Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Winter Sky

Gray that speaks
in whispers of
blue and white.

No bird chatters
no dog barks;
fitful semaphore
of branch on window
the only sound.

They may bear
fog, snow,
freezing rain
or cruel wind.

Everything waits.

Manichaean Slide

Which side
are you on,
tell me
which side
are you on?

Faith has
always told me
I am
you are
we are all
children of God.

I will not
be categorized
or defined
by stripe
or view.

It is
I am
you are
we are all
black and white
good and evil
right and wrong.

Duality exists
in the hearts
of those
who do not yet
see color:

I am
you are
we are all
of each other.

And that is
as it should be.

Isn't It Byronic

In my days,
I’ve been called
many things,
among them;

loose cannon,

there's a single word
to express
all that.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Nutbaskets create
the largest ammo shortage
in twenty years;
they think Obama
is comin’ for their guns.

Legions of the brain dead
shy from flu shots
fearing a syringe
full of mind control.

Right wing extremists
systematically eliminate
moderate politics and faith.

Our towns are
endless strip malls, where
Megachurches preach
the gospel of selfishness.

Communities and schools
don’t teach; it infringes upon
our right to be dumbfucks.

Good neighbors are neither
seen nor heard.

Chris Rea said it best:
“This ain’t no upwardly mobile freeway,
oh no, this is the road to hell.”


I was in the solo stall
of the men’s room at work
contemplating natural process
when they walked in.

Two brothers,
perhaps four and nine;
They surrounded the pissoire.

In voices of satisfaction and joy,
I heard this exchange:

“We’re peein’ like men!
Are you peein’ like a man?”

“Yeah, like men!”
(Now singing sweetly)
“We’re manly, manly men
we’re peein’ like men,
manly, manly men!”

“Now it’s time to belch!”
(Several heroic efforts follow)

“Alright, buddy,
that’s enough belching.”

“OK, then it’s time to fart!”
(And the little one does.)

They carefully
washed their hands
and returned together
to the world outside.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Would we know a saint
if we saw one?

Mother Theresa
in the bowels of Calcutta
tired, gray, dressed in rags
doubting her faith;
would we know?

on Mount Verna
in the midst of a
forty day fast;
would we know?

John in the desert,
stinking hair shirt
with locust breath
and crazy eye;
would we clutch
our wallets
and hurry away?

They will be found
in jungle huts
desert wastes
and decimated villages
and have very little to do
with graceful spires
bejeweled halls
or comfortable privilege.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

North Rim Grand Canyon

We worked the lightning strike
overnight and finished it
late the next afternoon;
just before dusk
the next storms began building.

I’ve seen nothing
more violent than
monsoon season
storms over the canyon.

Clouds mount to
dizzying heights and merge;
puffy white goes grey
then black, green,
and purple
bruise tones…

Our pilot is likely
out of flight time and
cannot get us the fuck out.

Wind gusts pick up
brush and small trees
spin them crazily away.
The air is suddenly
forty degrees colder.

Then it goes quiet,
the smell of ozone
charged menace in the air.

Surrounded by walls
of storm cloud
closing in fast
the only light
a shaft of setting sun
from the west.

And from there comes
the faint thrum
of a chopper.
It grows louder;
our ex Vietnam evac pilot
has said to hell with regs
and come for us,
but it will be close.

As the big Bell 214
skitters toward us
the wind comes
from everywhere;
Jeff has removed the doors,
to reduce the wind’s effect.

He hovers a foot off the ground
looking straight ahead,
focused on not crashing.
“Get in, now,”
is all he says
and fourteen of us do.

I wind up in the copilot’s seat
slip on headphones
and look left.
Jeff’s hand relaxes
slightly on the cyclic
and instantly
we are flung airborne.

Looking down and right I see,
lit by that narrow shaft
of sunlight and
surrounded by the storm,
the faces of my cohorts
we left behind.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hopi Country 1981

I had a two hundred dollar
seventy three Toyota Corona
faded pastel yellow
sanded rust spot
and primer grey.

I headed south in April
from Washington State
to Grand Canyon.
Cold giving way grudgingly
to desert warmth around
Kanab, Utah.

I cut east through Glen Canyon
rolled into Page, Arizona
ready for a cold beer.

Time on my hands
I chose southeast over south,
heading toward Canyon De Chelly.

North of Ganado,
a noise from the engine
grew slowly louder;
a little more oil,
a few more beers
took care of that.

West on State Hiway 264
across Kearns Canyon
First and Second Mesas
headed for Tuba City.

Somewhere in the middle
the engine sound swelled
to crescendo; steel shards
in a clothes dryer;
screams of overheated,
under lubricated metal
thrown in for good measure.

Between Hotevilla –Bacavi
and Monekopi, I coasted
to a stop
dead in the water
miles from anywhere
on a road that knew
about one car an hour.

A trucker stopped first
and allowed that he was
a pretty good mechanic.
I turned it over and
he smiled grimly, saying,
“Brother, you’re well and truly fucked.”

Next came a traveling salesman
who didn’t like my ragged look;
he left promising
to call my boss at the south rim,
but never did.

I sat on a sleeping pad
admired the rocks
listened to the wind
smelled sage,
mountain mahogany
and dry soil.
Next to me sat
a bottle of wine
and a .22 pistol.

Pulling the cork
with a knotted shoelace
I took a long pull,
stood, racked the .22 and
channeling Bill Mauldin
covered my eyes
and shot the Toyota twice
in the nose and put her
out of her misery.


Buying or selling
what you are
in the name of
honorable service
is about as low
as one can go.

in fact.
Gotta be deluded
or dumb

The question ain’t
why are some people
so smart;

why are
so many
so dumb?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vis Major

It’s evening, we’re alone,
the kid’s at work
critters outside

I sneak to her place
on the couch
snatch a kiss

She smiles.
I stroke a hip and
another kiss
then a gentle caress
of her cheek.

That’s when
she pulls back,
nose wrinkled
and says,
you’ve got onion hand!”

Three hours in the shop
a shower and
a hot tub and
they still reek.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I Dreamed

I went back in time
and saw
the Grateful Dead play
in Boston
thirty years ago.

I was surprised that
they didn’t see
my modern ticket and money
and wonder aloud.

I sat on the floor
and watched.

Garcia played a guitar
with sympathetic strings.

His fingers moved with
subtle shifts and pressures
and made the music happen.

He asked me
to hang with them
smoke some hash
and party.

I am not sure
what it all meant
other than that
I was raised
in the 60s.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Letter To My Younger Self

Dear Eben;
it’s me,
you in thirty years.

I am sure you’re wondering
why the note:
Fact is,
I’m just feeling old and grumpy.

Now, I ain’t gonna make you rich
or save you from heartache.

That said,
I am gonna tell you
some important things,
so pay attention:

You do not know everything.

It is not all about you.

You’re wrong about faith.

Love is a two way street.

And last but not least,
being a good person
is the most important thing
you can ever do.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Hale's Passage

Boat and paddle
tucked under an arm,
I walk down the beach.
Many years before
theirs were skin and bone
mine is fiberglass.

Dusk settles, storm rises;
strong south wind meets
strong north tide;
the half mile of ocean
between beach and island
is whitewater;
windblown froth off
stacked wave tops.

Sealed in
I slip into the fray.
Ferrying out,
mistimed moves spill me;
I roll upright and
shake like a dog.

I hurl downstream
in an aqueous world,
impossible to tell where
ocean ends and air begins.

Only when I turn back
toward the beach
do I see
I have not moved at all.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Dog Fight

On August 7th, 1942,
Pug Sutherland and
Saburo Sakai met
in the sky over Guadalcanal.

Sakai and his cadre
escorted bombers tasked with
attacking the U.S. naval invasion;
Sutherland and his fighter squad
were defending.

Having downed the
lead bomber, Sutherland was
attacked by three Zeroes.

Sakai came upon this scene and
was astounded by the grace of
a single Wildcat fighter
fending off three zeroes.

But, since two of those were
his young wingmen,
he waded in.

They fought long and hard
Sutherland’s Wildcat absorbing
incredible damage;
back and forth they dueled
broad axe against rapier

Sakai closed in for the kill, but
Pug hit the breaks and
Sakai slid by into
Sutherland’s sights.

He did not fire;
His guns were jammed by
a cannon round from
the bomber he
had shot down.

Sakai regained the six
saw that his foe was
badly wounded, but
Samurai duty prevailed.

As Pug pulled into a climb
Sakai shot him down.

Sutherland bailed out and
endured a day of greater terror on
the enemy held island but
was finally rescued.

Sakai went after more enemies and
found too many; a tail gunner on
a dive bomber shot him
through the head.

Half blind and delirious he
heard his mother’s voice
telling him which way to fly;
Five hundred miles later he
landed safely on Rabaul.

Both recovered and
returned to combat, but
they never met again.

Pug was killed in a
training accident in 1949 off
the Florida coast.

Sakai never flew again.
He renounced violence and
opened a print shop.

He went to America and
met his former foes including
the tail gunner who shot him.

Of the conflict, he asked
"Who gave the orders for
that stupid war?"

After a U.S. Navy formal dinner
given in his honor,
he died at 84.

Just before his death he
said "I pray every day for the souls of
my enemies as well as my comrades,"

Copyrighted © 2009 Eben M. Atwater - All Rights Reserved