I spent the years 1978 to 1980 on the island of Guam in the Western Pacific. Those were wonderful years that gave me an appreciation for the unique culture of the Guamanian people and exposed me to a lifestyle steeped in tradition--a slow-paced existence where Taotaomonas (spirits of the woods) peacefully coexisted alongside the most modern of shopping malls in native minds; where extravagant fiestas took place every Sunday somewhere on the island, featuring fruitbat (an island favorite), along with every imaginable fish, beef and pork dish. I will always remember the extraordinary friendship, kindness and generosity of the Guamanian people.
The poems that follow were all written on Guam, but they should not be considered finished. Indeed, almost every one, even after all these years, is still a work in progress.
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|Who Were You?|
|The Night Sky|
|Of Joy and Sorrow|
When e'er I put a poem to ink,
I worry what some sage may think:
"Does this line miss?"
"Is that line right?"
"May I do this?"
"Is that line trite?"
After much concern, I find
That I must ever bear in mind
I am the master, not the slave;
These words and phrases must behave;
I create, arrange, array,
And, much as potters mold the clay,
I shape these lines to make them say
what must be said.
So there, you sages! Realize
That as you start to criticize,
I challenge you my words to hold,
To wheel them closer to the mold
to make them tell my story!
Could you do as well?
27 June 1979
What kind of man is this--
Who steals egg-blue
from robins' beds;
Who takes from roses
pinks and reds;
Who bargains with the sun
Who boldly wrests from Autumn
burnt sienna, burnished browns,
To give them back again, reshaped,
As portraits in a world of sounds?
24 June 1979
God give me clue to what is real,
And give me heart that I may feel;
Let me know the fear of night,
That I may better love the light;
Grant me strength through all my years,
To weather storms that bring me tears,
And still find room when cup is full,
To aid another in his pull;
May I find words I need to say
To help a foundering spirit stay,
And help me, please, to ever bring
A cheerful, joyful song to sing.
09 May 1979
You call me dreamer;
Of all my names, this one I can't deny,
Because it's what I am.
I dream because I must...
And dreams are free.
No man charges me,
Or tells me what I may or may not dream;
I regulate this need,
And find my pleasure where I wish--
On tall-mast'd ships,
On distant planets closer to the stars.
See moonlight on a favorite pond? I do,
And cricket sounds I hear,
And smell the pines,
Though here I sit
so many miles away.
My money you may take;
Home comforts you may have,
But not my dreams...
For dreams are sacred threads
that bind together my life's fabric.
When I am too old to dream,
I will no longer feel the need to live.
07 February 1980
Someday my words will sing.
Their tired imagery and jaded form I'll take away,
And I'll dress them in the feel of nascent Spring.
Humblest words I'll use to fashion harmonies
Unlike those gone before--
To stay a rainbow's softness or lay transfixed
The shimmer of first dawn.
My symphony will span the limits
of my time, and more;
Its substance from my peoples' past will rise,
And through my measured words reach out
To generations yet unborn
to sign their songs...
23 January 1980
I oft compare my life to sailing,
With disabled rudder trailing,
On a course preset and strange,
Borne upon a sea of change.
Currents whisk me to and fro
Through countless eddies' ebb and flow;
Each day finds me different still
And force of will is powerless
to make time stay,
Or help me, for a time, delay
20 June 1979
Who Were You?
So quickly comes the morrow
Was yesterday as real as we imagine,
or, perhaps, a product of our slumbering the night before?
Vaporous impressions dissipate on scrutiny,
Recording of a birth or death date ill-suffices...
Does not quench a generation's thirst
for substance,gives no hint
of warmth and feeling in a soul
who lived and breathed as we.
To live, yet leave no record of one's life,
deprives the future of its past...
Is tantamount to storing precious liquid
in a sieve.
25 June 1979
To watch a poem grow is joy.
Such ecstasy to see it turn
and shape itself
From almost random words
To watch it model each new shape,
new turn of phrase,
And grow--evolve--until it feels alive!
And if, perchance, it captures
some small truth--the tempered
word, the lilting phrase--
That flitting butterfly remains,
locked in ambered line.
14 January 1980
The Night Sky
As a child, I gazed into the night sky,
My mind as full of query as the sky
And stood in awe of all that lighted
splendor above me.
As a young man, I blindly explained
it all away with my logic and my fact;
I saw bodies of great girth, their well-regulated paths
set and governed by unyielding universal law;
I saw the vastness of a predictable universe,
And explained it all with my logic and my fact,
feeling my Science to possess the key.
Now, I see the same night sky,
but through older eyes...
Eyes that see the order and the logic still,
but through the soul--
Eyes that now see stars as small tears
in that aged black curtain
Through which shines light from eternity's
20 June 1980
The clock's relentless second hand
Completes its circle...
Relegates another minute of my life
So sad that in that minute
Nothing new was gained;
But sadder still,
I come no seconds closer
To an understanding of my soul.
To change the minutes of my life to hours,
Then to days and months,
Gives years of wasted effort--
Fruitless years of trial
When it mattered not,
And aimless wanderings through dreams
That were not mine.
23 June 1979
Of Joy and Sorrow
To share a moment
of unusual joy or sadness
in another's life...
To reach across the void
between two souls
Is to plumb the depths
of human consciousness,
To feel the common pulse of man,
And from the old high mountain
hear the voice of God.
03 December 1979
When there was no wall to separate us
as there is now,
And no veil of the hereafter to confuse me,
I looked upon your face
And accepted your joy into my life.
You had so much to give,
And I to take.
Youth's arrogance you tempered
With the wisdom of your age.
You taught me patience in quiet sessions,
And helped me cope with the noisy arenas
of my life's days.
And so my monument to you is not
of polished stone;
It is an ode to your memory--
Words that cannot hope to give in death
Equal pay for what you gave in life;
But no greater tribute can I give
than promise this:
As long as I may breathe,
So will you live.
26 January 1980
Beauty most meaningful comes
from the heavy-laden heart,
That, in its desperation and its pain,
Turns inward, seeks solace in
the expression of itself,
Not through its pain,
But in spite of it--
When that heavy heart explores
the vast expanse within,
And draws from inner discord
24 March 1980
Each dawn begets another day,
And bids us take our seat
in that day's chariot,
To cross another ray-streaked sky
and track the wind;
But should we find no solace there--
Does aught else really matter
in the end,
But that dawn's warmth and light
shed on a darkened sky?
12 April 1980
With each sunrise:
I see Spaniards in their battle dress
trade musketballs for slingstones,
Killing innocence with guns and clothes
And feel three hundred years of pain;
I see a Japanese lieutenant watch Old Glory
touch the ground and order up the banner
of the rising sun;
I see fear and hatred written on the face
of Guam, and feel her thwarted anger --
See Guam's hopes reborn, despite her pain...
Her spirit alternately wax and want
throughout those strife-filled years,
Her spirit soar with expectation at war's end;
I see post-war love of comfort poison Guam,
and feel such saddness for her soul --
Ask myself what can be done to change
There is no turning back, I know;
But clearest heads must guide our Guam
to paths of reason --
Help her fight addiction to life's dross,
And help her find her future in the golden spirit
of her ancient past.
12 July 1980
Last reviewed: 28Dec11