The brief chat lifted my spirits

Published 6:05 am Wednesday, November 11, 2009

“The only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing —to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.”—John Keats

I just wrote a letter to a member of the community that I don’t see often enough.

Last week I was able to have a brief chat with this person, and it lifted my spirits. And now that the warm October warmth and sunshine have finally arrived, that doesn’t hurt either.

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Sunday afternoon, I had some time to spend with The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart—A poetry anthology.

Even Bob Dylan is included in the Zaniness section where a verse reads: I like to do just like the rest, I like my sugar sweet,/But guarding fumes and making haste,/It ain’t my cup of meat./Ev’rybody’s in despair,/Ev’ry girl and boy/But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here,/All the pigeons gonna run to him./Come all without, come all within, /You’ll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn.

Some of you might recall that, at least I think you will. The next page on is “No Trespassing, 4/17,” a Haiku offered by the late Richard Brautigan who was a main feature in my early exploration of prose and poetry. Then he shot himself.

Also included is one by the late Charles Bukowski, a bit of a reckless poet and one time mailman. The Seattle Post writes, “These are poems focusing on concerns of the heart—fathers and sons, love and hurt, peace and war, anger, denial and zaniness.”

Poetry/Gender Studies point out Robert Bly, James Hillman and Michael Meade challenge the assumptions of our poetry-deprived society in this powerful collection of more than 400 deeply moving poems from artists including Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Theodore Roethke, Rainer Maria Rilke, Marianne Moore, Thomas Wolfe, Czeslaw Milosz and Henry David Thoreau.

These are the times that poetry is most needed facing what we are facing these days like what recently occurred at Ft. Hood, Texas and what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as what is happening in our federal government where politicians are wearing “war chests.”

Sunday night, I watched a playback of Pawlenty’s recent effort in Iowa attempting to build some footing for his 2012 challenge for the presidency. It was more interesting to me watching the panning of the crowd. There was applause now and then from the audience and other times not. He has a long way to go, farther than he can get.

I’m still working my way through The Good Soldiers by David Finkel. It’s a book you have to break from now and then, especially for someone who faced PTSD himself coming back from Vietnam when posttraumatic stress disorder was given its name.

Maj. Nidal Hasan got to deal with returning veterans with their psychiatric problems that have been piling up in the “whatever you call it” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are numerous thoughts regarding Hasan’s actions: the Sept. 11 attacks and the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the judgments we make. Major Hasan said he was not able to go to Afghanistan, and he offered a litany of problems, all noteworthy.

If you read “The Good Soldiers” by David Finkel, you will know what he was up against, caring for the returning seriously wounded; physically and mentally.

Today is Veterans Day. Those of us who made it back from Vietnam were not about honoring Veterans Day. Vietnam was not Korea or World War I or World War II and possibly it may be argued neither was Iraq or Afghanistan.

I have only found one other “jungle warrior” as we were called in Vietnam and that was Gary Donatelli, who we referred to as Joe — the Ragman.

When we left Hawaii for Vietnam, by boat, there was another infantry unit and artillery battery trying to do some catch-up training to also get them over to Vietnam. We trained at Schofield Barracks for eight months and this other battery and infantry unit had even less time at Schofield Barracks when it joined the 11th Infantry Brigade. One of their lieutenants was Lt. Calley who left his mark at My Lai.

I kind of had an opportunity to go with Gene McCarthy to Vietnam, but that never materialized.