can’t quite touch
is the same as the hunger we can’t quite fill. 
To be human is to be in love—
in love with everything
we know how to lose.
                        Rhonda Palmer

Vincent Willem van Gogh 30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th century art for its vivid colors and emotional impact. He suffered from anxiety and increasingly frequent bouts of mental illness throughout his life and died, largely unknown, at the age of 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Little appreciated during his lifetime, his fame grew in the years after his death. Today, he is widely regarded as one of history's greatest painters and an important contributor to the foundations of modern art. Van Gogh did not begin painting until his late twenties, and most of his best-known works were produced during his final two years. He produced more than 2,000 artworks, consisting of around 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches. Today many of his pieces—including his numerous self portraits, landscapes, portraits and sunflowers—are among the world's most recognizable works of art. (from Wikipedia)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

U.S. Passport ownership--a morality tale

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-min­dedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth"--Mark Twain

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Be sincerely kind, not in appearance only

“Soon will your swiftly-passing days be over,
and the fame and riches, the comforts, the joys provided by
this rubbish-heap, the world,
will be gone without a trace. . . .

Be ye loving fathers to the orphan,
and a refuge to the helpless,
and a treasury for the poor,
and a cure for the ailing.

Be ye the helpers of every victim of oppression,
the patrons of the disadvantaged.

Think ye at all times of rendering some service to every member of the human race.
Pay ye no heed to aversion and rejection,
to disdain, hostility, injustice:
act ye in the opposite way.                                                
Be ye sincerely kind, not in appearance only.”


This was written before the first World War, before the Second World War, before Korea, before Viet Nam, before any issues arose in the Middle East involving scud missiles or young people blowing themselves up.  It was written before nuclear weapons were used.  Before a country could shut down the internet.  Before the internet. 

This directive has a finger in the face feel.  It was obviously ignored by a lot of people who went on to engineer the collapse of the housing market. It has been ignored by some of the wealthiest people, some of the poorest people, some of the smartest and some of the most ignorant of people.  We’ve all had better things to do, like ruining the environment, destroying indigenous peoples and their cultures, keeping children from learning their true potential and convincing ourselves how right we are about every little thing.

This is not a particularly appealing message.  Following it doesn’t land us on “Dancing with the Stars” or on the cover of the National Enquirer.  It doesn’t ensure happiness or a job. 

It says, “do a lot of work, find the neediest and don’t just help them, but BE the refuge, BE the treasury, BE the cure.”  It says to be helpers of every victim of oppression.  How will we do this unless we go looking for them?  How can we be patrons (NOTE: not patronizing) of the disadvantaged unless we know who they are?  People don’t wear badges saying “Hi there, my name is: VICTIM OF OPPRESSION.”  We have to know their true names and sit in their kitchens and wash dishes with them. 

It says that aversion, rejection, disdain, hostility and injustice are evidently waiting for us to show up.   Those bad boys have pushed our buttons for a very long time and now we are directed to pay them no never mind. 

You may be thinking you just can’t do that. Remember that death thing?  (i.e. soon will your swiftly passing days be over…)  You’re going to think you can’t do that either.  As it turns out we can all do it.  (As in, we have no choice.)  We can be grand and heroic at the last (truly) and we CAN change the world by following the few simple steps listed above.  And by not giving power to the bad stuff that happens to us personally.  

(here’s the rest of the paragraph…)
Be ye sincerely kind, not in appearance only. Let each one of God’s loved ones centre his attention on this: to be the Lord’s mercy to man; to be the Lord’s grace. Let him do some good to every person whose path he crosseth, and be of some benefit to him. Let him improve the character of each and all, and reorient the minds of men. In this way, the light of divine guidance will shine forth, and the blessings of God will cradle all mankind: for love is light, no matter in what abode it dwelleth; and hate is darkness, no matter where it may make its nest. O friends of God! That the hidden Mystery may stand revealed, and the secret essence of all things may be disclosed, strive ye to banish that darkness for ever and ever.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"I have made death..."

I’ve pondered the peaceful and the not-so-peaceful aspects of life during this month of fasting.  During this month Japan was shaken, flooded and possibly irradiated.  People of strong conviction stood up to be shot at in several countries.  Babies all over the world were born to mothers relieved not to be pregnant anymore.  People from the age of one minute to one hundred and ten years died because that is what happens.  As my fellow Hoosier said, “So it goes.”  I’m still thinking about the fear of dying that keeps us from so much of life and how it impacts the ways we interact with each other. 

Ernest Becker wrote (and won a Pulitzer Prize for) The Denial of Death (1973). In this densely written psychological treatise he talks about the impact of our primal fear of death on everything we do and believe. 

. . . as the Eastern sages also knew, man is a worm and food for worms. This is the paradox: he is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual, up in the stars and yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping body that once belonged to a fish and still carries the gill-marks to prove it. His body is a material fleshy casing that is alien to him in many ways—the strangest and most repugnant way being that it aches and bleeds and will decay and die. Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order blindly and dumbly to rot and disappear forever. It is a terrifying dilemma to be in and to have to live with.

I work everyday with the dying.  The way we enter this last phase of life is as varied as we are.  Some of us are calm, some frantic.  Some call their families together and impart wisdom.  Some cry out in terror until the last breath.  As we enter the last homely house of this world—the place of our dying—we find that the only provisions we are allowed to take with us are the tools we have built with the raw stuff of our lives.  If we have built division and anger then our deaths are characterized by those things.  If we have worked at love and forgiveness then our last days are replete with love and forgiveness.  If we have not spent anytime in the stars but have lived little fish lives and fought little fish wars and only thought about fish sex and food then we die little fish deaths.  Salmon are better than we are then, because they fulfilled every last shred of their purpose while we missed the stars. 

Sometimes I want to shake strangers and say “Wake up!  You’re going to die and what are you doing to get ready?”   (maybe that’s why I started a blog?)  Sometimes I want to shake myself and say the same thing.   This fear of death and its relation to peace, and to war is something to Ponder. (: to think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeply)…. 

(You’ve probably see “The Last Lecture” before, but in case you want to see it again…)

He died at the end of the life he lived—not the life he feared.

(more on death in the days to come…)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Slaughterhouse-Five : a quote

"Slaughterhouse-Five /or The Children's Crusade/ A Duty-Dance with Death/ by Kurt Vonnegut/ A Fourth-Generation German American/ Now Living in Easy Circumstances/ On Cape Cod/ [And Smoking Too Much]/ Who, As An American Infantry Scout/ Hors De Combat/ As A Prisoner Of War/ Witnessed The Fire-Bombing/ Of Dresden, Germany,/ "The Florence of the Elbe,"/ A Long Time Ago/ And Survived To Tell The Tale./ This Is A Novel/ Somewhat In The Telegraphic Schizophrenic/ Manner of Tales/ Of The Planet Tralfamadore,/ Where The Flying Saucers/ Come From./ Peace."

A quote from the book:

"It was a movie about American bombers in the Second World War and the gallant men who flew them. Seen backwards by Billy, the story went like this:
American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join the formation.
The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair. Over France, though, German fighters came up again, made everything and everybody as good as new.
When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.
The American fliers turned in their uniforms, became high school kids. And Hitler turned into a baby, Billy Pilgrim supposed. That wasn't in the movie. Billy was extrapolating. Everybody turned into a baby, and all humanity, without exception, conspired biologically to produce two perfect people named Adam and Eve, he supposed."

Vonnegut described Slaughterhouse-Five as a novel he was compelled to write, since it is based on one of the most extraordinary and significant events of his life. During World War II when he was a prisoner of the German Army, Vonnegut witnessed the Allied bombing of Dresden, Germany, which destroyed the city and killed more than one hundred thirty-five thousand people. One of the few to survive, Vonnegut was ordered by his captors to aid in the grisly task of digging bodies from the rubble and destroying them in huge bonfires. Because the city of Dresden had little military value, its destruction went nearly unnoticed in the press. Slaughterhouse-Five is Vonnegut's attempt to both document and criticize this event.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The War Prayer by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fulttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory with stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.
It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.
Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!
Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation:
God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, 
Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!
Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --
An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord and God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"
The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:
"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- excpet he pause and think. "God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, and the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon your neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain on your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse on some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.
"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard the words 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory -- must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
"Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it --
For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!
We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.
(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits."
It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Raising Beauty from the ashes: Japan and the wish for Peace

Sadako Sasaki (佐々木 禎子 Sasaki Sadako, January 7, 1943 – October 25, 1955) was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, near her home by Misasa Bridge in Hiroshima, Japan.  
Sadako was at home when the explosion occurred just one mile from Ground Zero. In January 1955, she was diagnosed with leukemia (her mother referred to it as "an atom bomb disease").  She was hospitalized on February 21, 1955, and given, at the most, a year to live.
There is an ancient Japanese story that promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane.  Sadako decided to use her remaining time folding cranes and wishing for peace in the world. With her family around her, Sadako died on the morning of October 25, 1955 at the age of 12.  Some histories have her completing her work, while others state that she was only able to complete 640 cranes and that her classmates made the rest after her death.
Sadako's friends and schoolmates raised funds to build a memorial to her and all of the children who had died from the effects of the atomic bomb. In 1958, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was unveiled in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, also called the Genbaku Dome. At the foot of the statue is a plaque that reads:
"This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on Earth."
Sadako and her thousand cranes have become a symbol of both the impact of nuclear war and the hope for peace. August 6 is celebrated in Japan as Peace Day, and Sadako is remembered for the wish she made.

This video shows (in a VERY slow way) how to make a paper crane.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

war and peace: poetry by Rhonda

My car and the SUV just behind me shouldn't occupy the same
space-time continuum.  Insurance companies would complain.

Your septic tank and the walnut tree might try to co-exist
but I'd bet that a reputable plumber and his back-hoe
could undo the harm.

An idea of roses--soft, sweet, warmly gracious--
will overcome withered days, lonely nights.

Thoughts of peace can surely disarm a thought of war.

Your bright laughter--unbidden and charming--
echoes down all the long hallways of life
and dark creatures in odd corners
burst into light, and then song.
Now there are plums on the table
and a cat padding softly nearby.
Now a chld awakens in a cradle
of linden branches, swaying in the breeze.                                     
Now you touch the delicate hole
burned near your heart
and ponder the river of life
pouring into a parched earth.
Now the origins of the universe make sense.
Now the end of time is clear.
Very soon will there be voices calling us all to come home.
We will loiter in tall summer grass,
fireflies in hand, feet bare and streaked with mud,
waiting for the sound of our true names.
We will run away from long shadows leaping behind us
toward some shape of beauty.
We will find ourselves home again.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I can't do any better than to connect you with this website, VOICES.  "Creating Peace, One Story at a Time," is the "byline."

Take some time to poke around the site and read.  Today on Voices I read several Haiku on War by Basho.  I'm thinking of the islands of Japan, of course, and the tragedies that are still unfolding there.  Why do we think we need to have wars, when the earth itself can create such suffering?  Why don't we see each others as fellow travelers on this small planet and work to alleviate the inevitable pain of just being human?


Thursday, March 10, 2011

War and Peace as Art: the poetry of Kathy Millhoff

One of my favorite poets is Kathleen Millhoff.  She grew up in Gary and Chicago, was my roommate for a while in Bloomington, IN and eventually moved to Guam with her husband and two small children.  Besides writing both poetry and short stories, she teaches in the Public School system in Guam.  Kathy is a true mentor, and one of my oldest and dearest friends.   From her I learned the fine art of growing up.
 Almost a Ghazal

Laughing at the last,
air travel brings us to a place unfamiliar.

The spinning globe splits shadows
of the pretentious, yet all too familiar.

We yearn for foods or words,
As long as we feel we are among the familiar.

We read of how a distant land broached a plan
Which we promptly refuse because it is not familiar.

Our travel now brings us to a place we know,
Where ice cream flavors and trees seem so familiar.

Yet we know ourselves to have a scent of change,
Our friends turn away as we are unfamiliar.

Please tell us if we feel unfamiliar,
We would not be a cause of anything too familiar.

But, no, once more a final call to arms,
And the laughter, the song, that was once so familiar.

Is it now wiped clean of blood and dirt that once more
It might appear the grace notes of one thing that might be named familiar.


night's song of sojourn,
and star-guided
join hands
to knit ourselves
a cloak
of certainty,
or a talisman
of shadow or tears.

Hold fast
the knit-purl
chain of remembrance,
for it will
light our way through
cloaking folds,
and bring
singing once more
to the


(on december 8, 1941, japanese planes bombed the defenseless island of
guam, leaving it ready for the the invasion and capture.)

The grandmother rocks.
Old, her twig hands twine,
her caped shoulders hunch,
her grayed head swivels, jeweled ears twinkling,
her bright eyes suck in
she may not pass on.

she might say,
beside that invading force
the people from across the Western sea,
they held us ransom for a price
they would not name,
they taught cutting cane
was preferrable to dying,
they buried us in our churches,
by our schools, in our fields.

We buried our radios in salt,
bulwark against the wider world.

Our Spanish sounding names
were hissed in our ears
Though we mouthed our Chamorro names.
The slaps we took were notes
for the dirge for this land.

We buried ourselves among the dead
to hide or escape
the living or the dead.

We married in secret,
any one, no one,
to escape the sale of ourselves.

We boiled a rat, a fly,
our own spit,
yet our children withered,
fell like broken leaves.

We learned that newer tongue,
not difficult,
we had learned
scrolled it in the ruins
yet we buried the words of our mothers,
and have brought them out for sunning,
as taught,
and worlds all roll from our tongues,
and what is one more
language to us?

There may yet be those who bury themselves,
practice languages not their own,
who await needs not theirs,
bargains unredeemed.

Twined with us now,
a graced land,
and our names are chorused in our ears
chanted, chimed,

This is what she may say,
if ears could hear,
clear away grit of passing years,
unclog notes of drizzling sameness,
unmask secrets camouflaged by media's dreary prose.