Author Archives: garylindorff

The bloody gun and brief reflection

The soldier was tired of his bloody gun.
He saw a young stranger
And handed him the gun.
Here take this.
The stranger said,
I will take it, but what will I do with it?
The soldier had walked away.
I will give this gun to the ocean.
He gave the gun to the ocean.
I will take it but what will I do with it?
The stranger had walked away.
I will wash the blood off this gun,
I will give it to the depths.

Ocean gave the gun to the depths.
I will take it but what will I do with it?
The sea had closed its ears.
The depths held the gun for a hundred years.
I will give the gun to time.
Time said, I will take it
But what will I do with it?

The depths had closed its heart.
Time gave the gun to the reef.
I will take it, said the reef
But what will I do with it?
Time had passed on.
The reef held the gun for a thousand years
And then a thousand more.
Now the gun said,
I am tired of being a gun,
But what will I do with myself?

I will give myself to peace.
Peace said to the gun, I will take you.
I know what to do with you.

Peace held the gun tenderly,
Tenderly, tenderly,
Because the world had finally changed.

This is a little parable of the gun as hot potato. The message of this poem is, there is no way to get rid of a gun given the violent nature of humanity. It can’t be lost or recycled or destroyed because. . .it’s an archetype! It can only be transformed, but the only way for that to happen is the human race needs to evolve out of its violent nature. This situation reminds me of the story of Odysseus. At the end of his epic journey, Athena knows that just returning to Ithaca isn’t enough because he has the ocean in his soul, and after twenty years of wandering he will never sink roots. She instructs him to carry an oar from his ship far inland until someone asks him why he is carrying a winnowing fan. With the gun, the situation is similar. The soul of the gun will continue to be bloody until some day in the future when the inhabitants of the earth don’t know what a gun is. I think that’s the idea behind this poem.


The coming world that should be followed by reflection

There is a world coming that should be.
I can see it.
It’s close to being the world we have
But different in some important ways:
More food for the hungry,
More love,
More honesty,
Less gas and oil and meaningless death and wars,
More love,
Oh, I already said that, more love.

And let it be soon
Before it’s too late
And the door closes
For the creation of would-be worlds.
But whether there is a new world
The time for the end to this old world has arrived
With a clap of thunder,
So loud it makes your brain go numb.
It makes your ears ring
Like the great gong
In the courtyard of a Buddhist temple
To an ant climbing on the gong,
When the gong is struck 33 times
For the 33 faces of the Buddha.

Help me see this world!
Help me paint this new world large!
How about these colors?
Dip your brush deep:
For the desert, orange-rose,
Seaglass-green and ochre for the roofs of the village,
For the clouds, purple and blue,
Red and cerulean-blue for the dragon tumbling out of the clouds,
Diving into a wide plain of waving grass.

Finally, signs of the old world ending:
Swimming pools overflowing
With swimmers swimming across
The barren land for their lives.
Bad people shrinking,
One centimeter a day until they reach the size of ants
And disappear into tiny cracks in the earth.

Good people growing
In beauty and stature.
And suddenly everyone knows how to dance!

This new world may not be for you;
Just wait and see how you like it.
There can be other new worlds.
We’ll just pick the one that we like best.

See that deer
Lip syncing?
It looks fake but its real.
She is saying,
It will be OK.

Finally, listen and you will hear
The breeze rehearsing the tenth prophesy.
It sounds like an old New Yorker,
Someone from Brooklyn,
Like one old man to another on a park bench.

Now turn and watch those pigeons
Take wing over the traffic
Heading south,
Their white underwings catching the sunlight.

It breaks my heart to say this
But you old world corporate hustlers
Have run out of love.
Here’s how it’s going to be for your next incarnation,
So listen up!
Remember the jet that landed on the Hudson?
(Who doesn’t remember the jet that landed on the Hudson!)
It was a flawless landing.
The exit hatch opens over the wing
On the Manhattan side,
And the passengers gracefully descend the great wing
Of the slowly sinking jet.
It’s as if they rehearsed their escape
A thousand times
So it’s beautiful and flawless.
(Their voices randomly amplified like wild geese.)
But instead of what they did next,
Which, personally, I don’t remember,
You will spread your wings,
You will circle the big silver sinking jet
Before you form a perfect V
And disappear over the city,
Honking good-bye,
Good-bye, good-bye.

That’s how the old world will end
For the new world that should be
And it will end a million other ways.
I don’t really care how it ends.
As long as it is poetry
And as long as it is beautiful
To someone.
I came across the title-phrase somewhere, in something that I was reading, but I don’t recall where or I would give the writer credit, but I was drawn to the awkwardness of the wording. And that gave me permission to write the whole poem a little awkwardly, like a kid that is in the midst of a growth spurt. This poem is about a world that is anxious to get here, so it is full of lots of incongruous elements, like a Max Ernst collage. And I wanted to show creation coexisting with the passing of the old, and I felt so sure that the old is finally passing that I wanted to try to see the beauty and poetry of its passing.

The reunion and reflection

I am in a little café
Near the sea
And I am having breakfast
With my adopted son,
Or daughter, Whitey,
A muskrat.

Let me explain.
Whitey was born an albino.
When I was just a little boy
We were down by the brook
And saw a whole litter of muskrats
Playing together on the earthen dam
By the spillway of our pond.
(The pond was more like a small lake.
We had lots of money back then,
But that’s another story.)

Then, the summer passed.
All the baby muskrats grew up
And left
Except for the pure white one,
. . .Whitey.

There was something special about Whitey.
She never seemed to age.
She lived by the spillway,
Always alone, summer after summer.
I aged quickly.
I graduated high school.
Left for college.
Went to grad school.
Got married.
Had kids.
Got divorced.
Moved to Vermont.

Now Whitey is back.
She is bigger.
She looks great!
She talks a lot
But she’s a good listener too.
She’s funny
And loves to have her belly tickled.
When we finish breakfast
We’re going to walk on the beach.
Whitey is interested in my writing.
She’s interested in me
And wants to collaborate on a project.

I could go on.
I talk more when I’m happy,
But the waitress keeps looking over
Like she wants us to pay up.
There are people lined up outside
And peering in the window.
Besides, Whitey is antsy
To get moving.

This is going to be an amazing day!

I don’t write that many happy poems. They can’t just be manufactured, to make myself happy. They are serendipitous. I looked up the word serendipitous and was delighted with its etymology — it’s perfect for what I am trying to say. Serendipitous dates back to 1754: coined by Horace Walpole, suggested by The Three Princes of Serendip, the title of a fairy tale in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.” Isn’t that a perfect definition of truly happy moments, that they just happen unexpectedly and are not necessarily tied to the quest?

My soul said, “Get up.”

Way back in February my soul was sad
so I promised her a day
when daffodils rise like periscopes.
I promised a day when old snow will try to hide
in the deep blue of impressionist-shadows,
I promised my soul birdsong,
buds swelling on bushes,
and letting the fire in the stove die back.
I promised her the smell of black earth,
black earth
and royal green moss
cushioning dripping ledges.
I said there would be silver mists
rising from hidden ravines
above dark stands of hemlocks.
And when my tinnitus whispered me awake today
there was my soul at the window,
turning and saying,
“Get up.
Isn’t this the day you promised?”

Ouch-ouch-ouch-ouch-ouch followed by some thoughts

Sometimes being in the United States
Is like walking barefoot
Over broken glass,
Or walking on hot sand.
Having a conversation with someone
Who doesn’t get a thing about me
Feels like being brushed by nettles.
Am I even wearing clothes?
Everything gets through!
The climate here is chilling.
Where am I?
Is this still home?
Where did all those corners come from
That I keep bumping into.
I’m not accident prone;
It’s the environment that has become
Angular, unnavigable.
The news is acidic and keeps coming back up!
It’s like someone installed an invisible fence:
I keep getting zapped.
Yesterday I was listening to someone’s story
About how they dealt with a pest
And my heart skipped a beat
When their supposedly amusing story
Morphed into a confession
Of unconscious cruelty.
Like a splinter
Burying itself in my unsuspecting hand.
Or simply seeing what they’ve done
To places that used to be beautiful
Feels just plain shitty.
My native land can be a very painful place to live,
And I’m an educated White man.
I can’t imagine what it’s like,
Can’t imagine what it’s like,
Can’t imagine what it’s like
To be a person of color
In this sharply angularUnited States
of broken glass
and invisible fences.
This poem came out of nowhere. I don’t know why I started thinking of all the ways life can be hurtful or painful. . .in ways that are not always shared because we aren’t supposed to be that sensitive. But then the obvious dawned on me, that compared to people who face racism and bigotry randomly, all the time, and at every turn, I don’t have much to complain about. But then I had to look at how the reality of my socially-sanctioned White-privlege is a source of pain. . .Plus I’m still thinking a lot about how there are much healthier, less painful places to live, than the United States. If this had occurred to me, as an indisputable fact 20 years ago, I might have left (jumped ship), when I was in my 40s but at my age I’m just going to stick it out and try to contribute to much needed change in this weird, hurtful, raw place that lies between Mexico and Canada.

Onion and Woo plan an outing followed by some thoughts

Onion finished Onion’s coffee
And was folding the paper
When Woo stumbled in rubbing Woo’s eyes.

Onion said,
Let’s go to the White House
And throw a can of paint on the entrance gate!

What color paint? Asked Woo
Looking intrigued.

I was picturing red,
Onion said.

Woo: I think yellow would be better,
Or green, so close to Easter.

But I was thinking about
How scary and hawkish Trump is, and
How he is making the whole country angry.
He seems to want to start arguments
And make wars wherever he can.
Red shows how angry I am with Trump.
I don’t like feeling like this.
Throwing paint at the White House
Might make me feel better.

You throw red, said Woo,
I’ll stick with yellow.
And let’s bring sandwiches;
They might not feed us in jail.

Onion looked outside:
Why aren’t you angry with him Woo?

Oh, I am, said Woo,
But it’s nothing compared to how happy
I am feeling about
Spending a beautiful day
Throwing paint with you, Onion.

Onion pursed Onion’s lips
And smiled for the first time in days.

In this Onion and Woo dialogue I am keeping the gender of these too ambiguous because I’m not sure if they are male or female. They keep changing, hence no pronoun. Here Woo is Woo’s usual happy self, but it is not a spacey happiness. It is more like sanguinity — Woo is confident and ever the optimist. Helping Onion deal with Onion’s anger makes Woo happy, or rather happier. Woo is rarely not happy. Also this is the first Onion / Woo poem where they are making a political statement. That feels good to me. The situation in this country calls for us making a stand and that includes Onion and Woo.

The United States makes me sick followed by some thoughts

It’s come to that.
I’ve been sick of my country for a long time,
Ever since I stopped being a kid.
When I learned about the atomic bombing of Japan.
Then Vietnam brought it home.

I was writing Romantic poetry
Until the age of 12.
Then my poetic soul
Gently urged me to wake up.
I woke up like Neo in the Matrix

In a bath of amniotic fluid
Covered with suctioning electrodes
Which I pulled off,
Gasping for air
Like a premature newborn

Adult human being.
All Romantic notions
Of One Nation Under God,
Hand to the heart,
Swearing allegiance became just swearing.

Something hit the window of my house of mirrors.
I picked up the still-warm
Bird of my youthful soul
And got sick right there,
Sick of my country.

I have nothing to prove to my country.
No loyalty.
My country needs to win me back.
Hand over heart, face mask for protection.
Stop making us sick.

I have recently heard that people who immigrate to this country experience a decline in their general health after living her for a while. That doesn’t surprise me. At 67, with chronic Lyme, I am not exactly the model of health, and we all know how stressful it is to live here. Even in the peak of health, there are stresses that can undermine anyone’s sense of well-being, no matter how resilient they may be. I won’t delve into the list of potential stresses concomitant with being an American. But, with this poem, I felt the need to document how I got sick of this country a long time ago. It has nothing to do with who is president. It is more a matter of how so much of what my country stands for, how it spends my taxes, and how it conducts itself abroad,how it treats its own citizens of color and women was obnoxious to me from the raw age of 12. I often wonder, if I had spent the last 30 or so years in, say, New Zealand,would I be healthier and happier? Duh.