thoughts, poems, stories
A you walk Mt Pleasant avenue
turn at the gate to the cemetery.
Stop at the grave marker for Lowe.
This has become a habit for me as I have become more aware of the ramifications of the first world war. At times I might salute at other times I simply contemplate:
How engaging and strong must have been the connections that drove men (some,very young indeed) to travel thousands of miles and endure utterly horrid conditions to preserve way of existence that they had come to know as living. I suppose that this could be said of any war.
St John's Cathedral, 2007,
acrylic/ canvas 30 x 48
But Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs,
and even from these dead doubts
she gathers her most vital hope.
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
A HOMETOWN PARADE , ed touchette,
Whistles blast, marchers align
the drum major pumps his mace.
Snares rattle, bugles blare.
Vendors hawk balloons
Cheerleaders cheer, horses prance.
marching bands play el Capitan,
crowded sidewalks dance
to patriotic songs.
Flat bed trucks haul local stories
draped in crepe paper ribbons,
Kleenex Carnations, and waving
county fair queens.
Sirens whine and children scream,
batons tumble through the air.
At the cemetery
a field of flags sprouts.
Honors for the fallen. Crowds disperse
with handshakes, hugs and see-you-laters.
They’ll meet at the bar
reminisce older times,
ask themselves, when will I be
among the remembered.
Some time in the 1950s, I asked why the tanks were absent from the parade,
my father said their treads tore up the pavement so they were dismissed.
I told him I missed the tanks.
My friends, refugees from Budapest, did not.
Mixed media/ paper
20 x 24
STONES , ed touchette
All rise when Odin reigns
lifts the chosen
to cross the river.
The Valkyrie’s selected comply.
Dust in the wind,
staved by bullets,
bombs, and cold.
Collect at the gates
of the streets of death.
For honor and thanks,
and the glory of kings.
Assuage ancient ghosts,
Revolt like the angels,
roll the dice for peace and
tranquility. Embrace humility.
So great has been the interest in the purely military side of the struggle
that one is apt to forget that the war is worth study as the supreme occupation
of many great nations, whose every energy, physical, moral,
and economic, has been put to its service, and relentlessly tested in its fiery furnace.
Henry Beston, A Volunteer Poilu
A future historian may find the war more interesting,
when considered as the supreme achievement
of the industrial civilization of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,
than as a mere vortex in the age-old ocean of European political strife.
Henry Beston, A Volunteer Poilu
Often I think of the beautiful town
That is seated by the sea;
Often in thought go up and down
The pleasant streets of that dear old town,
And my youth comes back to me.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, My Lost Youth
VETERANS’ DAY, ed touchette
I walk Mt. Pleasant Avenue,
detour through the grave yard
reset broken flags at Veterans’ graves.
Read stories etched in stone
worn, weathered, audible
The dead cry out to guide.
What is done, accomplished,
set in stone we find history.
Hear the stories, our stories
Who we were, are, and will be,
where we went and why.
Carved, etched, worn flat
by wind and water,
draped in lichen.
Stones record journeys,
of men rent asunder
by the thunder of war,
of lives that gave meaning
to a path forward.
Like Gilgamesh they ventured
left others to carve their stories.
Some ended abruptly.
with bullets, bombs, and disease
Born Rockport, Massachusetts, August 1894,
Died October 4, 1918,
Grave marker, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Gloucester, MA.
Killed in action near Breuilles, France.
The very day the Kaiser telegraphed Wilson seeking peace.
38 days before the Armistice to end the war to end all wars.
On October 4, 1896, John Henry Pruitt, USMC born, little Rock, AR.
On October 3, 1918 John Henry Pruitt was wounded
capturing 40 German soldiers and destroying
2 machine guns in the Grand Offensive
On his birthday, 1918, John Henry Pruitt died from wounds
inflicted the day before the Kaiser telegraphed Wilson seeking peace.
38 days before the Armistice to end the war to end all wars
John Henry Pruitt received 2 Posthumous Medals of Honor.
Arlington National Cemetery Records
He is dead, the beautiful youth,
The heart of honor, the tongue of truth
He the light of us all,
Whose voice blithe as a bugle call,
Whom eyes followed with one consent,
The cheer of whose laugh, and whose pleasant word,
Hushed all murmurs of discontent.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Killed at the Ford.
On Webster Street and Davis Street
two granite blocks with brass plaques
Died July 3 1918
Joseph Mattos Jr.
born Gloucester,Ma. October 4, 1899
Joseph Mattos Jr. was killed in action in France, October 5, 1918
The very day after the Kaiser telegraphed Wilson seeking peace.
37 days before the Armistice to end the war to end all wars.
....a boy about nineteen had been hit in the chest and half his side was gone—
...he raised his sad tired eyes to mine and tried a brave smile.
... All the poor fellows look at us with the same expression
of appreciation and thanks;
Leslie Buswell, Ambulance No. 10
OXY-MORONIC, ed touchette
These wars for peace,
these civil wars,
religious crusades, and
wars to free the enslaved
that incur such debt as to
indenture the future.
Some leaders boast a direct line to God
Declaim justice and freedom
at the hands of sword or cannon.
young ones fall never to rise.
The mind of man is convoluted.
November 4, 1918—
Poet Wilfred Owen (Dolce Decorum Est)
killed in action in France
7 Days before the
Armistice to End the War to End All Wars was signed.
November 5, 1918—
One year to the day after being commissioned,
Lt. Samuel P. Mandell was shot down. He survived
the crash of his airplane but was
executed by a German soldier.
6 Days before the
Armistice to End the War to End All Wars was signed.
November 11, 1918—
The Day the
Armistice to End the War to End All Wars was signed,
Bells rang out in celebration.
Wilfred Owen’s parents were notified of his death.
Fleeing the potato famine,
Irish immigrants flooded
into the United States 1845 – 1850
They fought in the Civil War
with both Confederate and Union Forces
FLASH, ed touchette
Dust in the wind.
Remembrance their only oxygen.
Insufflated by monuments,
parades, and speeches.
Wars that cleanse.
Bloody and dirty.
Not all come home to welcome.
Not all come home.
Immigrants purchase a place in line
Join the fight for good.
Believe for what they stood.
Some return to what they’d left.
The labor welding the rods.
The backs lifting the loads
dreaming of better for those
they’ve mothered and fathered.
“We were conquered because we failed to understand that Victory is a Spirit, and it is in ourselves alone that we must attack and destroy Ialdabaoth.”
Anatole France, published The Revolt of the Angels in 1914.
Perhaps he had seen Madame Mira
AFTER READING GEORGE WILL, ed touchette
The self-inflated soar
high, on self engendered thermals.
tethered by belief,
stopping by to eye day lilies—
short-lived but glorious,
laboring for all of us,
more than I for me.
Their passion begets life.
Dicks and Henrys
Traitors, cowards, thieves, and liars.
Unpatriotic. Denounced by
these holy men,
these priests of war.
who battle spirits,
ghosts, and fears.
while they ascended.
Ends through means
blessed by legacy
leaving their refuse for others
to gather and reassemble.
At Gettysburg, on Little Round Top,
the air chills on a very warm day.
At Cemetery Ridge, a pall coats the field.
Methinks that what they call
my shadow here on earth
is my true substance.
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
In closing, Satan muses that the real battle is not external, but internal to every man, demon and seraph. We must overcome our own jealousy, fear, superstition and ignorance, and cultivate wisdom, compassion, curiosity, and the love of arts and beauty instead.
October 4, 1957
The Russians launched Sputnik
into Earth orbit, fueling the fires of The Cold War.
39 years from the very day the Kaiser telegraphed Wilson seeking peace.
39 years and 38 days after the Armistice to end the war to end all wars.
Monuments, ed touchette
Some monuments wreak
of efforts to exorcise ghosts.
We are here
of the Earth.
Take care children,
your dreams of peace
may wilt and melt
in the heat of
sons and daughters,
the get of aristocracy.
Mothers don’t raise your children
to die in wars in foreign lands.
to drown in creeks and swamps,
to hang from trees.
Mothers raise your sons and daughters
to grace the world.
During the War of 1812,
New England states considered secession.
Peace with England would end a blockade
that was infringing on trade.
1860, at the party convention in Charleston, SC
W. L. Yancy, one of the ‘fire eaters’
endeavored to split the Democratic Party
and secure secession for Southern States.
To preserve the way of living,
slavery was necessary.
THE DEAD , ed touchette
Shaw’s men on Beacon Hill,
Still we wait: For North to
recognize the South
for whites to
for all to recognize the
people here before
the Italian sailed for
Isabella, Queen of Spain.
Today is magnificent
tomorrow awaits with
From Mary Chestnut’s Diary:
Leaving Montgomery, Alabama with companions.
Mr. Browne was horrified when a man was shot in the street.
“It is war fever. Soldiers must be fierce.
It is the right temper for the times cropping out.”
WORK, ed touchette
Extrapolation requires thought,
thought requires effort,
effort is work.
WORDS TO LIVE BY, ed touchette
Beware the vanity.
Embrace the sanity.
Madame Sosostris, renowned clairvoyant,
did not foresee the implications of
the patent clerk’s calculations.
©2020 , ed touchette
Other work credits to author indicated in the copy ______________________________
The foresight of man is short, and his prudence is for ever being baffled.
The blows of fate are ineluctable no man shall evade his doom.
There is no counsel no caution that avails against destiny.
Hapless as we are, the same blind force which regulates
the courses of atom and star fashions universal
order from our vicissitudes . Our ill fortune is necessary
for the harmony of the universe.
Anatole France, Revolt of the Angels
WATERS OF THE LETHE, ed touchette
An Ode to Charlottesville
We stood beneath the lintel
Where vistas are boundless.
But crossing to Elysium,
We stopped to quench our thirst.
Blinded by the light and freedom
We anointed others to our rightful place,
To divine with sprigs of oak and hick’ry,
Talk through cans attached with string.
Save the statues
Fly the flags
To remark the horrors.
The waters of the Lethe prompt serial delusion.
©2020 Ed Touchette
* * * *
Harry Crosby, a graduate of Harvard, and Richard Hall, a graduate of Dartmouth, enlisted in the AFS and drove ambulances. Both succumbed to war injuries— Hall instantly when a stray German shell landed close to his vehicle.
Crosby died from a self inflicted gun shot in 1929.
It was believed he never recovered
from his near death experience
when an artillery shell exploded
just yards from his ambulance.
He was the lone survivor.
The Guns of August Barbara Tuchman
The Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Coming Fury—Bruce Catton
A Diary from Dixie—Mary Boykin Chestnut
The Revolt of the Angels—Anatole France
Still Looking—John Updike
Moby Dick—Herman Melville
For the Union Dead—Robert Lowell
Ambulance No. 10—Leslie Buswell
Black Sun—Geoffrey Wolff
Op Eds, New York Times,
Washington Post—George Will
America's Longest War—George C Herring
The Armies of the Night— Norman Mailer
A Volunteer Poilu— Henry Beston