Jonah Raskin wrote:
Thanks for the blog. I enjoyed reading your very fine and moving poems.
Daughters: Two Ways of Not Knowing
The first involves millions of my
sperm and unknown women
thousands of miles away, three decades past.
The other, my known daughter, the one I claimed
abandoned me when she was twelve. But how
can a child leave her father? Most would say
it had to be the other way around. Surely,
I the father, a different sort of child,
mistook AWOL for desertion. When I did not
bring her back, was I the abandoner?
I could not know a child I never fathomed
who may beg barefooted, tough,
on the streets of Saigon or who,
if mine, is riddled with wrongs, angry
without a father, tortured.
I knew a daughter I lost
and a daughter I hope never existed.
There are things some fathers may never know
except through dwelling in anguish.
How could I know what to do for you
if I could not see you, little you,
quiet as a caterpillar?
You were the ghost born of a dead union.
Did I walk out past you
or through you like an open door?
And later when you materialized before me, the apparition of you,
the reality of your skin, your hair, your eyes,
your intellect, your heart, your beauty,
I found you as a glorified butterfly,
hadn't even noticed the caterpillar.
The Poet As Survivor Assistance Officer
(from Bringing Back the Bones)
Years pass back and forth like seconds used to:
Now the keyboard keys click open
the month of April 2004…
another linking back to Vietnam
a panoply of vibrant color
shrouding boxed lifeless bodies
“the flower of our youth”
blossoming red, white, and blue
stars and stripes and endless
row on row of more and more
flown again to Dover, Delaware
an endless procession with
no beginning or end of days…
…at least, this time
the bones are boxed not bagged
are colored not blackened
are draped not slung.
I want to see I want you to see
I want my country to see
I want these colors of war seen
I want to see the bodies in the boxes
with the flags of freedom’s colors
I want to see, I want the president to see
I want every body every BODY to see
every body what his caprice has caused to cease
to be even the memory of what we once were and were to be.