“They also serve who only stand and wait.”
1200 or so years ago in China a young woman, newly wed, wrote a letter. Some months before, her husband had left their small provincial village and went on his first voyage as an apprentice river merchant. The dangers were great: Pirates, bandits, rapids, storms, wild animals, equally rapacious, corrupt government officials. Many more months would pass before the young bride’s husband would return, if he did return at all.
He had been gone so long.
The River-Merchant’s Wife: a Letter
by Li Po, 8th Century A.D. China
Translated-Interpreted by Ezra Pound
While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums
And we went on living in the village of Chokan :
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.
At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.
At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever, and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?
At sixteen you departed,
You went into far Ku-to-Yen, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.
You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden,
They hurt me.
I grow older,
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you,
As far as Cho-fu-Sa.
Just before Katrina struck, in a small Louisiana town near the Gulf of Mexico, another young woman sent an e-mail.
The Convoy Driver’s Oughta Be Wife: An Email
Subject: Star Dust Jelly Roll
Date: Saturday, August 27, 2005, 1:07 AM
G. I. Jamie
when we wuz just kids
me in pig tails n culottes
red flip flops
You had just moved down here to little ol’ Chauvin, Louisiana
With your parents from big ol’ New York, New York
All wise guy know it all full of attitude
wearing your hat backwards
skateboard scabs on both a your knees
baggy shorts n Keds both with holes
Tom Boy tough guy at eight
You talked so fast
we’all could barely understand you
and oh my the mouth on you
But i knew you wuz coverin up afraid
Only I saw the little boy
all hurt inside and hurtin to get out
Seems we fought as much as we wuz friends
I swear sometimes I think its always gonna be that way between
My you wuz mean to me a lot
But I gave as good as I got
in my way
Remember when you broke the head offn my Barbie and superglued your G. I. Joe head on it?
And then I melted all your army men to get back?
And got whupped for playin with lighter fluid and matches ?
Even then? Did we know? Know somewhere someplace deep down inside? Even then?
Even if it wuz just a little. Even though we didn’t understand?
I was the first to know. I think.
Or at least. Admit.
It’s always been easier for me to accept things.
You’re always the one that has to bloody your nose bumpin up agin em.
That’s why I love ya, darlin.
And You wuz afraid wuzzn’t ya?
When we wuz sixteen.
And I had to be the one to kiss
Though everybody says I’m the shy one.
And thinks you’re so bold.
I remember how before you left for Eye-raq.
Your eyes shining! All bound for glory!
This was gonna be just the begininnin!
Someday you wuz gonna be the first.
The first woman combat general!
And I smiled I tried real hard
to be brave for you
I think maybe I even fooled you
But all I thought about
All I ken think about –
I got caught in a traffic jam on the interstate t otha day
Semi jackknifed into a SUV
You know how hot and muggy it is here right now
and how my old beater its air con don’t hardly work
And everybody a started honking their horns and
it was like I wuz in a dream and the cars wuz all convoy trucks and then I wuz you
and then they wuz usin the jaws a life n the dream twarn’t no dream it was a nightmare
the horns had turned to the sounds a bombs & bullets a whistlin down and I started screaming
and then this here state trooper he comes up
and taps on the window and says
are you all right mizzy and I said it wuz
it wuz just I had a –
I had somebody in Eyeraq
and he said
I hope your boyfriend gets home safe, mizz …
JT I know I shouldn’t burden you
or be a turning your thoughts towards the bad things that could happen,
you’re the one that needs supportin’ it’s just
you’re my soul,
Remember that field out behind the high school where we would play hooky hang out n smoke n whatnot?
lie there at night just a countin the stars
holdin each other
Its bustin out beautiful krazy all over pretty as a picher right now
with flowers wild as you
butterflies n birds –
theys all of em
monarchs n robins n cardinals n hummingbirds n even them nasty crows n icky moths –
all paired up. Even
even the fireflies seem to each of em have their own special flame each of em to dance with
I can’t bear to go there much
I just sit here on the porch
like some old maid aunt that has about fifty cats
underneath sista heffa moon.
Ifn you could let me know
when you get rotated back to Fort Campbell
(Hope they don’t stop-loss you agin)
It ain’t right everybody else but you a havin they wives n sweethearts to welcome em home
the real wives their husbands
I’m pretty sure my old beater can make it in a night a hard drivin if’n I only stops for gas
and smokes and for to pee. I’ll take off work I don’t need that ol’ cashier job anyways
I promise I won’t embarrass you in front of your commander let on about us
or get you in trouble with him
pretend to be your sister or cousin or –
Smells like cheap cologne n cigarettes to me!
I neva knew what Auntie Lenora used to mean by that
Cheap cologne n cigarettes!!!!
Hey. One good silva lining. Your mama she don’t look through me pretendin like I don’t exist no more
Guess when two hearts both yearn to see the same set of green eyes safe at home them other things they don’t amount to a hill a beans
I run errands for her and stuff gets her her Maalox and Seee-grams
And a course her Pall Malls
She frets something terrrible worries and watches the CNN all the time and that there Fox for news about what might be a happening
in your neck of the woods – desert
I don’t have to
Like I done told ya darlin
I know you laughed at me but its true – truer now than ever
We was star dust mingled together at the beginning of time
And now we found each other agin across light years and galaxies
Not no war nor Eyeraq
Or what folks might say about us
or the end of the world or time or the end of the universe itself
Can ever seperate us again!
Yours truly forever n ever n ever n ever n ever
– and even beyond that!!!!!!
A whole lotta XsnOs XsnOs XsnOs
Xs n Os,
P.S. They say a canes a gonna be a blowin in off the coast by Monday or therabouts. Bet them there scorpions over there ain’t got nothing on the crop of skeeters we got here this year.
Heeey Baayaaaybee. When you get back
I’ll have some of your favori eyte
My super secret special recipe shakey puddin’
all warm and moist an ready for ya.
Jest the way you like it!
And you be sure to have some of that sweet sweet jellyroll for me,
Ya hear now?
The Wrong Kind Of Stonewall
Got a joke for y’all
How is a gay soldier like Jesus?
They’re both without honor in their own country
Didn’t say it was a funny joke…
From presidential heights of hypocrisy pointedly unasked!
In their own country
In this, THE land of freedom of speech
That they have sworn to defend with their lives
Forbidden – FORBIDDEN – to tell
Of the simple fact of their own existence
Standing standing standing
At attention with the unrequited diginity of Buffalo Soldiers
They stand & wait only for mere acknowledgment
From their SeeEyeSee
They also serve who only stand and wait
And wait …
You used them to become Commander In Chief
You have used them as Commander In Chief
You send them in harm’s way as Commander In Chief
How long until you give them your FULL recognition & blessing?
“So, in the Libyan fable it is told That once an eagle, stricken with a dart, Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft, ‘With our own feathers, not by others’ hand Are we now smitten’.”