~This poem first appeared in The Bellingham Review (1981)
Angry Lament on ‘Opening Day’, Draft Registration, July 21, 1980
“Don’t worry about it. Kill them.
God will recognize his own.”
Reportedly the response of a general
in the Christian crusades when asked
how to tell who was the enemy.
God will recognize his own.
The souls of the faithful are
imprinted on his retina
and their names lodged in his third eye
on celestial microfilm.
Be assured, judgment does not rest
Continue to use your sword
rifle M-16 nuclear warhead.
Don’t worry. Continue to use
your body. God will recognize
his own. Remember, death
is impartial. Slaughter neutral.
Only God knows
those he will enfold
in the bright light of his reward.
By many accounts heaven will not
be crowded. Only the pure
of heart may see him.
God will descend on the souls
like a buzzard. The bodies?
spinal cords severed -
mere flesh is not his concern.
Or yours. Don’t worry.
If you die in battle be assured.
Your death will be a casualty
for our side where
by all accounts, God
in his flak-jacket
crouches beneath the only surviving tree.
We have it on good authority
God will recognize his own.
~This poem previously appeared in The Bellingham Review (1981)
A Neutral Morning
Sun yellows the eastern sky casting doubt on the promise
of grey. Fog moves in meadows. Alder spill green right
where they stand. I put distance between us.
My car, a bright spot travelling fast.
I have spent the night beside you,
covered with the satin of your childhood.
A neutral color in the neutral morning.
I am driving away from you.
At least I am not driving you away.
Progress even in spring is slow.
How long it takes the apple! Bud, leaf, bloom.
Months for the fruit.
A school bus looms,
orange, huge in the grey green wash of light.
As it slows, I contemplate passing, brake instead.
I prepare to stop. Off to the right
a horse. Loose. Yes, I think, yes. Early morning.
A horse crops grass on the edge
of the road. On the free
side of the fence.
THE STORY BEHIND THE POEMS
As an active member of a peace group in Port Townsend, Washington, I was part of a vigil of witness held outside the Port Townsend Post Office on July 21, 1980, the day draft registration began once again to be the law of the land, which it still remains today. The draft had been abolished in 1973, so this day was momentous. I remember young men walking up the stone steps to register. It was cloudy and cool as summers often are in that part of the world. Poet Tess Gallagher was one of the protestors and others to whom I apologize now for being unable to recall names.
I had been involved with peace issues my whole life. My mother, Sophia Pacosz, took me to Women Strike for Peace demonstrations when I was a young girl in Detroit. We had to take two Detroit Street Railway buses to the demonstrations downtown and then another two for the return trip home to the Polish enclave of Warrendale on the West Side of the sprawling metropolis.
The Easter I was fifteen I went to Washington, D.C. as a member of WSP. I slept – or tried to – in the empty luggage rack of the chartered bus. None of us had need of any suitcase or overnight bag, because we were returning to Detroit on the same bus later that evening. I remember watching Harold McMillan, then Prime Minister of England, enter the Kennedy White House on affairs of state – we could get that close to the gates in 1963 – and I still recall the anonymous arm and hand extended toward the PM welcoming him. Was it the President's? I remember thinking, in awe of where I was and what I was up to, surrounded by just a few dozen good people – this was in the earliest of days of the peace movement still focused on an anti-war theme and not yet Vietnam.
Sophia had also been my first teacher when it came to writing about what mattered. I remember how proud we all were when her letters against war and weaponry were published in the Detroit papers.
Not too many years later her nephew, my dearest cousin, Anthony Koster, was killed while leading a Marine patrol in Vietnam; his death was another spur to my efforts to make peace happen in this world.
I mention all this because when I was standing outside that post office on the Olympic Peninsula the poem "Angry Lament on 'Opening Day', Draft Registration, July 21, 1980" wasn't very far from my heart.
A book I was then reading and am now unable to recall was the source of the quote from the Christian general which was the catalyst for the poem's approach. I put internal quotes about the words 'opening day' because I wanted to make a connection to other opening days, particularly those of hunting season.
The poet Knute Skinner was editor and founder of The Bellingham Review; I was quite honored that he wanted to publish this unabashed in-your-face political poem.
The second poem "A Neutral Morning" is one of the few love poems I have ever written and published, though some might argue it is not about l'amor at all. (And I am inclined to agree with them.) I distinctly recall that after writing a handful of poems in this vein about this relationship in particular, I vowed to avoid the genre. A vow I have managed to keep for the most part. Country lyrics and popular music in general are awash in so many "love done me wrong songs" it seemed a waste of poetic effort to add to that particular brew. ~Christina Pacosz
ABOUT CHRISTINA PACOSZ
A native Detroiter, Christina Pacosz’ poetry/writing has appeared in books, literary magazines and online journals for half a century. Notes from the Red Zone, originally published by Seal Press (1983), was the inaugural winner of the ReBound Series (Seven Kitchens Press, 2009). Her chapbook How to Measure the Darkness will launch the Seven Kitchens Summer 2012 Limited Edition Chapbook Series on the Summer Solstice. She and her husband live in Kansas City with their former street cat.