David Madgalene says: “I was proud to publish Fred Norman in the anthology, ‘World of Change’ and I’m also proud, gratefully proud, of course, that Fred will be presenting at the 10th Annual New Way Media Fest at the BFUU Saturday April 5, 2014(see below for more details). But let’s let Fred speak for himself!”
Fred Norman writes:
A Hill of Poems
I began this year by publishing a chapbook of poems that I write for, and read at, the Crosses of Lafayette in Lafayette, California. The Crosses of Lafayette is a protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a memorial to the American Military that have died there. It began as a few white markers for the dead and grew into a hillside covered with thousands of white markers, and it will continue to grow as America continues its wars.
We have two Vigils each year at the Crosses. In 2007 I began to write poems for each Vigil, and this book contains these poems. Thirteen Vigils, 13 poems: hence, the book is small; unfortunately, the book is growing.
Our Vigils are on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Please try to attend one. It may save a life.
Each night I ask myself
what did I do today
to end the wars?
If I answer back with
then the dead that day
I beg of them forgiveness.
Listen, You Can See
(How William Carlos Williams
Might Explain America’s Wars)
a little child in a little wagon
— a hiss —
listen, you can hear it,
you can see the little wagon
overflow with red.
a father bends
— to kiss —
a bundle wrapped in white.
so much depends
on yesterday and today.
Once Upon A Time:
At the Crosses of Lafayette,
Memorial Day, 2011
One day a little girl in class approached her teacher
and whispered as if a secret, “Teacher, what was war?”
Her teacher sighed, replied, “I will tell to you
a fairy tale, but I must warn you first that it is not
a tale you will understand; it is a tale for adults —
they are the question, you are the answer — Once...”
She said, once upon a time...
there was a country that was always at war
— every hour of every day of every year —
it glorified war and ignored those who died,
it created its enemies and slaughtered and lied,
it tortured and murdered and butchered and cried
to the world of security needs, of freedom and peace
that hid well the greed that makes profits increase.
Fiction and fantasy, of course, but imagine it if you can,
and imagine also the inhabitants of that fictional land,
those who laughed and partied and were warm and well fed,
who married their sweethearts and had children who led
lives of the free in homes of the brave filled with twitters
and tweets and occasional bleats of happy talk critters,
the entire family all playing the roles of fairy tale clever,
a real make-believe land in which nobody ever, never
once in any single day, made any effort to end the wars
that made their country the country that was always at war.
Imagine also the enemy, those who were bombed
and droned, dragged into the streets and shot, those
whose families were destroyed, the sons who watched
their fathers killed, the daughters who saw their mothers
violated, the parents who sank to the ground as their
children’s lives soaked the soil on which they kneeled,
those who would forever be the enemy of the country
that was always at war, those who would forever hate
the country that was always at war, and hate its people.
And so the world split apart: one half bathed in happy
lies, one half drenched in blood; both halves often one,
indistinguishable to the dead, indifferent to the maimed,
one gigantic world of misery, of IED’s, of arms and legs,
coffins and funerals, of men in tears, of women in black,
of gold stars, blue stars, stars and stripes, of black and red,
the colors of the anarchist, of green and bands of white,
the hated and the hate, the feared and the fear, the horror.
She said, once upon a time...
or words to that effect, adult words for adult ears,
and the child said, “Teacher, I do not understand,”
and the teacher said, “I know and I am pleased. I
shall take you to a hill that reflects the sun by day
and glows at night in moonlight. It is always shining.
It is alive. On it 6,000 stars are twinkling, 6,000
memories, 6,000 reasons that the wars you do not
understand are wars that we shall never have again,
for in this fairy tale, one day the people woke,
the people spoke, and the country that had always
been at war was now at peace, and the enemy, not
necessarily friend, was no longer enemy, and little
children did not understand, and the world rejoiced,”
to which the child begged, “Take me to this hill.
I wish to walk among the stars and play with them
Once upon a time — a fairy tale,
a teacher’s dream, a writer’s vow
to children all — we cannot fail
that little girl — the time is now.
© Fred Norman, Pleasanton, CA
Fred Norman was born in 1936 in Troy, NY, and grew up in the dense forests and dark lakes of the Adirondack Mountains. After high school he joined the Marines in 1955 and the Air Force in 1960, serving for a total of 10 years. In 1965 he went to college and earned a BA in Chinese Studies from San Francisco State University and an MA in Writing from the University of San Francisco.
He then drifted through a series of unremarkable jobs while a desire to write grew in him, swelled, and finally burst after he retired in 1996. More of a dreamer than a doer, however, and lacking a goal, a focus, with a few minor exceptions his dreams were mostly mirage.
Iraq and Afghanistan changed all that. Appalled by America’s illegal and immoral War on Terror, he found his goal, his focus. He now writes almost exclusively on antiwar themes, and he hopes that someday he will write the words that will help bring peace and restore morality to America and Americans.
He now lives in Pleasanton, California. He writes. He may leave Pleasanton but he will always write.