Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Some Mid-Watch Thoughts

This watch has officially begun.

It is not a Navy watch, officially beginning on the hour for four hours (except the two-hour dog watches), but much like those bridge watches in that one really relieved the off-going watch fifteen minutes before the official hour – i am writing a long poem about those Navy watches.

My life does not hinge on acceptance or rejection to Vanderbilt’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing (i applied for one of the three poetry positions). As desirous as i am to be selected; learn to write better poetry; finally, actually get a degree from where i should have received a Bachelor of Arts almost half a century ago; and be near my parents for the next two years, i recognize such a venture will be very hard work, could be unpleasant, and may not be anything like i envision. I will be disappointed not to be accepted, but ready to turn the page, get on with my life, make a little money, and settle into growing old gracefully.

So i am up and awake in the middle of what would have been the mid-watch many years ago, on watch. The watch has officially begun.

I checked the internet, even though i knew news from Nashville would not yet arrive. The program administrator, in the program herself, emailed me a week ago, not answering my actual question, but explaining they were trying to make the final decisions and notifying applicants by today, the first of March and further explaining the number of applicants was much greater than expected (they were “expecting” over 600 for the six positions). I told Maureen, my wife for those who don’t know, that meant, like it means for all government agencies and academic institutions, the word would certainly come after the first and certainly not early.

Word of acceptance or rejection didn’t come early. I am up trying not to think about it so i can go back to sleep.

I am thinking about what to do with the rest of my life if accepted or not. That is a hard consideration to turn off.

So i have included a poem here i re-wrote and re-edited for my application. i have been placing the revised poems here for a while, but this one seemed fitting for an old codger…er, curmudgeon, as a group of old golfers call ourselves on watch in the middle of the night.


Thoughts about the discovery of the well-preserved and very old remains of an Incan boy and young woman high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, circa 1995.

the magazine photos riveted attention, fascination:
children, forced to grow up and die
before their time;
did they volunteer to the sacrifice?
now they stimulate interest in ages past
and macabre beliefs:
i only feel sadness.

dead, empty hulks.
eyeless sockets staring out
into a world gone techno,
not a great deal more advanced from
what they saw when they could see:
world still full of ignorance, hatred and religious zealots
out to rid the world of all other gods.
the hulks,
not just dead, but dead and gone, yet not gone,
still here, rediscovered,
creating fascination, ghoulish interest in such relics.

hulk: dead warship lady
i wandered through during my navy days
lady warship "mothballed" with foam
until cleaned up for her sacrifice,
i, sailor man, entered the hulk,
semi-official equipment scavenger
for my man-of-war, pronounced female,
herself already obsolescent:
aboard: quiet and eerie,
a presence here beyond me felt:
an old unfinished letter,
desk drawer of a small stateroom forward,
"Dear Clara," was the only identification;
nothing much more than the opening hello;
no great heroics here,
just a khaki clad lieutenant
meeting obligations to Clara.

down below in the steel machine guts of the lady,
the clang against the emptiness of fireroom ladders,
once filled with hiss and heat and screams over the blowers
stirring the moist heat to just above tolerable.
it was more incan.
i could see the sailors shirtless sweating,
changing spray nozzles as the orders from above
required they rev up the steaming to where
the sides of the boilers heaved.

just as gone as the incans.
eye sockets empty,
bodily fluids extracted or dried up long ago.
but no petrification here.
no, she will be hauled to sea
to feel the heat of missiles,
practicing the art of war,
slamming into her innards
as her body is twisted, rent asunder,
gaping holes filling with the briny sea
as she slides, stem down
into deep bliss.
sacrificed like the incans,
dead and gone,
but no longer seen
like the incans.
at least the old war lady
will have some peace and quiet.

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