Saturday, August 09, 2008

Secret Treasure Hidden


Its door opens near. It's a shrine
by the road, it's a flower in the parking lot
of The Pentagon, it says, "Look around,
listen. Feel the air." It interrupts
international telephone lines with a tune.
When traffic lines jam, it gets out
and dances on the bridge. If great people
get distracted by fame they forget
this essential kind of breathing
and they die inside their gold shell.
When caravans cross deserts
It is the secret treasure hidden under the jewels.

Sometimes commanders take us over, and they
try to impose their whole universe,
how to succeed by daily calculation:
I can't eat that bread.

--William Stafford


mjaneb said...

Amen. Try.

Anonymous said...

random tangent...

is there possibly a "david dark's thoughts on the current Olympic situation in China" posting in all of our futures?

mister tumnus said...

yes. 'poetry' and 'god' are interchangable here. maybe always.

i like this stafford person!

Angela Hart said...

Why does your blog always put a smile on my face?

Now to your thoughts on China...

(I, on the other hand, have a few thoughts on Michael Phelps!)

Karen Luttrell said...

How convenient it is to paint all military action with the same brush.

Josh Connor said...

Vanderbilt keeps blocking my emails. So I just put the link up on my blog (

I also put up a link to a speech Solzhenitsyn gave in 1978 at Harvard, that is well worth reading if you haven't seen it before.

One more thing, my cell phone number is on my facebook profile, so if you happen to be in the Winston-Salem area you'll be able to call.


jdaviddark said...

Still have those thoughts on China around the corner.
Thank you, Mister Tumnus, so glad to've had at least a little time to talk.
Karen, my posting of the poem didn't intend to be a statement concerning all military action. Hope I didn't step on a toe. Sorry bout dat if I did.
Josh, will be looking up this JDCONNOR person.

Karen Luttrell said...

David, your post compared the actions of the Chinese military to the actions of the Pentagon, at least that's the way I see it. Correct me if I'm wrong. If you equate the DOD and armed forces of the US government with the militaries of autocratic gov'ts, that's not stepping on toes, it's a slap in the face. The next time you encounter an American servicemember, thank them for protecting your freedom of speech.

jdaviddark said...

Oh, I see. No, I didn't have that particular comparison in mind.
I wouldn't make a direct correlation between my freedom of speech and the well-intentioned guesswork of my Pentagon, but I suspect I'd be willing to give the Buddha bow, a gesture of respect, or a word of prayer on behalf of service-people of all stripes and stars.
Thanks for the comment, and do note (not sure if you saw it) that I responded to your previous one with the quote on Warhol.

Karen Luttrell said...

The Pentagon is the headquarters of the Department of Defense and the US Armed Forces. If not the Armed Forces, then who defends your Constitutional rights? What "guesswork" are you speaking of specifically? I'm not saying that military action shouldn't be critiqued. But your remarks are so vague, I can't tell if you think all military action is wrong or specific policies and actions of the gov't. But this may not be the forum for that, so I understand if you don't respond.

Anonymous said...

I think some of the ideas vouchsafed in the Constitution are bigger than anything the Armed Forces can defend. Hope it's ok to interject that. I'm humbled to think a mother's son or daughter would consider my safety and formally declared freedom worthy of laying down his/her life to defend, but perhaps voting, perusing de Tocqueville, and reaching out to Libya help, too. I don't know if Stafford was at odds with the Armed Forces, but his words remind me of how I felt when I first saw that photo in the newspaper in high school art-breathing, maybe singing, against the boot in the face.

jdaviddark said...

Hurray (I say it with some firmness) for conversation.
Annabanana asserts the subtlety I have in mind. A subtlety lost last night when Senator McCain refers to the voice of an American soldier returning from Iraq as "static" amid the chants of "USA! USA!" which successfully drowned the fellow out. Broadly speaking, "the guesswork" is everybody's, deeply human attempts at resisting evil, responding to it, trying to make history come out right, trying to educate, civilize, control. When I've spoken to students about enlisting, I want them to know that there's more than one way of being (or trying to be) a redemptive agent in human history, more than one way of cultivating a culture that wants to hear everyone out. When I think of this radically catholic culture, I go back to the Buddha and Socrates and Jesus and the Apostle Paul's words on discerning one another's gifts and Giordano Bruno and WIlliam Blake and Thomas Paine and Alice Paul and Dorothy Day and MLK. I also think of the guesswork of the Pentagon but perhaps with a little more emphasis on the tragic. The Pentagon as a principality that knows not what it does exactly.
Two recommendations that seem to me to be connected to this exchange: The book _A Force More Powerful_ (which has a ringing endorsement from Senator McCain) and the conversation between Andrew Bacevich (another Vietnam veteran whose son was killed in Iraq) and Bill Moyers online. Bacevich's new book _The Limits of Power_ I have yet to read...But I think it speaks to the tragic sensibility...human finitude and all that...
Sorry for the long-windedness...I suspect Gospel According to America (for better or worse) might be what I'm trying to say...Bacevich's writing says it all so much better...I hand him the microphone.

Karen Luttrell said...

But why did that young man stand before the tanks? He along with laborers, students and intellectuals assembled to protest the corruption and oppression of their gov't, did they not? For this, they were beaten and killed. Ideas of liberty, democracy and diplomacy existed before the creation of America and I pray will continue into the future. But the strength of the Chinese gov't used force to oppress cries to be heard. The documents that define the ideas and rights we cherish are vulnerable if not defended with strength. Stafford was a conscientious objector, I believe. He disagreed with the policies of elected officials and appointees, and instead of directing his disdain at the Pentagon, he should've have looked across the Potomac. The Armed Forces do not act independently and they carry out the policies of elected officials and appointees. The criticism of the Vietnam War was unfairly leveled against servicemembers. When I hear more subtle attacks against servicemembers to those who oppose the current Middle East situation, it frustrates me that this indistinction still exists. And what of those protesters? Were they hung, beaten? Do you think that is the first instance he has encountered that? He has open townhalls every day. But why the outcry there? Should not equal blame be laid on Democrats who authorized the Iraq war? One who is running for VP. There were many in that room that fought for the right of the voices to be heard. I did not raise this topic to argue a partisan agenda, but I think the original intent of the post is clearer to me, now that is has. I recall in his speech, McCain spoke of individual initiative needed to better our community and our world. Serving in the military is not the only way to cultivate a peaceful world, but if the public knew the good that it does, instead of just what gets reported on cable news. Look at the Mercy and Comfort, fully staffed 400 bed hospital ships that go to developing countries to provide medical aid. Or the the Marines, the first ones sent to deliver supplies to Tsunami victims. The military is not the Peace Corp with guns as Secretary Gates said, but give criticism and praise where it is do.

Karen Luttrell said...

Anna- did you see this?

jdaviddark said...

Thank you for the time you're giving to respond to my responses. I believe I can follow the line of associations triggered, in some fashion, by my posting of a poem about poetry (with the word "Pentagon" in it) and the photograph of the man in front of the tank, but I have yet to see any observations or statements in your posts with which I'm not largely in agreement.
I like Stafford (who's really really really worth looking into) and his poem and I posted the picture (I guess) because it was on my mind in view of the Olympics. And from there, I just put the two next to each other. As one of a long series of vulnerable documents (with more to come), I hope it's proven to be edifying.
p.s. I really do think you'd like that Bacevich/Moyers interview.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, Karen-that's why I made reference to Libya-strange & hopeful. That idea at which you hint, of other ways to cultivate a peaceful world, led my hubby and me to Iraq a few years ago to host a summer camp for Kurdish & Arab children. My brother-in-law was in Iraq, at an Air Force base, at the same time. I trust that each of us was doing his/her part to live peace. The symbol flower in the parking lot of the symbol Pentagon doesn't know where it's blooming, it just blooms. In the same way, I hope the symbol freedom I have (& am thankful for) to speak or write my ideas (a freedom I lacked in China in May, when I couldn't access blogger or BBC news because of censorship) is something I can afford others as they speak or share their ideas (even and especially when I don't agree). The beauty of that brave heart in Beijing was in part stronger (I think) because he didn't wave a banner in front of the tanks or jump up and down or scream. He stood, and when the tanks moved, so did he.

ps-thanks for talking about Rauschenburg earlier. I've been a fan of his work for years but hadn't read much about him personally.

Karen Luttrell said...

David - I read the interview, thanks. I'm not so devoid of insight that I only see a tank and the word - Pentagon. For your purposes, I suppose you wish the observer to ignore the historical context of the poem and picture. I fear you recommended the interview, because you feel me misguided or ignorant about US foreign policy and its relationship to the economy or perhaps you think I just blindly support the Bush Administration and its imperial agenda. I agree that we should honor our troops by living within our means, as Bacevich points out. But, this isn't about politics. My underlining concern is that in the critique of military actions abroad and the economic motives, we don't fall into the same trap of a generation ago and blame the service members. As the poem alone does not threaten this, but taken with the picture, it certainly implies (perhaps unintentionally) a condemnation of military service- the soldier as aggressor. That was my reaction as well as the reaction of my husband, who served in Iraq. But that is one of many perspectives. I look forward to more posts.

jdaviddark said...

Oh shoot.
I'm not sure what to say other than to try to affirm again that I don't see any points of stark disagreement between me and thee. But to speak to your fear, I just thought you might find the Bacevich interview as illuminating and helpful as I did (No silent or implied charges of you being misguided or ignorant or devoid of insight or anything like that...No disrespect or blame intended toward the enlisted...Please try to believe this).
At the risk of further misunderstanding, I'd like to suggest again that William Stafford is worthy of look-see. His conscientious objector status during WWII status isn't/wasn't an anti-service people thing. And at the risk of adding perceived insult to perceived injury, I'll throw in another Stafford poem (which I hasten to add isn't meant to communicate disrespect or blame toward anyone). Just the sound of one man lyricizing and another man blogging:


In line at lunch I cross my fork and spoon
to ward off complicity--the ordered life
our leaders have offered us. Thin as a knife,
our chance to live depends on such a sign
while others talk and The Pentagon from the moon
is bouncing exact commands: "Forget your faith;
be ready for whatever it takes to win: we face
annihilation unless all citizens get in line."

I bow and cross my fork and spoon: somewhere
other citizens more fearfully bow
in a place terrorized by their kind of oppressive state.
Our signs both mean, "You hostages over there
will never be slaughtered by my act." Our vows
cross: never to kill and call it fate.