witnesses in time
among the lines’ flowing sighs
eternal love vibes
our stories telling fluid
Did I climb these mountains, laboring for the other side, only to find the valleys full of silence, of empty cities where my heart stumbles down alleys full of space and trampled cast-offs?
How often does a heart withstand indifference, apathy, slumber and the non-resonance of so many assimilated before falling quiet, before finally asking if maybe the one deep resonating response is merely just heart’s call echoing against walls of hope, or bouncing back and off the hardness of others’ glib deflection, fearful trivializations? (How many self-proclaimed Useless Pucks does it take to refuse and distort love?)
And it looked so much like promise as I cast my own visions in the distance and across a sky, a night blooming dawn from the depths of my own awakening…
to what? To the amness without end, the love only rarely known (and so often feared) and the endless fall of light, to the feast of being – in spite of obstruction, to the farce of freedom, to the unexpected release and relief in letting go, to the center and deeply down to the nexus of love.
My dad, L.S. Kelly, Jr., was born in the depression years and spent his early childhood in a nation swept up in World War II, a war that makes Memorial Day meaningful to many. He lived in Englewood, NJ at the time. He conveys the times, their import revealing just how different his world was from the one I now know. I read his words from an interview and find myself confronting the visceral impact of a time of upheaval, the imprint on his psyche, his perspective of the U.S. and of the military, of “us” vs. “them” shaped by circumstances more stark in their contrast to what we now live, more surreal in hindsight. No one could point at the term “axis of evil” and shred its hypocrisy because It applied. And it applied thoroughly in the minds of those shaped by the fallout.
In the only way I know how to memorialize a day that has become, to me, less about the idea of a noble U.S. military infrastructure and more about honoring those who bring integrity to a failing ideal, I’m posting my dad’s responses to the interview questions here. His heart comes through the lines he wrote for my son’s A.P. U.S. History class. The clarity of what matters shatters my hesitation to note the day, my frustration with the distortion our military might has become. The day should be noted and we should never forget, no matter our stance on the military-industrial complex, because there was a time…
What can you remember about growing up during WWII?
A feeling of heaviness and fear – dread – during the early years. The Japanese, Germans and Italians were portrayed in the media as some pretty awful folks. And they did some pretty awful things, which were shown at the movie theater before the main event. Newsreels were gross. Life magazine was as graphic as they could get away with. That changed a whole lot with military successes.
We had rationing of materials and food. Gasoline. Nylon – women went back to silk stockings. The war effort took a lot of stuff off the shelves of the grocery stores.
Cigarettes. We saved cans [-] like vegetables came in. Flattened them and took them to some point where they could be given up for scrap metal. Then came victory gardens. We had three plots in the back yard one summer, and after that five families that socialized together Kellys, Jim Kellys, DeSaussueres, Whitsons, Stokes, had huge garden in Cresskill, NJ where DeSaussaures lived.
Our next-door neighbor was the block air raid warden. When we had an air raid alert (practice of the system), we hung blankets over the windows, kept the lights down low so as not to disclose the whereabouts of a populated area to enemy bombers. The warden would knock on the door if light was showing around the blanket. He wore a white helmet and acted extremely seriously, as did we all. Just about everything we did was in the context of national defense.
The doctor who lived across the street was in the army in Europe. He had a son my age who received packages of souvenirs from his father, actual Wehrmacht uniforms, which he and I dressed up in and paraded around the neighborhood. Once. AS widow lady around the corner got all upset, and that was the end of my German career.
When the A-bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945, I was 9 years old. We knew nothing could survive that and continue to wage war, and the feeling of relief brought a sense of elation and national pride. We had fought two wars at the same time and beat the bad guys. Which they were.
How did it impact you personally?
I got to eat a lot of organ meats, since they were undesirable and carried a lower meat-coupon penalty. Tuna, chipped beef.
Sometimes we had nightmares: Go to the movies on Saturday afternoon and come home, to go [to] bed and recall the newsreel. The boy next door was in the navy in the Pacific and we worried about him.
Mrs. Knowles’ 2nd grade class at Franklin School in Englewood, NJ would pray together every morning, the Lord’s prayer, and we’d recite the pledge to the flag and would sing the National Anthem. Often Mrs. Knowles would then have some story or inspirational thing she’d share with us. She had a brother who was a dog-face in France at the time. That means in the Infantry, in the mud.
One morning she held up a quite thick, yet shirt-pocket-sized thing, that turned out to be a book. It was her brother’s bible. He had been carrying it all the time. We watched as she opened it enough for us to see the hole in it, which still held the kraut bullet that her brother’s bible had stopped, effectively ending its deadly journey toward his heart.
That was the classroom where I broke down one morning when we were singing the Star-Spangled Banner. Boo hoo. Everybody looking at the simple goose crying. I couldn’t tell why. They called my mother, and she couldn’t tell them, either. When I got home, I couldn’t tell her why. I didn’t know. She didn’t know either. Nobody was gonna ask my Daddy. Who knows?
Any observations about that time and that war in general?
Nobody even thought about burning a flag. Not a stars n stripes. It was a time when the nation really seemed to be together about one thing: beating the Axis.
My 80+ year-old dad, who texts his daughters every night when he goes to bed – sending his love, who loves silly humor and growing tomatoes reminds me what shapes the minds of a nation, what lays the foundation for exploitation of fear: the real thing. Not that we have not known terror here in our time, but most of us have no point of reference, no way of knowing what war looks like. And the experiences of a child, his reflections over 70 years later reveal what we hope to never know but to also never forget, even if only for the sake of those who lived it. Here and abroad. Here’s to those who gave. While I may not want us to ever drop another bomb and though it hurts to think of the suffering of Hiroshima, this, too, is true: we must never lose sight of the humanity, the lives given in service.
My curves whisper love,
risk, abandon and…
something about being whole.
Moments liquid spill
my feast for still minds,
unfolding sometimes rapidly, roiling, obliterating order
and then hushing, following slowly the pull towards home,
stirring hearts alive and begging transformation as you
lay your weary body down in my wealth,
washing, baptising days to come
and days gone by,
stirring youth back into those bones,
beckoning resilience from layers long sighing into the fight.
My colours ask no blindness,
seek no superiority over sight.
To not see, to not distinguish,
to not cherish every nuance and hue
is to die, to shrivel up inside,
never knowing your own precious blues.
Come, learn my ways;
liberate eyes into seeing how deeply we partake
when we can discern the differences
and know no fear, no ego’s tyranny.
Abandon inhibition here…
feed soul’s longing along the journey
flowing us all as love, by love, in peace.
“..we have all sorts of representations of ourselves which are really rather superficial. And we try to identify with them. But then once we do that, we have this quality of thought which infuses it into perception. We apparently perceive the thing we are representing – it seems to be there. It’s like the rainbow; we see a rainbow, but what we have is drops of rain and light – a process. Similarly, what we ‘see’ is a self; but what we actually have is a whole lot of thoughts going on in consciousness. Against the backdrop of consciousness we are projecting a self, rather than a rainbow. If you walk toward the rainbow you will never get there. The image of the table is produced in the same way, but if you walk toward the table you will get there and touch it.
“I’m suggesting that if you try to touch the self, it will be the same difficulty as trying to touch the rainbow. We have a representation of the self, which is really arising in a process. We don’t know this process very well; but the attempt to treat the self as an object is just not going to mean anything. So instead, suppose we say that this self is unknown. Its origin, its ground is unknown. And it is constantly revealing itself through each person or through nature or through various other ways.” David Bohm – Thought As A System
ego tells me to draw conclusions…shore up my indignation or my melodrama, the one where I’m left out, ignored or otherwise tricked into a situation not best for me…the one where I’m enticed onto the dance floor, courage of a wallflower conjuring possibility…the one where I get there and it’s empty…the one where the latest story plays out ancient history…here, another loss…there, another loss…
see, there now. I can legitimize the pout, the hardening heart; the saga continues.
heart tells me to stay in the game…shore up my courage, stand naked, hold out for better days…perpetuate the script of constancy and hope…keeping afloat fantasies made from valid yearnings…distorting reality…one more swig from the bottle, just one…
see, there it is. I can accept and continue heralding heartfulness in the face of hard, harsh brick wall non-response; the saga continues.
mind tells me to get real…how much more obvious does it have to be before you see, it’s the same dumb sham…you’ve been played…you played yourself too…wake the hell up, chick…run fast and far…fuck ’em…be done and gone…besides, no proof of your perspective as valid, no proof of possibilities good, bad or otherwise, no proof, no nothing but silence… and silence speaks. see how much it meant? nada…nowhere…next?
and now, finally. I can dignify my stupidity by showing I see it, by throwing myself into a race in the opposite direction. there, the saga stops (nah, it continues).
but the shores shape and carve out the landmass… the mist makes feasts and evaporates… myriad possibilities, likelihoods, comfortings and abandonments form character, painting stories on soul’s terrain…somewhere between the melodramatic maybes, foolhardy courage and pessimistic realism is the song of a universe whisking us all onto dance floors we’ve not begun to fathom … and while I can’t stop the tides or discourage another etching on my backside, frontside or otherwise, can’t force justice, or awareness or love or … happy endings… I can let go and let it be as I move on, away from conclusions…embracing the way of nature … ‘though it seems fairly obvious sometimes…
all I know is this: I don’t know. I see all the possibilities in situations left languishing, cut short violently or otherwise aborted by unfortunate events. but. I don’t know.
move me, life, beyond judging what is not mine to judge… move me, great waters, into the floating real of what I can do for me right here, right now in this warm and gentle sea…
Healing hammock ride the sky, in my lingering repose.
Silence washing, flooding,
Crash this deafening noise, all the clamoring
impossibilities’ haunt of rhythm’s worst explosion, enigma’s crueler clarity
suggesting daunting end of days sooner as I
long for, work for, breathe for later, much later.
Wipe away my necessary practice,
the trauma of doling out tomorrows’ chances
via feverish weighing today of…
how much too much, just enough
or not enough now will facilitate more of a future, not less…
why must all these labors somehow suggest
no now and no when or where in which to be or go to or later for which to aim
when their aim is to seize assurance?
So, in my fevered necessities,
somehow slip me past the grasp that deadens days
and back into flow…
Take me to obliteration lovely, blanking out the doling minutes, seconds…
Bind me to places where eternity emerges, maybe there shimmering
on the edge of twilight…or here unveiling the timeless rule of leaves,
and trees holding hammock’s sway.