(Lubbock, Texas) I’m currently reading The Innocent, by Robert Taylor. Taylor is a Texas Tech University alum, and a former U.S. Army captain. He drew from some of his experiences and observations for this novel. Set during the Vietnamese conflict, it involves a U.S. soldier who falls in love with a Vietnamese man. I'm really slow on reading these days, but it’s a good book!
This poem, from my book Holding Me Together, developed from three influences: (1) a news report about refugee children in South America, (2) the cover of U2’s album War, and (3) a definition of the word “ire.” I originally wrote “Children in the Streets” as a song poem (in 1983), but never could find anyone to put it to music, so I adapted it into the free verse poem that follows.
(The United States of America, a large and proud county on Planet Earth.) Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Sitting Bull (Tatanka Yotanka), Tecumseh, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Newt Gingrich, William Bennett, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Randall Terry, Jimmy Swaggart, Charlton Heston, Joseph McCarthy, Roy Cohn, Bill O’Reilly, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Joseph Lieberman, Pat Buchanan, George Will, Bill Kristol…from political office to religious office to popular speaker to entertainer to journalist to some blurring of two or more of those positions, these people are or have been some of the best-known moral leaders in America. In some cases, their lives cancelled out their message; and in some cases, their lives became their message. Either way, most Americans will recognize some of those names as leaders whose words impacted many listeners.
(The Fourth Circle of Planet Degranon, a planet colonized then abandoned centuries ago by Planet Valchondria.) Gazer followed the Book of Degranon relentlessly. Yes, it meant killing sometimes, even his own parents. But he was a good man, a godly man. He would do what must be done, even while he saw his fellow Degrans killing each over for not all agreeing with the same interpretations of their holy book. His war was righteous. Though his beloved mentor gave him his mission to the home world, he saw it as really being God’s work. God chose Gazer, of course.
(Valcine, capital city of Planet Valchondria.) The Maintainers say it’s for our own good. We don’t need books. And there are many words we just shouldn’t use, many topics we just shouldn’t discuss. Some ideas are heavy hazard, just as some words are danger speak. So we understand about why their cameras follow us in schools, in hospitals, and throughout much of Valcine. We understand that they worked with the Supreme Science Council to give us a virus that will protect us from illness. We just don’t understand why we can’t discuss the virus’s side-effects. We just don’t understand why the Maintainers won’t help the walkway people, why we can’t discuss God, why the virus fails to protect our grandparents, or why our parents want us to just quietly stare at the programs on our wallscreen. But this Gazer person who has suddenly appeared, offering us hope…and the confidence pills…we find ourselves embracing him.