Poets bombing other poets….
I do my best writing when I’m at work. This is something I probably shouldn’t cop to, but there it is. It certainly must go back to Catholic school and the desire to get away with things that were otherwise discouraged. Since I got back from Berlin, it was hard to focus for the first 2 weeks, but today it’s better. I’m in a more settled category now, as I’ve been subsumed straight back into the high octane world of startup engineering. My employer is back to hailing me in the middle of the night for things and I’m back to stealing an hour or two a day for poetry from my employer.
I’ve quit drinking for the moment. It’s an odd experience. I have so much time now…but I’m putting loads of pressure on myself about how to USE that time that I’m getting nothing done. It’s almost like I can’t function with too much unstructured vastness of hours and minutes piling up. I begin to fret about chores or paperwork or something equally mundane and unimportant to the larger tasks at hand. Or I experience sadness, depression, joy, boredom, ennui with no way to stem the intensity of said emotions. It doesn’t matter really.
Anyway, today I was thinking about the fact that Richard Hugo once bombed the village where Charles Simic lived. And about their meeting in San Francisco to discuss it. I think this might be the only example we have of a poet bombing another poet. It’s not one of Hugo’s best poems, but here it is. Taken from this fascinating account of the actual meeting as posted here:
Letter to Simic from Boulder
Dear Charles: And so we meet once in San Francisco and I learn
I bombed you long ago in Belgrade when you were five.
I remember. We were after a bridge on the Danube
hoping to cut the German armies off as they fled north
from Greece. We missed. Not unusual, considering I
was one of the bombardiers. I couldn’t hit my ass if
I sat on the Norden or rode a bomb down singing
The Star Spangled Banner. I remember Belgrade opened
like a rose when we came in. Not much flak. I didn’t know
about the daily hangings, the 80,000 Slavs who dangled
from German ropes in the city, lessons to the rest.
I was interested mainly in staying alive, that moment
the plane jumped free from the weight of bombs and we went home.
What did you speak then? Serb, I suppose. And what did your mind
do with the terrible howl of bombs? What is Serb for “fear”?
It must be the same as in English, one long primitive wail
of dying children, one child fixed forever in dead stare.
I don’t apologize for the war, or what I was. I was
willingly confused by the times. I think I even believed
in heroics (for others, not for me). I believed the necessity
of that suffering world, hoping it would learn not to do
it again. But I was young. The world never learns. History
has a way of making the past palatable, the dead
a dream. Dear Charles, I’m glad you avoided the bombs, that you
live with us now and write poems. I must tell you though,
I felt funny that day in San Francisco. I kept saying
to myself, he was on the ground that day, the sky
eerie mustard and our engines roaring everything
out of the way. And the world comes clean in moments
like that for survivors. The world comes clean as clouds
in summer, the pure puffed white, soft birds careening
in and out, our lives with a chance to drift on slow
over the world, our bomb bays empty, the target forgotten,
the enemy ignored. Nice to meet you finally after
all the mindless hate. Next time, if you want to be sure
you survive, sit on the bridge I’m trying to hit and wave.
I’m coming in on course but nervous and my cross hairs flutter.
Wherever you are on earth, you are safe. I’m aiming but
my bombs are candy and I’ve lost the lead plane. Your friend, Dick.