Friday, August 16, 2013

One of the things I am going to do with this blog is to talk a little about some of my poems. Today I am going to focus on a poem that was published in Riding in Boxcars back in 2006.
Navy Swim Call-1966 was written to try to capture the feelings of many of us who were caught up in the Vietnam War. I had been in the West Pacific on a cruise as a midshipman when the Gulf of Tonkin incident broke out in 1964 and almost wound up there early. I knew from the date of my graduation from Dartmouth in 1965 that I would eventually wind up in that conflict. This poem seemed an apt description of the way many of us felt as we waited for our orders to go there. We could see the acceleration in the war efforts and could feel the country beginning to be dragged down into the depths.
The feeling I had swimming in the Indian Ocean in 10,000 feet of water seemed to reflect the fears of the unseen monsters that might lie in wait for all of us in the future. The world was changing and the country and the military seemed ill-equipped to deal with what lay ahead. We were living in a mirage and the sailors and soldiers were the bait fish that were being used by the politicians to accomplish broader objectives. Their tentacles were reaching up to drag us under in a conflict that was played on game boards in Washington and Russia and China and would soon drag us all into the darkness.
Navy Swim Call- 1966

The ship rested like a mirage,

In the Indian Ocean.

Letting its swimmers,

Test Poseidon’s patience.


We dove in noisily,

A school of bait fish, splashing.

Trading equatorial heat,

For the ocean’s cool glare.


The shark boats sobered us,

Their presence ominous.

Rifles manned by poor marksmen,

We hoped would not be tested.


I floated, nervously.

Bravado fading.

Two miles above the ocean floor,

Invading an alien world.


The black cold beneath,

Snaked its way up my legs,

Sending tentacles along my spine.

Awakening primal fears.


Someone, perhaps making a wish,

Threw a nickel, flashing silver.

It twisted and turned,

Reaching back for the light.


I watched it fade away,

Disappearing slowly.

Beginning its long journey,

From sunshine to darkness.


As I swam back,

Through waves rolling out of Asia,

I wondered if I too,

Would soon sink into the abyss.

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