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2016, vol. 70

Postlude: Somewhere Near Defiance

by Jeff Gundy

Jeff Gundy has been publishing in Mennonite Life since he taught at Hesston College many years ago. Since 1984 he has been teaching English at Bluffton College. Publications include three books of poetry, Rhapsody with Dark Matter: Poems; Flatlands; and Inquiries: Poems; a genealogical narrative in voices, A Community of Memory: My Days with George and Clara, and to be released in March 2003, Scattering Point: The World in a Mennonite Eye, a creative nonfiction described as part memoir, part family history, part meditation on history and the present—this last work hovers around the question of what it should mean to live in the world but not of it.

My title today, as you can see from the slide, is “Somewhere Near Defiance.” Defiance is the name of a town near where I live in northwest Ohio, but also, as you might guess, the title invites being read more than one way. And I want to try to unpack what it might mean to live and to write that way, near Defiance, in a time and a place and a culture that are fascinating and rewarding in many ways but also seem to deserve resistance at many points as well.

So I’ll start out with a poem from my recent book, which is also titled Somewhere Near Defiance. It’s a poem about my college days – it starts even before that, growing up on the farm in Illinois – and it has a number of references to the music of Bob Dylan and especially to his transcendentally wonderful album Blonde on Blonde. Are there some Dylan fans in the audience? Give me some love here? All right.

Autobiography with Blonde on Blonde
The ragman drew circles on everything, but St. John dragged
his feet through them all, saying In the beginning was the Word!

until time shuddered like a bus with bad brakes and my dad
rubbed his face and sat down at the kitchen table, his farmer tan

glowing. It had been a windy day, and the brutal stench
of Hillman’s hogs wafted through the screens. I whacked Kathy

on the back of the head just to hear her howl. It worked.
Then they drove me off to college, where I learned

that the not-yet has already happened, if you squint at it
just right. I am, I said, said Neil Diamond, and we had

to agree with that. Then the president explained that those
unwilling to kill for peace might once have been good people,

but godless communist drugs had made them into trolls
and orcs. We knew he was an idiot – we were elves and hobbits –

and decided to set off for Mordor to destroy the Ring
right after dinner. But somebody put on Blonde on Blonde again,

and it was just like the night to play tricks, and we could hardly
root out the fascist pigs while Louise and her lover were so entwined.

We walked down beside the dam instead, tried to lose ourselves
in the scant woods. I never got to Memphis or to Mobile.

The hard rain was already falling, but the sun still shone like glory
some of those afternoons, with classes over and the long night ahead

and water roaring down the spillway like the great I AM. (10-11)

As we continue, I have a few slides with quotes from various people to show you. A lot of these poems were written in conversation with various people; one of the best forms of defiance, I’ve found, is in solidarity with other like-minded people. I’ve chosen these particular people and quotes partly because quite a few of them have a Bethel or a Kansas connection of some sort.

The next slide has a quote from Gordon Kaufman, a Bethel graduate and eminent Mennonite theologian whom many of you will know about. He came to Bluffton not long before he died and did some presentations there, and I was pleased and honored to get to know him a little – he was a fascinating thinker with a lot of challenging, innovative ideas. Of course, he was somewhat controversial for the austerity of his theology, but he said, as this says, that God is the “profound mystery of creativity,” the “ongoing creativity in the universe.”

So this poem plays with some of Kaufman’s other ideas about metaphor. Among many other things he said, he was critical of the way that we make metaphors for God and then behave as though those metaphors are real. Like God is really our father, for instance.

This poem reflects on some of his ideas about resisting our usual metaphors for God, and also meditates on what it might mean to bring that sort of resistance into one’s everyday life . . . I was sitting on the shore of one of the quarries in Bluffton as I wrote it, and that particular place gets tangled up in the poem as well. It’s called “No Path.”

No Path

Kayak on the quarry: will you hug the shore, push straight across,
waver or dawdle? No paths on the water. Almost November,

and the poison ivy is still green. The soft trap of sky closes
all around. An artful little spray of leaves near the shore,

as though Martha Stewart were sitting in for God.
Give up all that Father stuff, said Gordon, look where it’s got us.

And the Warrior – even worse. The kayakers lift and dip
their paddles, orange signals: this way for us. So much is offered,

so much goes begging, and still what we need evades us, or hides
in plain sight. On the water, every way might be the right way.

God might be the Father and the Warrior and the lost leaves,
the water and the bleached trunk, motion and stone,

lush twists of cloud and barking dog and wind,
star upon star alert and invisible in every direction,

low moan in the blood, circle and drift in the bright cells,
shadowy hum and whir of electrons, fizz and buzz and shush

too small to name. No end, no opening, no tribe, no answer.
Only this: kayak and paddlers, lift and dip,

breath and muscle above the chill water, below the soft sky. (Defiance 20)

– for Gordon Kaufman

As I was working on the poems in Somewhere Near Defiance, I was also working on a prose book called Songs from an Empty Cage: Poetry, Mystery, Anabaptism, and Peace. It’s a book that endeavors to explore the field of theopoetics, which essentially has to do with approaching theological questions and issues through the techniques of poetry – imagery, symbolism, narrative and intuition – rather than intellectual, rational techniques.

And along with a lot of other things I was reading some of the farthest-out theologians I could find along the way. And I discovered this fascinating woman with Mennonite roots, an MB from Canada who ended up teaching in England, named Grace Jantzen. And she wrote a lot of really interesting things. This next poem plays with some of the ideas in her book Violence to Eternity, which is largely about the first books of the Old Testament and the Yahweh depicted there, a figure that Grace Jantzen was somewhat skeptical of, to say the least. So here’s one of the things she says about those early books and the covenant coming out of them: “[The covenant] is structured in violence and steeped in blood, from the blood of circumcision and endless animal slaughter to brutal extermination of the ‘people of the land.’”

The poem that I wrote, coming out of that, is called “Meditation with Muddy Woods and Swinging Bridge.” Again, it’s set in the woods just outside Bluffton – but a different patch of woods.

Meditation with Muddy Woods and Swinging Bridge

[The covenant] is structured in violence and steeped in blood, from the blood of circumcision and endless animal slaughter to brutal extermination of the ‘people of the land.’

–Grace Jantzen, Violence to Eternity

Hot wind from the west. Trail still soft after a whole week’s drying.

Deer tracks, coon, one stubborn mud-hiker’s deep scours, each like a little boat or a long wet nest.

Wood piled everywhere – neat rows for woodstoves, heaps of trash and branches.

We were in Salzburg when a great storm scattered the old trees on the Kapuzinerberg like pickup sticks.

Today I brought nothing but pens, keys, comb, notebook, bicycle, lock, wallet and credit cards.

And knees a big black fly seems to like, and shorts with a pocket ripped two summers ago, still not fixed.

Morning reading: What kind of God would drown every living thing that wouldn’t fit on some puny ark? Would slaughter the people of Canaan for the sake of one hungry band of nomads?

Many good gravel paths lead from the subdivision into the woods, but only the animals use them.

Somebody’s cutting something hard in a dry swimming pool.

Who discovered we could cast our anger at the sky and get it back named God?

In my old house the bathroom sink plugs up every four months but I know exactly how to swear and clear it.

Small white blooms all over the multiflora rose, bushes twice my size.

Seed pods float in the pond like mothers determined to tan whether or not their children get lost in the bushes.

On a day this hot and green it seems crazy to think that God picks sides.

One plank of the swinging bridge is missing, one bowed and soft, and a big lost branch is wedged high between the end posts, but I walk across it anyway. (26-27)

This next piece is one of a series of poems written when I was up on the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota on a canoeing/writing trip sponsored by Wilderness Wind. The company is closing down, which is tragic , because they provided a wonderful service to a lot of people, including our little group of five paddlers/writers. We had a great trip, out on the water for five days and four nights. We saw the sun for the whole first day, then for about four minutes after that . . . It rained . . . it didn’t rain all the time, but it was damp a lot. Anyway, I wrote a series of these poems which are in the middle of the book, and they all have “Contemplation” in the title. And this poem started with something that I adapted from William Blake, who wrote “One law for the lion and the ox is oppression.” I’m still pondering that.

Contemplation on Rules and Lines

One law for lion and ox is oppression, but of which one?

The ghost of Wm. Blake, gnarled and smiling in the hollow between tree and stone, refuses to say.

One law for water and rock is precision. Whenever they meet, water does all the talking.

Another law is rubbing. Another can be spoken clearly only in loon. Another takes 300 Earth years to state in full.

A lost fishline dangles like a strand of the golden thread, left behind by a traveler who went back home with nothing but bug bites and a solid case of jock itch.

I’m not so careful myself but I wish I were, and I tell myself that counts for something.

The wind’s law is this: be yourself, and I will show you what that is.

The water’s law is this: Tell me anything. Only my face will answer. I will hold the little ones in their little boats, I will let them go where they choose if they have the strength.

I will tell them what they must know, even if it breaks their backs or their hearts.

I will tell them what they want to know only if they ask very softly, and more than once. (52)

You can see that in these poems I’m generally not exactly quarreling with my conversation partners – though I am, at least by implication, putting myself at odds with some commonly received American tropes and values. Rather than openly arguing, I often find, poems work best if they don’t bother directly critiquing the most foolish and absurd aspects of human life, but do their own thing, tease and explore and play around with the most adventurous and challenging thinkers and writers, sometimes resisting and sometimes thinking along. The next poem provides a somewhat different example, in a different kind of situation. I was at a workshop out in the woods of eastern Ohio, and we got some instructions from the poet who was running it – Terry Hermsen, a good friend of mine. He told us that we should sit down, reflect for a few minutes, and then write the song of that place, its underlying secret myth.

Now I love Terry, but this seemed to me a little ridiculous. How am I going to do that kind of thing? What do I know about the secret myth of this place? And so this poem, as you’ll see, begins with me trying to disobey those instructions . . . and then I kind of end up doing it anyway, because as I started writing I found myself drawn toward something that felt like the real, deep spirit of the place.

This is one of those interesting things I’ve observed over and over, both in my own work and in class. I give students these assignments, and they’ll come back sort of apologetically and say “I didn’t really follow your instructions . . .” Now sometimes that is a problem, but if it’s a matter of their finding something interesting to do that I didn’t think of – if disobeying the instructions let them to discover something new and fine on their own – surely the only thing I can say is, “Excellent!”

The trick, of course, is to find a way to do it without just being lazy or stupid, you know, which is also sometimes possible. And many of us have engaged in that from time to time. So you can decide if I managed that in this poem, which is called “Something the Winter Wren Didn’t Say.” For what it’s worth, it’s also probably the sexiest poem in the book, so wait for that.

Something the Winter Wren Didn’t Say

Dusk in the Kendall Ledges. Any place to sit will do
because I aim to disobey, to disappear, to wait and listen

till the hard earth shudders open like a touch-me-not.
Rocks like spilled treasure waiting for the dragon,

like junker cars rolled downhill toward the crusher,
like science waiting for fiction. Whose idea was it anyway,

to wait so long, to let all this accumulate? The tanager
and the winter wren both want to sleep, but neither is willing

to give up the last word. I’m more like the rocks – I’ve slept
for centuries. But I remember now: after a hundred

good nights our lover the moon got bored and nudged
this corner down, roughed things up to mark her place

just in case, and went away. We made many low songs
almost as sweet as the wren’s and the tanager’s, desperate

to lure her back, but we see her roaming through the wild sky
and know she’s seeing that bully sun, letting him drive

his hot car a million miles an hour with no seat belt,
parking in a black hole and spreading wide, riding him

till she glows so white and wet the world cracks and bellows,
till the rain pours down to turn our rage to tears. (60-61)

I don’t know where that came from . . . if you’re lucky that happens sometimes, you know – a story, a set of images, a whole little world, takes shape on the page as you write them down and all you can do is record it all and try to get it as straight and clear as you can, and be grateful.

I want to read a few poems from this brand-new book called Abandoned Homeland. There are quite a few poems in here about teaching and such, which of course is how I’ve spent a large part of my life. And this first one . . . you students, you have days when you feel like just leaving it all behind, getting up and walking out of the room? Anybody ever felt that way? Well, OK, I got a few hands, and the rest of you are laying low because your professors are close by. I don’t know, I could ask the professors the same question. But I can confess, since I’m not from here, that I feel the same way some days . . . So this poem is about that feeling. It’s called “Cookies.” And it was at least partly inspired by a Pablo Neruda poem, “Walking Around,” that begins with the line “It so happens I am sick of being a man.”


–after Neruda

I’m tired of being respectable. And professional.
For too long I’ve gone into classrooms and bathrooms
and churches, smiling and brittle as a garden gnome,
or a homecoming queen waving to the cold bystanders.

The aura of solid houses makes my insides quiver.
I want to walk into every one – houses I’ve passed by
for twenty years and never entered.
I want to sit in the big recliners, steal cookies
from the jars on kitchen counters, riffle through magazines,
check in medicine cabinets and under beds
for scandalous revelations.

I’m tired of being available. And polite.
I’m ready to be invisible, grouchy, and stupid.
I’m ready to stand up in the middle of the meeting
and scratch myself on the way out the door.
I’m ready to bring my guitar to class, set up between
the students and the door, play every song
I’ve ever played, every song I can remember,
without explanation or apology, whether or not
I remember the chords or can hit the high notes.
“Louie, Louie.” “Kumbaya.” All nine verses
of “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.”

I’m ready to be a bad wizard, to change morons
into moonshine, dutiful drudges into parsley,
solid citizens into Corvettes and cottonmouths.
I’m ready to fill up with gas on the way out of town
and stick to the township roads, so narrow
that somebody has to take the shoulder.
To drive a wide spiral until I find God
or Lake Erie or the providential,
proverbial, preverbal Mississippi,
so low now I can barrel right across it
with barely a splash or a slither and sail on
into the blue-gold American night. (Homeland 33)

The next poem is called “Fifty Billion Planets.” Some of you may know about the famous exchange that Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway had; Fitzgerald said, “The very rich are different from you and me,” and Hemingway famously responded, “Yes, they have more money.” So that is in this poem, and also you’ve heard of Marie Antoinette who famously said, “Let them eat cake” – she comes into this poem, too. This didn’t actually happen in my class, but it might have, right?

Fifty Billion Planets

The galaxy is crawling with life. What’s for dinner?

Hemingway was wrong about the very rich, and when he walked
into my nonfiction class I told him so. He wanted to punch me,

but I told him all physical violence on campus was prohibited
by the Peaceful Menno Code, so he just glared and stomped

out the door. The Code also prohibits gloating, so I asked
the students what we’d learned. “You blew our chance to talk

to a famous dead guy,” said the smart kid. “And a rich one,” said
Melinda, who never said anything. “Yeah, but rich people aren’t

like you and me,” I answered, weakly. “You mean they don’t
attach lame adverbs to their speech tags?” said the smart kid.

I opened my mouth to tell him off graciously, within the guidelines
of the P. M. C., but just then the door opened and a sweet voice

said, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.” I was baffled, but the Code
requires unconditional intercultural affirmation, so I smiled

and nodded. The woman sashayed towards me, glittering
as she walked. Fifty billion earthlike planets in the galaxy

and there she was, a golden, liquid comet on a collision course
with my poor sinful earth. She circled me, twice, and then she

was more like a hawk pondering whether it was worth the effort
to swoop down and snatch a meadow vole. The students

were spellbound, Hemingway forgotten. “Everyone thinks
you said, ‘Let them eat cake,’” I muttered. “Everyone in your

stupid country, maybe,” she answered. “As if the whole world
speaks your silly language.” She slid a finger from my ear

to my chin, and I shivered, but then she turned to the class,
and she was not at all a vain, dead queen. “There are

fifty billion earthlike planets in the Milky Way,” she said.
“How will you spend your small, strange, unrepeatable life?” (39-40)

I don’t know where that came from either.

I’ll read one more poem from this book. This is the title poem, and it has a couple of things in it that I might explain briefly. There is a distant reference to Camp Friedenswald, a church camp in southern Michigan where I went, where my family has a long history – I went to camp both summers and winters when I was young, and my kids went both as campers and as workers. And my Uncle Jim, who was here last night, who lives in Burrton and was pastor of the Mennonite church there for a long time, also makes a brief appearance in this poem. He’s not treated terribly kindly here, but I want to say that I really love my Uncle Jim, so keep that in mind.

It’s called “Abandoned Homeland of Exiles.”

How else to describe this absurd, lovely world? And yet
the trees stir themselves into the humid air, take the weather

as it comes. Maybe it’ll kill them, but not today. Praise
for the mutilated planet is insufficient but essential.

I’m all in favor of grief, mercy, and language, but what kind
of meal do they make? Whose children will they save

from minimum wage or the poverty draft? Still, it’s the season
when despite all my moans and whines the rooms fill up

with strange and lovely faces and we revel in the happy
weariness of learning names, explaining badly, bearing

our loads of ill-defined matter and impractical passions
like sticks and tinder for the illegal fire we hope to burn

when we find that lost hollow, the clearing with three rows
of skinned logs for seating, fire ring, blackened kettle.

Yes, the trail’s overgrown, root-rough, yes there might
be snakes, yes mosquitos for sure. Wear jeans and socks.

Bring the guitars, the song sheets. Uncle Jim will say
something genial, solid, and a little awkward. We‘ll sing

and sway, praise each other and walk back in the dark,
holding hands. Then we’ll gather what we need and head

off again, for good. The exit doors will open if we push
and wait and push again. Let the alarm bells blaze.

They’ll stop us. But they’ll have to let us go. (43)

I have just a few more poems left to read. How many of you know the name of William Stafford? He was a poet with a lot of Kansas connections; he grew up in Hutchinson and a number of other small towns west of here. He was a conscientious objector during World War II, then did graduate work afterwards, and though he started publishing poems relatively late in his life, he became one of the best-loved American poets of the late 20th century.

I can’t remember where I got this story – I may have heard it from him – but when he was looking for work he was offered a job by Bethel College, and also offered a job at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon, and he was tempted to come back to Kansas, home territory and all that . . . but the other job paid twice as much. So . . . the faculty members are laughing. They know this is still how it is, yes? But here’s one of the things that Stafford said – he was a wonderful poet, and a wise man in many ways.

I’d love to have two more hours with you, to begin to unpack some of his ideas, but since I don’t I’ll just leave this with you.

The poem I want to read begins with an epigraph from one of Stafford’s poems that I heard as part of another workshop a while back. It doesn’t have that much to do with his ideas about pacifism and so forth, but the line was “The burning city of my sorrow.” We were given a number of these lines and told to write a poem starting from it. And my first thought when I heard this line was: “Wow, Stafford isn’t usually this way, but that’s a really melodramatic and sentimental line . . .”

And so I wrote a poem that begins kind of in resistance to that line, and then (again) this strange thing happened. This old man came into the poem, an imagined old man living perhaps in one of the real houses on Railroad Street, which really does exist in Bluffton, and just took it over. And a whole story, a whole set of images, came along with him, none of which I had any idea about before I began putting words down on the page. How are we supposed to feel about this man? Is he tragic, or just pathetic, or somehow just a little hopeful in the end? You can decide. I’m still not sure.

Interior Housekeeping
“The burning city of my sorrow . . .”
–William Stafford

My sorrow is not a city, and not burning. It is Railroad Street
in my town, so small it has only six houses, all facing

the tracks, three of them neat and clean, two in need
of paint and shingles, one so poor that nobody remembers

how to open the door, how long ago the gas was turned off,
what dwells and swells inside the dark refrigerator.

Maybe there’s an old man in the bedroom upstairs,
drinking from the rusty sink tap, eating stale corn chips

and oreos. His wife left a note, but it fell behind the stove.
He took what he could find upstairs a week ago, knowing

this was his last trip. He pared mold off the last wedge
of cheese with a table knife, then tried it on his arm.

Twice he heard the phone ring, the second time for an hour.
He remembered to put the cat outside. He ripped the bag

of food right down, filled the water dish. He locked the doors.
The sheets have flowers on them. The blanket is wool.

A family of squirrels is living in the wall near the chimney.
They scratch and chitter all night. He scratches back. (Defiance 19)

We did have squirrels in the walls of our house for a little while. My boys, who were little then, kept saying, “Daddy! Daddy! There’s something going on in the wall!” I kept saying, “No, no, just go to sleep, go to sleep.” You know how there are these problems and you desperately want to think that if you just deny them, they won’t exist? Finally we had to get the squirrels out, which we did, though it took a while.

I also want to give a shout-out today to my good friend and fine poet Keith Ratzlaff, who is another illustrious alumnus of Bethel College and never tires of reminding me, at least, of that. Keith lives in Iowa and teaches at Central College. This is the ending of one of his poems:

Now at one time, Keith had a book of poems coming out, and he wanted to call it “Oh.” And he asked us what we thought of that idea, some of his friends who were gathered together, and we all said, “That’s a terrible idea.” It’s a good poem, but it’s a terrible title for a book of poems. Oh! Oh? Ohhh?

So he called the book something else, and it’s a great book of poems. But I decided that in honor of Keith and his encounters with the word, I should write a poem called “Oh.” It’s set in Canada, on one of the Gulf Islands near Vancouver – we have friends who live there – looking back to the mainland from the beach there. There’s a mention of Robinson Jeffers, who also wrote a lot of poems set on the Pacific coast, though he lived further south in Carmel, California, and of Robert Hass, another fine contemporary poet whose work certainly deserves to be taken more seriously than I do here.

And you say Oh, then Oh!
–Keith Ratzlaff, “Ending in Oh”

Rocks like Jeffers described: hard headed, stiff witted,
but not chatterers or fools. Not easy to walk on them,

but not dull either. East, the mainland is lost in murk
and haze. West, the last sun tints a few tentative clouds.

Yesterday I read Robert Hass’s account of the difference
between “Oh” and “O,” which was offered with complete

confidence and matched my own views not at all.
The heat is supposed to break tomorrow. A family

of otters prowls just offshore, diving for dinner, staying close.
The low thrum of the freighters never quite stops.

How many steps between vast calm and total panic?
When I say “Oh” I mean “O,” if Bob Hass is around.

If Ratzlaff is around, I don’t know what I mean.
I couldn’t hear the freighters at first, and now

I can’t stop listening. This long rock, like an enormous
baguette gone stale. Like a fossil finger pointed

toward Bellingham or Blaine or Mt. Baker. Like
the colored pencil God threw down when it was time

to quit on the shore line and make some seals and gulls
and crabs. And now the cloud bank over White Rock

has burst into color – another few miles is nothing for the sun –
and the little people-lights hug the skin of the world

like God knows what, like fireflies or deer eyes
on the road, like embers of a fire left to burn out

on a windy afternoon, no rain for weeks, the forest
so dry, oh, the arbutus leaves rustling, Oh, O. (68)
-For Keith

So I’ll read just one more poem, the title poem of the book Somewhere Near Defiance. It took me a long time to write this poem. I was trying to write a poem that would deal in some way with the political situation of the United States in the early 21st century, which as we all know is very weird and painful in any number of ways, and with the long American story of violence, warfare and conquest. To explain a few of the particulars: Defiance is a town about 40 miles from where I live. There was a fort there, founded by General Anthony Wayne, sometimes called “Mad Anthony” – Fort Wayne was also named after him. There was also a Native American village at the site and a crucial battle took place there, which is described briefly in the poem. The poem also has a trip I made to Washington, D.C., for a poetry festival sponsored by the writing activist group Split This Rock in it, and a little bit about Walt Whitman and his own move to Washington during the Civil War, and a little about teaching . . . all this stuff sort of mashed together into a sort of contemplation about how we might live in this time and this country without just sinking into its violence and conformity, how we might live somewhere near defiance.

Somewhere Near Defiance
It’s late but everything comes next.
–Naomi Shihab Nye, “Jerusalem”

I live near Defiance, a white name pressed on an old place.
Mad Anthony Wayne’s soldiers broke down the orchards

when the battle was theirs, and built a fort
where the Auglaize and Maumee Rivers meet.

Water will answer anything, the moon, the wind,
the mud. The rivers mingle and move on.

Once I drove my little car right into the heart of the empire,
huddled with my friends to plot and complain. All over town

the poets and other malcontents were hiding in the open,
vowing to split the rocks and terrify the despots.

In the coffeehouse we tallied our losses and wondered how
to subvert the lyric I until the hot waitress grabbed the mike

to say that racism wasn’t over yet. We clapped for her,
then wandered toward the Capitol, launched some ragged

words to each other and the wind. All right, you can
have shock, we told the adversary, but awe belongs to us.

Walt Whitman thought his poems might stop the war.
When they did not he moved to Washington, took a day job

so he could go to the field hospitals, read to the wounded,
write letters for men with no arms or eyes. I have been hurt

but am mending well. Do not weep, I will find you one day.
I walked around for days, found no field hospitals,

lots of monuments. I passed the suited and booted,
shaggy and lame, proud and weary, and it seemed

that each of us carried a wound we were trying to hide.

Meanwhile the drone pilots turn their Hellfires loose
from dark rooms in the suburbs, buy a 6-pack on the way home.

1,200 veterans of the last good war die each day,
and the stools at the VFW stand like puzzled mushrooms.

These days I wake up grateful that my heavy dreams are gone.
I snag the zipper of my coat, pull it free, and walk off

puzzling over slides and words and stratagems. Then I step
into a room and see a row of faces, hopeful and new

as yellow apples hanging in the orchards of Defiance.

The morning came brilliant to my quiet town,
sun in the junipers, a robin on the wire.

Nothing that I do matters to the earth or the sky.

But I’ve stalled around too long – it’s time for declarations,
time for floods. Time to put down the Toledo Blade

and take a very long walk. Time to say peace on terror,
peace on drugs, peace on Defiance.

Peace on Mad Anthony and his soldiers – gone so quiet now –
and the warriors they fought, and the fruit trees they tore.

The Auglaize and the Maumee join and drift on,
exchanging sticks and soil and bits of news.

We are in the earth already, and the earth in us.

Even from Defiance, nothing’s more than half a world away. (3-5)


Works Cited

Gundy, Jeff. Abandoned Homeland. Huron, Ohio: Bottom Dog, 2015.

–. Somewhere Near Defiance. Tallahassee, Florida: Anhinga, 2014.

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