Posts Tagged 'writers issues'

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.

Nutopia

Nutopia

 

I am an ambassador from Nutopia

And proudly fly our pure white flag

My heart often yearns to go home again

So in dreams I visit and dwell without fear.

But there are no roads to take me there,

There are no armies, no treasures anyone would want.

And we all get along and let all have a life.

Defenders collect aggressors who threaten their essence.

Why do so many hold in their hearts

Hatred and avarice, intemperance, greed?

My thanks to John* for inviting me there

To a homeland sans strife bringing peace to my soul.

So I dream of that day, of that glorious day

When I can go home.

Hal C Clark – Sept, 2010

*John Lennon

I don’t know how many John Lennon fans are in this group, but one thing he was dedicated to was peace. Nutopia was a mythical land of his imagination, and it is a place I would like to visit, if not live. I can never understand why people must hate each other but I feel it must be based on greed, selfishness, or insecurity. I feel sorry for people who do not have the capacity to love unconditionally, as God loves us. He loves us no matter what we do. In that, we can be truly thankful.

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]),

At the Grocery Store

At the Grocery Store

 

She’s not very tall and

She’s probably nine,

She looks up at me

And I see the first sign

Of a smile on her face.

It starts as a grin,

Then it moves to her eyes,

As wrinkles form thin

Little lines in the corners

And across her small nose.

I wink and she laughs,

Thinks I’m strange I suppose.

She and her mommy

Go on down the aisle

And then round the corner,

So I shop for a while

Through the cereal boxes,

Then, from a yellow-box cave

I see two smiling eyes

And a small, timid wave.

Hal C. Clark

May, 2010

Being a retired elementary teacher, I enjoy the interaction with kids wherever I am, and this is often at the grocery store. I get different reactions to a smile or a funny face. Mom is usually comparing prices or engaged in other serious endeavors and the child is looking for any kind of distraction. This poem is a playful treatment of such an encounter.

We are on the road and have had a busy ten or so days – In Newport, PA for an autoharp gathering and workshop; in Gettysburg Pa for July first and second (the date of the beginning of the Battle of Gettysburg), and then to Washington DC for Independence Day. I have missed my writing time and blogging time and I apologize for the long time between posts. I will try to do better. I am currently working on two poems, one of them concerning Gettysburg and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address which I also plan to post on this blog. As always, thanks for visiting my blog and I hope you will post a response.

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.

Triolet on Love’s Blessing

Triolet on Love’s Blessing

 

The more I give away, the more I gain,

Like bread loaves in a basket, without end,

Love flows to me and cannot be contained.

The more I give away, the more I gain.

My heart so fills with peace from love’s refrain

That souls around me can but comprehend.

The more I give away, the more I gain,

Like bread loaves in a basket, without end.

Hal C Clark

May 2010

A triolet is an eight line poem in which the first line repeats as the fourth and seventh lines and the second line repeats as the eighth. The rhyming pattern is abaaabab. It looked like an interesting form and I had an idea for a short poem, so I tried it.

The “bread loaves” of course refers to the feeding of the 5000. I find in my life I find myself so filled with God’s love that I overflow to others. If you are filled with love, you can’t contain it all and it will find a way out.

Enough preaching, I suppose. I do enjoy exploring new ideas and would appreciate your comments any time. I appreciate those who read my poems and comments.

One final note: We went to see “Letters to Juliet” today and it was refreshing to see, in our world of violent and senseless movies, a warm fuzzy movie. I really liked it.

Compassion

Compassion

 

Her ling’ring smile calls out to say

“My hope is running wan and thin.”

His eyes show pain in pleading tears

For someone’s arms to shelter in.


Their houses sit as rubble piles,

Their water in roadside pools,

But what can I, one person, do

With resources minuscule?


So, what if life would now be changed,

If I should be there, not here?

What tiny act of humankind

Would help calm my daily fear?


If I can manage one small part,

To do whatever I can,

I’ll build a bridge from me to them.

For all of us, hope is God’s plan.


I’ll save some pennies, cull my clothes,

Serve meals to those without homes,

Read books to those who cannot see,

Tend aged with brush and comb.


Oh, I am known by many names

In my harried, hurried day,

But my real name is compassion,

And I cannot turn away!

Hal C Clark – March, 2010

This poem started as an exercise from the book “Poemcrazy” by Susan G. Wooldridge, and I decided to develop the idea. If you are not familiar with this book, I highly recommend you check it out. It tells the story of how she developed as a poet.

Anyway, I wrote this because I believe each of us should do his or her part in helping others. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it benefits both the receiver and the giver.

My wife and I sponsor (through World Vision) three 10-11 year old girls, all from areas where HIV/AIDS is a major problem. One is from Mauritania, Africa; one is from Rwanda, Africa; and one is from the Dominican Republic, near the area of the earthquake. The money each month helps improve conditions for the girl and her family, and makes it more likely that she can continue her education. The other part I like is writing letters to the girls, encouraging them and asking questions about their families, country, etc. It’s great to get their replies and watch their progress.

Greg Mortensen started a program years ago of building schools for the children in Afghanistan and he gets money for his foundation partially from the “Pennies for Peace” program in which school kids in the US bring spare change from home and drop it in a container. This program has raised a lot of money and helped to build 31 schools in the sparsely populated areas of Afghanistan. The people of these communities supplied the labor and the good will, and Greg has done more to bring peace to these people that all the politicians in Washington.

In our own United States, many children get only one or two meals a day during the summer (School programs help during the school year) a problem improved by local food banks. The purchase of one or two extra canned items on each trip to the grocery, and donated to the local food bank could make a big difference over a year.

We have all kinds of government programs to solve all kinds of problems, but I believe what really makes the world work is the compassionate acts of individual citizens working quietly behind the scenes. God bless all the givers!

Symphony

Symphony

 

We find what we are looking for

     I’ve very often heard it said,

I look in my life’s travel bag

     And try to find a common thread.


A snarl

A wrinkle

A big furrowed frown

A screeching challenge in the street

Pink combat boots

A shy fragment of a smile

Trash scattered

Tall weeds

The fragile golden goblet of a daffodil

A child and her mother, hand-in-hand

A blaring horn

A tiny, sky-blue butterfly


I see what I have packed away

     And vow to choose more carefully,

For what I want to take along

     Is all the earth’s fair pageantry


My heart fills up and brightens when

     I, through my senses, understand

My living God’s bold symphony,

     As scored by His loving hand.


The fragments that we hear and see

      Are part of a much broader fare

And beauty can be found in all

     If we but seek to find it there.

Hal C Clark, April 2010


This poem wrote easily at first, when I thought I knew what I wanted to say. The list after the first stanza contained some good things and some bad things in it. When I finished what I thought was the last stanza, it seemed incomplete. What was missing? The item that puzzled me most was the pink combat boots. I still don’t know where that came from, but I like it.

As I thought about those boots, it occurred to me that they might be a symbol of women standing up for themselves and their rights, as more and more women are willing to do today. With that in mind, I looked at the other items and found that, if I tried climbing out of my limited viewpoint, all of them could be positive. That was when I found the last stanza that tied all things together into a bigger, all-knowing view. If God can find the positives in all of creation, shouldn’t I at least try?

Well, isn’t that why we write: To try our best to understand our world, and then share our understanding with others? What makes my blogging such a positive experience for me is the supportive environment I have found among the blogs I visit. Among bloggers, I have found support for the two needs of all humankind: validation and dignity. If we have those two roses, we can deal with whatever thorns find their way into our lives.

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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