Archive for February, 2010

Memorial – OKC

Memorial – OKC

In a fragment of a moment they were gone.

Sitting, standing, smiling, stumbling, tumbling

Twisting, flying, crashing, crushing, sobbing,

Bleeding, exhaling, growing cold…, still.

So still.

Snuffed out by brutal hatred like half-burned candles

Under some cruel, hellish breath,

And nineteen tiny candles

Only briefly touched by flame.

So brief.

In the quietness of evening a broken assemblage

Of departed souls sit mute within

Glowing rows of straight glass chairs

Cascading gently down a grassy slope

So serene

With no laughing conversation, giggle, sigh

On chairs with names carefully inscribed

Sit squads of silenced soldiers

Unwillingly recruited to an obscure battle never won.

So quiet.

In this holy place, consecrated with

The spilled blood of each departed,

Visitors pause, listening, sensing the silent

Presence of kindred strangers, and pleading

For a breath from even one.

So final.

In this sacred place I breathe the air they breathed,

Just before they breathed no more

I sense the pain and ecstasy and hopes

And fears and joys they must have felt before

Being stolen from their families

So unfair.

Some, swallowed by inferno and yet

Somehow untouched, in pain still ask,

“Why them and why not me?”

They weep and pray for those who died

And promise, “I’ll always remember.”

Please remember.

Hal C Clark – Feb 2010


About Memorial – See more at http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org


The morning of Wednesday, April 19, 1995 began as a normal, bright spring morning in Oklahoma City. Then, at 9:02 a.m. a rental truck parked in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, loaded with tons of explosives shaped to bring about maximum death and destruction, exploded. One hundred forty-nine adults and nineteen children were killed in the blast, most instantaneously. Rescue efforts occupied the following week while the Nation mourned.

Several years ago, on a sunny afternoon, we visited the memorial. It occupies two city blocks and is centered around the reflecting pool which replaced Fifth Street. An American Elm, now called the survivor tree, somehow weathered the explosion, stripped of all its leaves and with several broken branches.

One lone wall of the original building remains and is inscribed with over 600 names of people who survived. On the footprint of the destroyed building is a gentle slope covered with grass and 168 metal chairs, each with a lighted glass foot. On the glass of each chair is inscribed a name of one of the dead. The nineteen children’s chairs are smaller. But for one, all of these children were in the day care center located on the second floor, immediately above the truck.

Since my visit, I have been haunted by what I saw there, and felt. The memorial involves you and brings you back to 9:02. Even though the rubble has long ago been removed, I had a sense that the echoes of those lives still remain in that place. It is library-quiet; the only sound, the trickle of water in the reflecting pool.

A chain-link fence stands at the west end, left over from the days of rescue and recovery, covered with gifts of remembrance: watches, flags, stuffed toys, necklaces, pictures, many children’s things. These are the recent gifts. The originals are archived in the museum across the street. The gifts keep coming, fifteen years after the tragic event.

I think often about that memorial. I can’t seem to get it out of my mind. The above poem is an attempt to make sense of what happened there. It is so easy to love those around us, love all humankind. Hate must be labored over and fed and intensified by shutting out empathy and caring and compassion. Hatred is an anonymous beast that cannot be tamed. Why does it persist? Only God knows, but He didn’t create it.

Hal C Clark

Feb 11, 2010

Waiting

Waiting

I wait and breathe cool mountain air

Listening to porch planks creak beneath oak rockers

Deep vermillion crawls away,

Inviting diamonds into

An indigo sky.


Your image flows through

Channels of my memory,

My fingers tangled in your hair,

Your warmth pressed against me.

A smile lights up your face,

Accenting crinkles long familiar.


I press my fingers to my lips,

Point my hand skyward,

And wait for

God’s consent to join you.

Hal C. Clark

November 2006

About Waiting


As my parents grew older and approached their seventieth anniversary, I thought about which one might go first and which would best deal with the loss. My mom was devoted to my dad and he depended on her for many things, most of all for companionship. I don’t know if he depended on her for her sake or his own.

My dad died when he was ninety and my mom went on for two more years, although she admitted to us kids that she was ready to go. She just had to wait around for the right time. She loved her children, grandchildren, and great grands and looked forward to seeing them. But she didn’t have much excitement for anything else.

It’s hard to think of that time between your very overactive life and that time when you leave this world, but most of us will have to face it. The happiest of our senior citizens seem to be those who are physically able to find some useful pastime such as some way to serve others. For some, that involves family, for others, a church, for some, maybe writing.


Take some time, a few minutes a day, to honor older relatives and make them feel worthwhile. It makes everyone feel better.

Feb 10, 2010

Poetry

Fashion

Sagging pants, bagging pants,

Pants around the knees,

I don’t like the sight of them,

So hike ’em up there please,

And please…oh please…

Don’t sneeze.

Poetry

I used to know what poetry was, like Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” right? Everything had a certain rhythm and it all rhymed and sounded almost like song. Now we have free verse, pattern verse, terse verse, and a lot of other forms I don’t easily recognize as poetry. Sometimes I think I’m writing poetry, but how do you know?

It seems to me there should be some sort of guidelines to let you say, yes, this is poetry. Of course if there are no official guidelines, you can write almost anything and if it has some type of rhythm or musical quality to it, it is considered poetry.

The above verse, which flooded into my brain as I was awakening, has a certain Shel Silverstein sound to it which I like. I enjoyed all his poetry and was sad to see him go. I guess one of my favorite books by him was “The Giving Tree” which, I guess wasn’t really poetry at all. But look through “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” and you get a lot of enrichment from it even though much of it is rather nonsensical.

Anyway, If anyone knows how to tell if writing is poetry, I would appreciate your input.

P.S. Now this is really weird: I have just discovered a workshop on beginning poetry at our library tonight. I will be there. It’s almost like providence.

A Writer’s Career

More on Rejection

A couple more thoughts on Rejection—I was looking at rejection letters from the point of view of the writer and all the frustration that brings. But in truth, there is another side to that picture. Agents and publishers are covered up by queries of all types. Most queries, they say, are far from being professional, filled with grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, and all around sloppiness. A lot of writers can be very persistent. While this is not a flaw in itself, it is unwelcome when we are, shall we say, not quite ready for prime time.

One agent even tells of a query spammer who sends query letters by e-mail once a week and vows to continue this practice until he is published. Each week he is rejected, deleted, and marked as spam, but nothing works. (Writer’s Digest, Feb 2010 p17) I should think by this time he is working under a brownie point deficit.

I had almost forgotten a rejection letter I received from an agent which said “We accept submissions only from published writers.” Nice work if you can get it, rather like a three or four day work week. Let someone else do the hard work.

On and On – A Writer’s Career


Do you suppose, when Sue Grafton first started her alphabet series, that she planned ahead? Using the alphabet as part of the title commits you to (if successful) 26 novels. She has just published “U is for Undertow” which gives her five more to go. On her current schedule (one every two years) she will be eighty when she publishes “Z is for Zero”, no doubt pushing her walker along to book signings and interviews. I’m guessing she isn’t worried about what she will write after that. She is making some progress in the series, however. Her main character finally traded her beat-up VW Bug for something newer.

J. K. Rowling’s series covered seven Harry Potter years and she stayed close to that actual time, once she found a publisher. (Ever wonder what happened to the editors who turned down her series?) She completed the seven volumes in about 10 years. She doesn’t have to worry about income now, but will she write anything else? She’s still young.

J. D. Salinger died in the past three days at the age of 91. His classic novels “Catcher in the Rye” and “Franny and Zooey” are still selling well, but he stopped publishing after several short stories and four books, moved to the country, and dropped out of society at a young age. Couldn’t handle the press, I guess.

Harper Lee struggled for about twelve years with her first novel. She also helped Truman Capote gather notes for his book “In Cold Blood” which took some of her time. For the next 14 years there was rumor of a second novel, but it never appeared. For most of her life, she has stayed out of the public eye and has not written anything else. I assume she said everything she had to say in the one book.

Jean M. Auel started writing a short story around 1980 and then discovered what she was really writing was the popular six volume “Earth’s Children” series. She cranked them out on a regular schedule until volume four took five years to produce. Readers then waited twelve years for volume five. That was eight years ago and volume six is still nowhere in sight. She became interested in doing research on cave dwelling and cave art in Europe somewhere in the process, so there’s no hurry. (It’s tax deductable.) Except that she is getting on in years. The devoted wait patiently (sort of) to learn the fate of Ayla and Jondalar.

Nicholas Sparks produced one or two novels per year for a while but seems to have slowed now. He has never seen a rejection letter. He found an agent on the first try and she called him two days later and told him she had an offer of a one million dollar advance for his novel. “The Notebook” was later made into a major motion picture.

Jodi Picoult seems to produce a new novel about every six to eight months and I consider her the current champ of mass-produced popular novels. She likes surprise endings, so that’s no surprise to her readers. I read two of them and was cured.

So the question is, do you have a favorite author story?


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