The prison poets of Guantanamo obtained the right to have twenty-two of their poems published, but not before the US government looked for codes and other hidden meanings in their scribbled verse. Robert Pinsky and other famous poets lauded this expression of urgency and free speech, stopping short of any evaluation of esthetics.
Ted Tomes, Professor of creative writing at Redstone College, in Redstone. Vermont applauds the expression of free speech and eveen thinks some of the prison poems are pretty good, 'though too sentimental for my taste." What bothers Tomes is the notion that poetry can be the carrier of hidden meanings, codes, and sub rosa plots to blow up buildings. "I think this approach by the CIA is a disservice to poetry. Teachers of poetry have been trying for at least the last one hundred years to convince students that the reason for reading poetry is not to uncover the hidden meanings but to appreciate the full aesthetic of the work. They have set poetry back a generation.
"I've actually heard fellow instructors suggest there is something unAmerican about poetry if terorists are using it to send messages and sing the praises of the Prophet
"Others have gone so far as to suggest that representatives from the CIA or low-level government functionaries are probably better suited to teaching poetry and getting deep into the text than people like myself.
"The head of the local chapter of the American Legion has suggested there is something inherently dangerous about poetry and perhaps we shouldn't expose young minds to such dangerous content.
"While he stopped short of suggesting book burnings, he did suggest a committee of local citizens should thoroughly vett poems currently being taught, keeping an eye out for antidemocratic sentiments.
"He also suggested that, instead of publishing the poems of terrorists, we should force them to read our poetry, the way we force them to eat food. He thought Kipling's poetry, starting with 'Take Up the White Man's Burden' would give the imprisoned a clear idea of Western culture and the responsibility we feel towards those we have imprisoned in the name of God--our God."
As the saying goes, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." According to a recent ex cathedra promulgation from the Vatican, drivers who display road rage and don't immediately make the sign of the cross, say a Hail Mary or better still the full rosary will, if they can be identified, suffer ex-communication. When asked why the penalty was so severe, Vatican's Abbot Costello said that "too many people are dying on the roads of the world. Moreover, cars are being used for unseemly acts, such as sex in the back seat." When asked if it was a greater sin to have sex in the back seat or display an Italian finger to a bothersome motorist, the Abbot responded that" elicit sex, especially when contraception is involved, is a great sin. I realize a moving violation might seem more serious but, without getting graphic, one understands that movement takes place when the body is in flagrenta. Obviously to be so involved and at the same time driving and offering an offending finger, is a recipe for damnation."
Costello was asked if it was acceptable, according to the recent edict, for motorists to take videos of offending drivers and post in sites like YOUTUBE. Abbot said "such activity is consistent with Catholic doctrine as long as the video-taker does not put his life or others in danger and the posting satisfies all the requirements of the Digital Milennium Copyright Act which the Vatican is party to. Abbot was asked whether it was acceptable, from the point of view of doctrine, to post any videos of people commiting social sins such as picking their nose, playing car radios too loud and practicing religious piety on the New York subway system. He suggested "picking of the nose, as we learned from Freud has more than a faint sexual connotation, so it should be shunned both in public and private. Public disgrace is good tonic in this case. Playing a radio too loud calls for quiet approbation; we should become one with the sinner. And by all means preaching religion on the subway should be encouraged, as long as the doctrine is Catholic and can only be recorded if one is in a state of grace."
And is it acceptable and consistent with Church law for the layity to post photographs and videos on YOUTUBE of clergy who have been convicted of molesting children?
Before disappearing into the bowels of the Vatican Costello responded: "Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone."
The rhumb line crawl up
the Sacramento River started
in the Tonkin Gulf where we
delivered to aircraft carriers
a hull full of 2,000 pound bombs
then we sailed without ballast east
seven thousand miles fueled
by memory and regret
to be awakened again by the fog
horn blasts and rip tides
off Seal Beach, San Francisco.
I took navigation fixes
on the Golden gate, Coit Tower
and the smoke stack on Alcatraz
every thirty seconds to mark
underneath the radar and the pilot's
grainy words to the captain
our ship's progress
that was kind of a one-screw
one-rudder stutter step
leaving a sinuous wake that
stayed within one compass
point until we docked upstream
in Port Chicago.
Forty years later I can hear myself
say "mark" as I look at the familiar
navigation points from Fisherman's Wharf
where the sea lions are perfecting
their bark for the tourists to come
and the bay waters slap against the piers.
I notice on the walking path
a chalk drawing of a body as
you might find at a crime scene.
I was trying to reconcile
murder with such tranquility
until I saw another chalk body
then another and another
with dates and names like
Cortez, Mendoza and Perez
as if they had fallen
in quick succession
as they surely did in Iraq
visible in the early morning
mist to the runners and power
walkers who stop their hearts
just long enough to remember underfoot
even with this fading rage against the war
that Hispanics also bleed.
I am certain
no irony was intended.
The video showed a school
for children blinded in the war
playing a game called
kick the bucket which was
made of aluminum
and otherwise used
to carrry water from the well.
A young girl
wanting to feel the prize
first asked in clear English
am I making contact.
Yes, yes, yes
the teacher said
even before the foot
had completed its arc
and before she could remember
seeing herself in motion.