A year ago I sat on a folding chair in an ordinary meeting room listening to poetry. The room had a table with the usual hospitality contributions – bottles of juices and water, crackers, a tray of vegetables and hummus. Another table held books for sale and a third a display of paper made from the pulped uniforms of veterans.
The event was a reading to celebrate the launch of Sound Off: Warrior Writers NJ, a volume whose unassuming size gave little hint of the explosion of power within. Some of the poets were already friends – Vietnam veteran Jim Murphy, Iraq veterans Kevin Basl and Nate Lewis. Others were names I had known for decades but had never met. Jan Barry and W.D. Ehrhart I knew from their work in Winning Hearts and Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans, published while the war was still waging. Dayl Wise, co-founder of Post-Traumatic Press, Walt Nygard, Everett Cox were names I picked up along the way and, listening to their poetry, glad of it. Read more
I wondered, in the months since the election, if events had outrun my book. The war I write about seems almost quaint today. What use can telling its story be to us now? No one wants to hear any more about it anyway, right? Read more
Maybe 4,000 veterans at Standing Rock, that’s what one of our Ithaca veterans estimates. Many of them invoke the oath they swore when they enlisted, “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;…” They did not forget that oath, or lose their skills, or dampen their hearts. They are now, as one veteran said, where they are meant to be. Read more
There was a reason for that slogan we had, “Never trust anyone over 30.” We were on to something. We believed the Vietnam War was wrong. We believed in civil rights and women’s rights. We believed we had to be better stewards of the earth. Read more
I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; …
Several themes emerged from the conference at Chautauqua that surprised me … and should not have. At least two speakers, veterans, cited this oath as one of their motivations for enlisting. It was for them a solemn moment when they raised their hand and swore to defend the Constitution of the United States of America. But, they reminded us, one does not have to enlist to do this. Supporting and defending the Constitution is the right and responsibility of all Americans. It comes with citizenship. Read more
I had dinner recently with someone I had known from my neighborhood for several years. She wanted to get us away from our construction chaos, give us a very welcome break. I have known her only as kind and community-minded. She makes a point of greeting new neighbors, signing them up for the listserv, and inviting them to the picnic. She offers to help and she does. She is a few years older than I am. She carries memories. Read more