Sunday, March 29, 2009

A corner holds two rods

The men, the boys, don't come here anymore.
The women come to visit her and dim
the memory of he who went before,
but men and boys no longer mention him.
The house is growing empty places, grim
and chilling gaps where his things once gave
a quiet, dusty voice to secret hymns
that marked his modest path from womb to grave.
The men and boys don't join me here now; they've
forgotten how it was for them when he
inspired them, taught them, loved them. But I crave
the scent, the feel of traces left to me.
....A corner holds two rods -- not much is here --
....and when I turn the reels I feel him near.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lament for my Uncle

Bomber falling down

Bomber falling down
From the Belgian sky,
Uncle never known
Whirling down to die.

Battle of the Bulge,
Did not have to go,
Volunteered to fly,
Dead in Christmas snow.

German fighters came,
Wind from out the East,
Ours could not keep up—
Against a dying beast.

Tail gunner that day,
December, forty-four,
Not his usual job,
But that’s the way of war.

Tens of thousands fell,
Men who won’t return,
Gave to us our world,
Thank you, Uncle Vern.

--Robert A. Hall

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Short forms

One of my favorite forms is the Quatrain, pearls in four lines, and I have a small collection of those I consider the best. Here’s my contribution to the style:

It matters not if rich or poor,
This life is quickly through,
So give to friends a little more
Than they can give to you.
--Robert A. Hall

There was an American poet—alas, the name escapes my old brain, but readers may recall—who invented an English form of the Haiku. Instead of being based on syllables, which is very suited to the structure of Japanese, they are based on iambic beats, with one, two, three, four and one beats in the five-lines of the poem. I used to write more of these. One of my constructions is:

The still
Beyond the door
Was more than I could bear
So quietly, I grasped the knob
And turned.
--Robert A. Hall

Thursday, March 5, 2009

In Scotland's Hills

I joined the march at Hogmanay,
Twa ranks o pipers led the way
Fra King’s Hoose on a crystal day
--In Scotland’s hills

We walked to every butt and ben
And shared with folk throughout the glen
Their hospitality again,
--In Scotland’s hills

The laughter filled the sparkling air,
For there was hope and friendship there
To touch the hert, fra folk who care,
--In Scotland’s hills

And then inside a hamely place
The pipers played Amazing Grace
And made the tears run doon my face,
--In Scotland’s hills

This message fra Balquhidder Glen—
The world is not yet at an end,
And there are things we must defend
--In Scotland’s hills

--Robert A. Hall

Sonnet for the Vietnam Dead

They were but boys, whose lives you threw away.
They went because the country asked them to,
And served a cause their leaders would betray—
Thank Christ they never saw that bitter day.

They lived in holes, and slept in soaking rain,
Grew thin, and sick, and weary through and through.
They knew each day the taste of fear and pain,
And never thought that sacrifice was vain.

And when the touch of death had come around,
To valiant lives forever shaming you,
For love of comrades and by honor bound,
They poured their blood like water on the ground.

And we who loved them, we cannot forget—
And won’t forgive—while breath is in us yet.

--Robert A. Hall, Former SSgt, USMC


The days were long, but, oh, the years went fast,
And friends beloved have vanished from the scene.
I earned no honor past the name “Marine,”
And learned from Frost that nothing gold can last.
I laughed and wept and tried to serve the right,
And loved my country more than I loved life,
I thought her freedom always worth the strife,
And duty still the surest guiding light.

The past can charm with cherished memory,
But we are judged by what we do this hour,
For doing now is what gives us our power—
Tomorrow is a dream that may not be.
So go and do and strive and clear the way,
All victory lies in serving well today.

--Robert A. Hall

Family farm

A sharp November wind blew sheets of snow
across the yard and pressed the laden clouds
against the barren fields. He stopped the truck
between the house and barn to wait for word
of what was next. The wife, the one who called,
came out--an afghan wrapped around her head
and shoulders, more for comfort than for warmth.
She nodded toward the barn.

..................................................."I ring the bell
for breakfast, but he won't come. I'm scared to go."
She looked at him and said, "The auction's at noon."

"I'm sure he's fine," he lied. "He's likely just
up getting things together. Tell you what:
I'll go and see what's keeping him, OK?
You go on back in. Get some coffee hot."

She turned, then stopped and looked at him again.
"You know, they can take the farm, I'll get along.
But not that man--"

....................................."I know. I'll let him know.
It's not you. What he's going through is hard."

The barn was dark, so he stood and waited while his
eyes opened. Scents of hay and stock combined
with paint, and he relaxed a bit. "You here?"
He laughed. "This stuff ain't looked as good as this
in a 'coon's age." He waited. "The wife says chow
is on the table." Silence. "Time to call it quits."
He leaned against a post and put his hand
on leather. "I remember when your dad
decided to pass this bridle on to you.
It sure is pretty, but it never made
your pony any faster. You were so proud,
I thought you'd bust. The good old days, eh man?"
He moved toward the hayloft, wondering but
not worried about his friend. Again, he spoke
to the shadows. "Hey, I heard you sold your calves.
That's smart. Them bankers wouldn't know which end
to milk, eh? You and me are getting too old
for farming anyway."

.....................................He stopped and sighed.
He closed his eyes against it, turned and looked
to see if she had seen. The doors hung wide
and gray light pierced the musky tomb, but she
had gone. From there he could see beyond the house,
where lines of headstones bore a single name.
He shut the doors and turned to the boots--so worn,
so laden with mud and manure it made him proud--
and watched them swing in the sharp November wind.

--Russell King