Tag Archives: photographs

Veterans Day

 

the-vietnam-veterans-memorial-washington-dc-ilker-goksen

courtesy Claire Palmer Photography

The Wall

 

breaking chains by Rod McQueary
               for Bill Jones, and the others.

I run, hide, backtrack, but—
They know all my tricks.
They find me, eventually,
and beat me, and haul me
to some clearing
in the jungle.
There are a dozen or so, about a squad.
With broken teeth, and battered eyes,
I can hardly tell
what they tied me to,
but I know what’s next.
It’s a dream Sauvagio said he found…
One night, while drunk, he told me—
What they did to the two GIs
one white, one black, they caught
(too bad, I think, to tell here).
Sauvagio found ‘em.
They cut ‘em down,
cut the stitches in their lips,
put back the body parts traded,
started trying to forget.
Sauvagio—
mentioned it
                Once.

This dream, they chuckle,
take their time, joke with each other,
show me the knife, and laugh
this dream. I mean to show ‘em
I’m no goddamn girl,
I’m no goddamn kid anymore
for the Corps, for my Country,
for my family.
I’m 2612933
and I pray
God, ogod, ogod
let me die now.
  Jesus, it hurts
                don’t let ‘em see.
Please,
                don’t let ‘em see
                        I’m weeping.

Covered with sweat, panting
shaking with fear, and fatigue
I wake again, exhausted.

Last night, April 25, 1991
they came again.
It’s not good jungle.
It’s not very hot, but—
it’s the same squad.
I know them all.

I am astounded to see I’m holding
a 60. I don’t want a 60, it’s heavy,
it’s     slow,
no extra barrel,
no glove,
the link belt is too short for this work.
I get a 16      50 shot banana.
I like a 16,
they don’t kick, just sort of flinch,
spit    fire    fling copper,
jitter left from the ejector throwing cases right.
The tall one is close, smiling,
shows me his knife again.
I pop him, tentative-like to see what he’ll do.
One neat little 5.56 hole between his eyebrows.
His hat flies off,
his skull blows up,
(Who you gonna crucify now, asshole?).
He falls down dead.
I shoot them all.
Last one runs
I’m calm now, doing business,
shooting good now.
I let him run a ways, then shoot him
in the butt to knock him down
just because I can, and
‘cause I got a few things to tell this bastard.

For Con, whose dreams are green
and stink
and are so evil
his mind won’t record them.
I going to tell this bastard
for Bill, for Joe, and the others
who NEED so bad to let it go, and can’t,
for our families, who tryandtryandtry
to understand, and can’t.
I’m going to tell this bastard
for poor Artie and the second 58
who folded
early
whose names are on no Black Wall List
…anywhere.
I’m going to tell this bastard
for all the wives and parents, who sent
men
and got animals back
and for them who will neverNeverNEVER
see justice in this world.
I’m going to tell this bastard,
M-16 barrel jammed up his goddamn
nose,
I’m going to tell this bastard
…Joke’s over.

© 1993 Rod McQueary
BLOOD TRAILS
Dry Crik Press

 

 
FIVE DAYS HOME by Bill Jones

My father and I
Sit in the shade
Of a chinaberry tree
Talk softly of the last good war.
A time of ration cards
And Gold Star Mothers.
“A uniform meant free drinks
And a lot more,”
My father says.
“But they kept me training pilots
Stateside…
And wouldn’t let me go.”

In the lower pasture
A phantom chopper whines
Rotors thrash hot wind
As it wobbles upward
With another half-dead cargo.
I blink the image away

“I won’t ask if you killed anyone.”
My father says,
“Because I don’t want to know.”
Just as well, I think angrily,
My personal count is a little hazy.

Like the pregnant woman at Gio Linh
(She never should have run)
Zapped by a battery of howitzers
Raising puzzling questions.
How do I mark her?
One and a half? Two?
“Drop 100 meters,” I whisper.
“Fire for effect.”
“Roger that,” the RTO replies.

Arm in arm
My father and I
Walk awkwardly toward supper
And the 6 O’clock news.

The chopper drones
Tilts plexiglass nose
To a hospital ship.
The woman at Gio Linh
Seeing her chance
Dashes like a sprinter
Legs pumping furiously
For a stand of scrub oaks
Behind the barn.
“It’s a shame,” my father says
Climbing the back steps,
“You didn’t get to serve
In a real
War.”

© 1993 Bill Jones
BLOOD TRAILS
Dry Crik Press

 

 

lander evening by Rod McQueary

from Gloria

     Bill used to mention
     Vietnam sometimes—
     Snippets of story
     I heard but never
     felt.
     He might have been describing Mars or
     Disneyland
     It was an untouchable
     Part of his past.

     Last October
     Our pastor told the Bishop
     About Bill’s poetry.
     While he was here, he
     dropped by.
     Bill did his funny ones
     Two or three
     And mentioned in passing
     He had written some
     Serious Poems
          About his war.

     The Bishop asked to hear one, so
     Bill went away and came
     Back with
     “Body Burning Detail”,
     Halfway through it
     He broke down.

     I just remember him
     Sitting there
     Shaking,
     His agony
     His anguish
     Pouring down his face
     And suddenly
          For me
     It was real.
     I could feel
          with my heart
          and soul
     What he could never
     Describe.
     I think
     I began to
     Understand.

from the Bishop

     I have a natural connection
     With Bill
     My Great-Aunt was born
     near the ranch where
     He works.
     I like cowboys
     Love Poetry,
     enjoyed his story
     about coming to Lander
     to Recover.
     He recited some funny poems,
     We laughed and laughed.
     It’s all great.

     Then Bill said
     There is something I’ve never
     Read before. I wonder
     if it would be all right.
     He took it out
     began to read.
     It became quiet
     By the time he had to stop
     We all were weeping.
     When it was over
     We sat and talked
          and prayed.

     I have used Bill’s poem
     Several times
     Since then,

     and I carry it with me.

from Bill

     I almost couldn’t get through
     “Body Burning Detail.”
     I tried
     But I couldn’t
     Speak.
     The Bishop said
     I’m so sorry
          so sorry,
     You don’t have to
     finish it
          and I said
     Yes I do
     Yes
          I do

© 1993 Rod McQueary
BLOOD TRAILS
Dry Crik Press

 

 

THE BODY BURNING DETAIL by Bill Jones

Three soldiers from the North
Burned for reasons
Of sanitation.
Arms shrunk to seal flippers
Charred buttocks thrust skyward
They burned for five days.
It was hard to swallow
Difficult to eat
With the sweet smoke of seared
Flesh, like fog,
Everywhere.

Twenty-five years later
They burn still.
Across seas of time
The faint unwelcome odor
Rises in odd places.
With a load of leaves
At the city dump
A floating wisp of smoke
From the burning soldiers
Mingles with the stench
Of household garbage.

Once, while watching young boys
Kick a soccer ball,
The Death Smell filled my lungs.
As I ran, choking
Panic unfolded
Fluttering wings
Of fear and remorse.
A narrow escape.

A letter, snatched from the flames
The day we burned them
Is hidden away
In a shoebox
With gag birthday cards,
Buttons, string, rubber bands.
A letter from home?
The Oriental words,
Delicately formed,
Are still a mystery.

© 1993 Bill Jones
BLOOD TRAILS
Dry Crik Press

 

Blood Trails

 

JUNE DANCING

 

 

Leaves heavy with rain,
they bend and bow
to one another in gusts:

short blond feed quivers
as if this old dirt
is taking a breath.

I remember my mother
trying to show me lightening
in a Sierra thunderstorm

and all I could see
was the sun: a faded moon
hiding behind it all.

 

The Sierra’s Spine

 

 

Snow accumulation is just short of ‘normal’ for this time of year as we head into four days of forecast rain. Going up the hill to help the neighbors get one more bunch branded while we can still get to Mankins Flat, just on the other side of the near ridge.

 

California Weather Blog: “Wet and stormy week ahead for all of California”

 

Paregien Branding 2018

 


 

 

 

While waiting for the irons get hot, the first brandings of the season are like social events, a community of neighbors catching up with one another, great help from the first calf to the last. Thank you all.

 

PLASTIC WATERGAP

 

 

Stretched across the creek
for looks like herding humans,
not stampedes or floods.

 

Welcome Back, Lee

 

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Down from the Cedar Grove Pack Station, we’re glad to have Lee Loverin back on the ranch. To have her spell my knees and back bucking bales and feeding hay is a godsend. Light since August, we’ve gradually increased the amount of hay to our first-calf heifers to help them raise month-old calves with growing appetites, and to our replacement heifers to insure they are in shape and cycling when the Wagyu bulls arrive in December. Trying to stay ahead of the game, our philosophy has always been that it’s cheaper to keep the weight on cattle than it is to put it back on after they get thin.

The huge Pacific storm that targeted the Northwest left only a trace of moisture here, not quite enough to even settle the dust. Nothing much in the extended forecast, meanwhile we’ll be feeding hay to our younger girls.

 

FIRST WAGYU X

 

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One would think that after 46 years of calving first-calf heifers, we’d be more relaxed about such a natural process where maternal instincts usually insure a successful calf crop. But I confess our anxiety is high this time of year, perhaps in part because we’ve seen all different kinds of failures from coyote kill to breach births to heifers more social than maternal who leave their calves alone too long to gossip with the other girls.

This morning before checking the first-calf heifers bred to Wagyu bulls, I drove up the road to see two coyotes taking turns trying to hamstring a brand new Angus calf belonging to one of the third-calf cows who was nowhere around. My shot that missed sent them off in different directions, but they’ll be back. While checking the calf, its mother showed up, looking to take me as I rolled it over to make sure it was OK.

Not far away, a first-calf heifer across the fence was down in labor, two feet showing when she stood up. I left her to check the rest of the first-calf heifers. About an hour later I returned as 5176 was licking off our first Wagyu X calf of the season.

 

THIRD CALF

 

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She knows now,
how to be a mother—
shield innocence

with shadow
and sharp eye,
give meaning

to the soft talk
that reverberates
with familiarity

upon each breath,
the language of cows:
the umbilical stretched

from the warm womb
to grow and graze
a dry and brittle world.

Born in a drought,
she can be a mother
in any kind of weather.

 

CIRCLES IN AUGUST

 

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We track circles on the same ground
through brush and granite rock,
over mountains and down canyons

patched with spooky skeletons
of trees, broken limbs at their feet.
Last year’s blond and brittle feed

folds into dust under foot, under wheel
into decent firebreaks swirling around us
as we check springs and clean water troughs

measured with our eye. We carry hay,
fat cows come running six to the bale
once a week, fresh calves knocking

at the door of a new and wobbly world—
waiting to inhale one hundred degree heat.
Too soon to rain, we plod like cows

in dusty circles, all soft trails
lead to water and shade, or to the hum
of solar pumps in abandoned wells.

 

VAPOR

 

March 14, 2014

 

Awakened slowly,
drinking promises of rain
with people on time.

 

 

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