Posts Tagged 'death'

Meltdown

                        We can stop gun violence when more people have guns…Wayne LaPierre

                        Texans should have open carry permits…Rick Perry

Saturday movie night in

a Texas theater

“Star Wars”

I hear a shot, see a man

in the aisle, aiming a Glock

take him down with mine

feel a bullet slap my shoulder

another shatters the wall beside me

gunshots flare like popcorn

muzzles flash like fireworks

then it stops

nineteen killed, thirty injured

only one knows

who fired the first shot

Prison

Prison

How sad to see

so much humanity

filled with green bile,

masked in seething sneers,

wrapped in the cloak

of hatred, and

shod with greed and avarice,

delivering pain and humiliation

in the name of righteousness.

Where does love

grow its gentle tendrils

among such stony soils?

Where can they find

a valley within

for the vivid flow of compassion?

How can they force themselves

to live in this prison;

their own creation

of wretched hell?

Hal C Clark – May 21, 2011

September 15, 1963

Who were they?

Four young girls

dressing in choir robes

within a church.

What was their crime?

They concealed within their cells

the wrong DNA,

too much pigment

in their skin.

What did they want?

They asked for respect,

their American rights,

to keep their dignity

and opportunity.

Their sentence:

Death by dynamite,

by men shrouded in

white robes

and hoods.

Executed this date,

no appeal.

Hal C Clark – April, 2011

We recently visited Birmingham, AL and explored the downtown area where we came upon the church where the bombing took place. I was saddened by the thought of the hatred that caused this tragic event. These four young girls never had a chance to grow up, have children of their own, or enjoy the progress in race relations to come. As William Stafford would say, it was a failure of compassion.

I have been away from this blog for a while, but I hope now to be posting new work each week.

Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage

 

They haunt me in my briefest sleep,

     They’re never far away,

Their shattered bodies stay with me

     In the night or light of day.


From somewhere came a storm of fire;

     We fired back at the place.

Women’s screams and children’s cries,

     Red-spattered on each face.


Mothers and their small children

     Lay in gory refrains,

And nowhere can the guns be found

     ‘Mid twisted, torn remains.


Shards of a loving family,

     A grimace shrouds each face,

Embrace in bloody agony, their

     Bodies like antique lace.


How can these be my enemies?

     No guns or arm held high,

There, children’s cherub faces

     Without a will to die.


I’m in a constant battle,

     And one I did not wage.

I’m here to do my duty,

     Then turn another page.


No stranger, then, to murder,

     But like a sin to me.

To take life from another,

     Not what I want to be.


In this keen internal strife,

     My mind cannot resolve.

The killer and compassion

     In acute torment revolve.


And so, I can’t get past the pain,

     The noise and solitude.

I see the masks of those I’ve slain,

     Feel guilt I can’t elude.


 

They visit me in briefest sleep.

     They do not go away.

Their anguished eyes stare back at me

     Through each tormented day.

Hal C Clark – November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

This is a tribute to the men and women who endanger their lives to fight in our wars. Some are killed, some have physical injuries, while others have psychological injuries not easily seen or evaluated. Trauma to the mind is just as debilitating as a physical injury, and to those brave men and women who suffer this kind of injury, I dedicate this poem.

At the 9/11 Temporary Memorial

So many gods, so many creeds

So many paths that wind and wind

While just the art of being kind

Is all this sad world needs

                       Coexist

We recently visited the temporary 9/11 Memorial in New York City and were haunted by what we saw there. Across the street they are building the permanent memorial and you can sometimes hear the sounds of construction.

A few minutes earlier we had been in the small church a block away from the World Trade Center buildings that had acted as the first trauma center, helping victims find medical help. It had been partly covered in debris from the collapse of the buildings, debris that took almost a year to completely clean up.

Here in the memorial are twisted beams and recovered shoes and combs and other personal items (including cell phones). In the basement is a bulletin board where the staff posts the comments of visitors from many lands who visit the memorial. Among the comments I found the above poem and copied it down. I don’t know who wrote it but it carries a brief but powerful message that resonated with me. It is a poem I wish I had written.

We will long remember the event, but unless we stand in that place and feel what the victims must have experienced, we have missed the most important part. We don’t have to hate each other. We will never all agree on anything, but we can agree to respect each other’s lives and grant each other the choices that God grants to all of us. Until that happens, we will continue to hurt and be hurt.

Gettysburg

Gettysburg

 

Today I planted both my feet

On Gettysburg’s broad, grassy hills

Where Mister Lincoln once had stood

To speak of deeds both brave and bold,

To honor men now buried there

Who fought for what men dare to seek:

The freedom and the liberty

To chose a way in which to live.

What thoughts were there in Lincoln’s mind

As he looked out upon that field

At circles of the myriad graves,

And knowing what his hand had caused?

But in his heart he knew ’twas true,

The value of our nation’s light:

Our constitution’s guarantee

Of rights for each and every man.

Is this the cause to make a man

Resort to killing other men?

Is there not any other way

To solve our petty differences?

The sadness in the spoils of war

Surely lived in Mister Lincoln’s heart

As he looked upon thousands of graves

Of men whose lives exist no more.

Hal C Clark

July, 2010

On July 1st and 2nd, we were in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania touring part of the battlefield and some of the museums connected with the battle. This was the anniversary date of the battle (July 1-3, 1863) and lots of people were about. I especially wanted to see the National Cemetery that President Lincoln dedicated on that November afternoon (November 19, 1863).

The markers were arranged in semicircles and as many were marked as they could identify, either by name or by the area they came from. It is a quiet place with lots of space and trees for shade. I sat there for a while, trying to imagine that day.

History records 51,000 casualties there in those three days: 8,000 killed on the battlefield, 6,000 more died soon after from their wounds, others taken prisoner, some unaccounted for.

Later I went to a house in town where President Lincoln spent the night and prepared the final draft of his address. The featured speaker was Edward Everett, a noted speaker of that time who spoke for about two hours. When he was finished, the President stepped up. He had been invited as an afterthought, to give a “few appropriate remarks.”

I have included a copy to the address in this post. As you may notice, President Lincoln had a very concise and complete way of speaking, saying more with these few words than Edward Everett had with all of his (By his own admission).

As always, I would appreciate your visit and your comments.

Executive Mansion,

Washington, , 186 .

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal”

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow, this ground– The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us, the living, to stand here, we here be dedica-ted to the great task remaining before us — that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln, Draft of the Gettysburg Address: Nicolay Copy. Transcribed and annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois. Available at Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division (Washington, D.C.: American Memory Project, [2000-02]),

Squirrel

Squirrel

 

Furry grayish red-brown streak,

Please try not to look so sweet

As you dash into the street,

Should’ve moved with faster feet!

Why’d you run out in the street?

Just to get a bite to eat?

Lying mangled in defeat,

Lying broken in the street.

Such a tragedy to meet,

With an end that’s not so neat,

Must you be so indiscreet

As lying shattered in the street?

Hal C Clark

‘May 2010

In the spring and early summer, we see a number of young squirrels who never learned to cross the street (they didn’t look both ways and wait for traffic). One day as I was driving, a squirrel ran out into the street ahead of me, then changed his mind and came back across. I guess I didn’t hit him, because I didn’t see him in my mirror. A couple of weeks later I was driving to the supermarket when all these lines started forming in my mind and I struggled to remember them until I could pull into the parking lot and write them down. After some editing and rearranging, this is the result.

For me, the rhyming pattern and length of lines give a sense of urgency and frustration to the poem. This matches the frantic activity of these small animals. By the way, the ones that live to be experienced learn about the high road: the cable wires that go from pole to pole over the street. They cross these non-electric lines with the skill and grace of a tight rope walker and don’t have to contend with traffic – unless they slip.

Memories

Memories

 

Fly away Sam.

Let your spirit soar and

Explore the wondrous world you once knew.

Your spirit is free,

But your memory lives in me.


Sam was a neutered male Siamese cat who once lived with us. He came to us fully grown, long and leggy, having a personality I instantly admired.

We had a female Siamese already in the house and she guarded her house with a passion. She would hiss and growl when Sam walked by and he would simply look at her as if to say “Who put their galoshes in your lemonade” and walk on. That was typical of his attitude. He ignored conflict if he had any choice about it for as long as he lived with us.

The female eventually moved with my daughter to an apartment and Sam stayed with us and he was a delight to have around. But there came a day when he was less active and wasn’t eating. The diagnosis came back: feline leukemia.

I didn’t want to let him go. His illness came at a time of transition in my own life, and this was my first real conflict with death. This was a conflict I couldn’t avoid. I tried to give him the medication and get some fluids and nutrients down him, but with less and less success. He seemed to look at me and ask “Why are you tormenting me?” He didn’t understand that I was trying to help.

We came to a point where it was obvious death would win. It was pointless to continue distressing him, so I took him to put him to rest. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I hated losing to this disease.

After we buried him, I just couldn’t let it go. All the conflict was still inside, churning through my mind. From somewhere came the small verse above and I was thankful for it. It gave me a sense of continuity, a partial victory.

Over the years, I lost track of the poem in my notes and couldn’t remember all the words until last night. In the middle of the night, I woke with all the words in my head just as I had written them so many years before. I got up and wrote them down. Why did they come back to me? I don’t know, but I felt I should share the story. Maybe someone else will identify with this story and be helped. I invite and welcome your comments. Please share.

Hal C Clark, March 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


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