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History Personal


Stanley Kunitz at age 95 becomes our tenth poet laureate in 2000. He still reads his poem " Halley's Comet " with the feel of that young boy who is thrilled and frightened on the roof. (Hear him read the poem here) The poem takes us from the ground, up the stairs, onto the roof and as the father is called (Kunitz's father committed suicide before Stanley had the chance to know him) the reader rises above the boy and into that starry sky.

Select a historic event as the starting point for a poem. Do not write about the event. Instead focus on a person(s), perhaps yourself, who reacts to the event. Perhaps there is an event that triggers a personal history because of when it occurred. The history lesson here is personal.

by Stanley Kunitz: Passing Through: New & Selected Poems and Collected Poems

Bad Ground Casualties

In 1969 the T.V. news was
head counts and body bags.
I was twelve when I made the connection:
shots plus falling bodies plus body bags lined up
equals death- no John Wayne movie.
Horrified at my stupidity and the truth,
I didn't watch the news anymore.
I had heard the warrior scream.

In 1996 I walked the beach,
hundreds of lady bugs hatched too soon
lay dead and dying strewn in the sand.
An accident of nature and tiny Seurat points
of black and red ground under my feet
no matter how careful my step.

In 1994 I became my husband's  enemy.
Jungle survival and that piece of his soul
he left in Vietnam returned. His pain
always clear, always unspoken except in senseless rages.
No enemy
Enemy on every face
My face
Intimacy always a battle, sometimes
speaking to me like a wartime whore.
It wasn't far from there.
To save myself from senseless slaughter,
from the accident of our natures,
I let go of what I thought we had
but my hands were empty
and the warrior screamed.

Cheryl Soback

Running... Aground
"The people are not satisfied
with the resulting government response
men died as a consequence of misplaced pride.."
i heard on the radio
i thought of Russian sailors
trying to protect what we call a backward country
of there preparedness though not in war
and i looked to my father,
a child of the cold war era,
and wondered if he was still caught up
in an anti-Communist mindset
wondered if my mother still sought shelter
when she heard sirens
i remembered doing the same
as a child, in a half way point
only i dived for shelter in concrete halls,
running from storms
and not men.
Brandi Semler


u.s. paratroopers enter war
read the headlines.
words written a lifetime ago
it seemed.
i watched the sun dance along
the huge silver wings that
was sailing high above the rice paddies
and jungle below.
wings of mercy, that would carry me home,
the war was over for me.
pinned to my chest, beneath a row of ribbons,
were the small silver wings
paratroopers so proudly wear. fightin'
wings, blood wings we called them.
a nurse with blue eyes puts a pillow
under my head, she's air force
i see the wings on her uniform, angel wings.
i drift off to sleep as the medication
takes effect. dreaming of wings.
butterflies, bluebirds, baby chickens
on the farm. suddenly i awake to
a sober truth. what do i tell the little boy
whose daddy saved my life
when i hand him his father's wings?

ray cutshaw



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