Have you ever had a moment of time, frozen in your memory like a photograph? When faced with two choices, you made a split second decision….and your life forever changed. Maybe if you would have left the house minutes later, everything would be different.
Vietnam Sky is a soft cry for freedom, a fictional poem of remorse and redemption. Freedom from the guilt that follows decisions. Freedom from the vibration of repetitive thoughts that echo like thunder on a stormy night. Freedom to start life anew in the aftermath of tragedy.
The poem is about a man in the Navy who flies a Navy Skyhawk in formation with two friends, Joey and Mac. They have a mission to carry through…bombing bridges along the shoreline of the South China Sea. When the enemy attacks with surface to air missiles, the three comrades suffer different fates.
If only we had one chance to in life to do things differently. One pass, where we could return to a photograph in our own minds and somehow change the result. But we can’t. Life isn’t like that. We are stuck with the consequences and forced to live the day to repercussions of the sometimes cruel combination of choice and chance.
T’was many years ago In a warzone by the sea Three pilots in formation flew: Mac, Joey, and me
The Vietnam Sky was painted In hues of orange and grey; The scent of smoke and sea water Infused the summer day
Three Navy Skyhawks ascended, We climbed through rival haze; Then dove a daring plunge Through a trail of heaven’s rays
An enemy plane perched and preyed Near the warzone by the sea; Missiles aimed at rising aircrafts Flown by Mac, Joey, and Me
My path diverged to higher sky; I hid in the clouds from harm; The tender grace of Angels Embraced my plane inside their arms
My brothers bravely bolted From the surface to air attack; Smoke and metal filled the cockpits, Igniting the planes of Joey and Mac
The salty water swallowed Two soldiers that summer day; Angels lowered me to the shorelines Where I stopped to weep and pray
Spirits embalmed the air crafts, Submerged in the brine of death; Pulse by pulse, Joey and Mac, Exhaled their closing breaths
Many nights I softly dream I return to the South China Sea, Greeted by phantom pilot planes And we will forever fly as three
“Savor this sunset, folks, it may be the last one we ever see.”
Tom stood in a crowd of strangers at the summit of the bluff overlooking the burning city. The old lumber town buildings stood, shoulder to shoulder. It was as if God poured a bucket of water on the burning city, as the streams of smoke slithered through the amber rays to the darkening sky.
Legs dangling, he sat on the bluff and thought of all the times he felt lost. A passionless soul bore no purpose. If only, he could think of a motive to live. But now that he was looking the burning face of death straight on, he was just not sure if he had the fight inside him.
A wrinkled man with a shaky voice limped towards him, cane in hand, and sat next to him. The two sat together, eyes steadily gazing at the sun setting in the western sky. The sun cast its closing rays upon the clouds, turning them to crimson red, deep purple, and pale orange. Soon, the sunset would be just a memory.
“I’m going back towards the city,” Tom announced.
“To the city? There is no city,” the old man warned with angry eyes.
“Well, I’m not going to die today. Not until I find my purpose.”
Tom secured his backpack slid down the hillside, dodging embers along the way. When he reached the bottom of the hill, his boots began to shake as the ground beneath him vibrated. The shattering screams of a train came closer and closer, then it slowed down. When the smoke cleared, he found himself nose to nose with a train.
He boarded the train and took a seat on a sofa next to the window. Quickly picking up momentum, the train jerked and lurched forward. Like a reel of old film, he watched as the train glided through the darkening forest. Ash white leaves flew off the trees and fell to dust. The bare branches knocked softly upon the window.
A familiar ache filled his chest, as if he was beginning to breathe in more air than his lungs had capacity for. Panicked, he ran through every car: baggage, dining, cargo, passengers.
The train slowed from a rattle to a rumble, followed by a screeching sound of brakes as it rolled into the station.
The steel door was heavy and rusted shut. Frantically, he kicked it out then ran through the foggy station, searching for signs of life.
Then, he turned his gaze towards the front of the train. The engineer waved and smiled gently. As Tom slowly approached him, he recognized his wrinkly hand upon the lever. It was the old man from on top of the bluff.
* * *
The next morning, the amber sun lit up the city. Businessmen walked with their briefcases, store owners turned their signs to open, and cars drove over the steel bridge on their commute to work.
Everyone in town was talking about the homeless poet who died in the coffee house fire the night before. Nobody knew his name. All he had in his battered backpack was a charred journal. On the last page, he left the words…
The road, the wide-open road
Is my chosen home
The stretching, endless ribbon of black
Is the path in which I roam
If I am lost, do not worry
I have not ventured far
I am seeking all the matters
Under the light of the falling stars
God gave me a compass
When I lost my way
He asked me to find my purpose
So, I wrote this poem today
When evening is upon you,
Remember my closing plea
Savor the sunset, folks,
It may be the last you’ll ever see
When I was young, I lived in the country. It was a place where gravel roads led to narrow trails that merged into rolling open wheat fields that stretched for miles.
At fourteen, with an inquisitive mind, I was walking part of the woods I had ventured many times before. While walking a narrow trail through the field, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Yellow sun rays hit a broken window on an abandoned building I hadn’t noticed before.
As I approached closer, I realized the faded, decrepit, white building was once a church. The building lay dormant, rotting boards upon the ground, and broken glass intermixed with wild flowers and golden rods. It was beautiful in all it’s brokenness. I can’t help but wonder how many times I may have passed it on my adventures in the woods, stuck in other thoughts.
In Search of the Color Yellow is a poem I wrote many years ago. When I think about what in represents, I think about all the things I have searched for in life: happiness, love, faith, dreams. I sometimes hate thinking about the amount of time wasted looking for “something out there.” If I had just opened my eyes and looked, I had passed something beautiful a hundred times before without noticing.
Life is about perspective and finding the happiness that lies under our feet. The pursuit of a better life often leads to a grand mirage and disappointment. Everything we need is already here. Love your family, with all it’s imperfections. Love your home, with all it’s brokenness. Love yourself, you are good enough the way you are. Stop searching, you have everything that matters.
As a writer, I am drawn to writing stories and poetry about abandoned structures and architecture. Have you ever passed a wheat field on a walk and photographed the remnants of a burned down building? Have you ever walked down a rusty railroad track that leads to nowhere? Have you ever seen a beach house, wind torn with water-soaked boards washed upon the rocky shoreline? Perhaps I am drawn to abandoned structures because of the intrigue of their unknown stories.
Or perhaps, more deeply, abandoned structures are metaphors of life. How many times have we tirelessly built something beautiful…only for it to be washed away unexpectedly from circumstances beyond our control. We build beautiful families, marriages, dreams, hopes, plans….only for life’s hurricanes to come in an wash away all the work we put into what we thought was important. And we are forced to sit in the wreckage …and reassess. Do we build again or just find beauty in what remains?
Six Flags abandoned theme park in New Orleans, Louisiana closed since Hurricane Katrina struck the state in August 2005. Despite various plans to redevelop the site, it is still an abandoned amusement park. The rising waters rusted the roller coasters, graffiti covers the ticket booths, and the Ferris Wheel stands immobilized, despite the rickety movements of the carriages when the wind blows. When the summer moon illuminates the rides, the ghost coaster jutters and jerks down the rusted tracks. Then the carts of the tilter whirl begin squealing and circling, picking up momentum. The faint smell of popcorn and cotton candy fill the salty seawater air.
I often find myself trying to find beauty in the wreckage of what follows life’s tragedies.
According to Wikipedia, portals in literature or fiction, are doorways that connect two locations, dimensions, or points in time.
Perhaps one of the most famous literary portals can be found in Lewis Carol’s “Alice in Wonderland.” A girl falls through a rabbit hole, where she encounters peculiar creatures.
As a writer, when I close out the rest of the world, I am essentially walking through a portal into the fantasy world in which I have created.
If you could go anywhere….where would you travel to? Below is an excerpt from a poem I wrote entitled, “The Tourists.” It captures my fantasy of travel and escape. I often daydream of all the places I could go to if I only had a portal…..
Excerpt from “The Tourists”
Meet me in a cliff side village in Athens, Greece
Nibbling on green olives, bread, and feta cheese
Let us slowly drink white wine from a king-sized chalice
Let us explore as lost tourists through a Grecian Palace
Meet me on a city park bench in Tokyo, Japan Holding butterfly parasols of yellow and tan Let us drink from golden tea cups, a sweet berry wine Let us wander through jeweled shrines and temples divine
Meet me in a feudal castle in London, England Nestled in the dense woods, seven towers proudly stand Let us drink from green goblets, a royal red Champaign Let us explore mysteries the fortress walls contain
Meet me in Boothbay Harbor, off the Gulf of Maine While sitting on a fishing pier, clouds of lurking rain Let us eat lobster and drink amber bottles of beer Let us watch the diving seagulls ascend then draw near
Thank you to everyone who took the time to read this blog! I appreciate you….