Message from a dead father to his child

Kalle-Gustafsson-Flickr

Before long I will leave this earth. I am trying to stay calm, to talk with you for the first and last time on this paper. I fear you can’t imagine what it’s like, alas. To face this moment and be unable to see you once, to hug you once, to kiss you once ... I am heartbroken. My regret is unending. 

  –Huang Wen-kung 黃溫恭, a political prisoner condemned to execution in 1950s Taiwan, writing to his unborn child.


Emily Dickinson: After a hundred years

Verdun-mil-flickr

After a hundred years
nobody knows the place,—
agony, that enacted there,
motionless as peace.

Weeds triumphant ranged,
strangers strolled and spelled
at the lone orthography
of the elder dead.

Winds of summer fields
recollect the way,—
instinct picking up the key
dropped by memory.

    --Emily Dickinson  (1830-1886) 


Lee Brice: Mama asked me this morning if I'd been by your grave

 

Eighty-nine cents in the ashtray 
Half empty bottle of Gatorade 
Rollin' on the floorboard 

That dirty Braves cap on the dash 
Dogtags hangin' from the rear view 
Old Skoal can and cowboy boots 
And a "Go Army" shirt folded in the back 

This thing burns gas like crazy 
But that's all right 
People got their ways of copin' 
Oh, and I've got mine 

I drive your truck 
I roll every window down 
And I burn up 
Every back road in this town 
I find a field, I tear it up 
Till all the pain is a cloud of dust 
Yes, sometimes, I drive your truck 

I leave that radio playin' 
The same ole country station 
Where you left it 

Yeah, man, I crank it up 
You'd probably punch my arm right now 
If you saw this tear rollin' down my face 
Hey, man, I'm tryin' to be tough 

And Mama asked me this mornin' 
If I'd been by your grave 
But that flag of stone 
Ain't where I feel you, anyway 

I drive your truck 
I roll every window down 
And I burn up 
Every back road in this town 
I find a field, I tear it up 
Till all the pain is a cloud of dust 
Yes, sometimes, I drive your truck 

I've cussed, I've prayed, I've said goodbye 
I've shook my fist and asked God why 
These days, when I'm missin' you this much 

I drive your truck 
I roll every window down 
And I burn up 
Every back road in this town 
I find a field, and I tear it up 
Till all the pain is a cloud of dust 
Yes, sometimes, 
Brother, sometimes, I drive your truck 

I drive your truck 
I hope you don't mind 
I hope you don't mind 
I drive your truck

The story behind the song


Kenneth Patchen: Hands that shall reach icily into their warm beds

07-trenches-after-the-attack-gw000

Rifle goes up
does what a rifle does.

Star is very beautiful:
doing what a star does.

Tell them, O Sleeper, that some
were slain at the start of the slaughter

Tell them, O Sleeper, that sleet and rain
are falling on those poor riderless heads

Tell them, O Sleeper, that pitiful hands float on the water...
hands that shall reach icily into their warm beds.

     --Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972), Selected Poems (1936), "The Soldier and the Star."


Lincoln: You are sure to be happy again

Pei-San-Ng-flickr
Executive Mansion,
Washington, December 23, 1862.

Dear Fanny,

It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once. The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer and holier sort than you have known before.

Please present my kind regards to your afflicted mother.

Your sincere friend
A. Lincoln

According to website Abraham Lincoln Online, "President Abraham Lincoln wrote this touching letter of condolence to the daughter of his long-time friend, William McCullough." Lieutenant Colonel McCullough of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry was killed in Coffeeville, Mississippi on December 5th, 1862.


Riley: He is not dead. He is just away

Monkeyleader.flickr
I cannot say, and will not say
that he is dead. He is just away.

With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand,
he has wandered into an unknown land

and left us dreaming how very fair
it needs must be, since he lingers there.

And you-- oh, you, who the wildest yearn
for an old-time step, and the glad return,

think of him faring on, as dear
in the love of there as the love of here.

Think of him still as the same. I say,
he is not dead-- he is just away.

With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand
he has wandered into an unknown land,

and left us dreaming how very fair
it needs must be, since he lingers there.

And you-- O you, who the wildest yearn
for the old-time step and the glad return--,

think of him faring on, as dear
in the love of There as the love of Here;

....

Think of him still as the same, I say:
He is not dead-- he is just away.

         --James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916). You can read the whole poem here.

Old Irish: Cold is the wind

Ferran.Flickr

Cold is the wind
through the doorway of the soldiers' house;
beloved the soldiers
who stood between us and the wind.

    --Old Irish, recited by Rónán in the tragic tale "Fingal Rónáin." This and many other Old Irish translations are found on the website www.sengoídelc.com [=Old Irish]

Is úar gáeth
i ndorus tige na lláech;
batar inmaine laích
bítis etrainn ocus gaíth.

Robert Lowell: "When they first showed me the boy, I thought oh good, it's not him"

Killed_by_a_bomb

Identification in Belfast

IRA bombing

..."When they first showed me the boy, I thought oh good,
it's not him because he is a blonde--
I imagine his hair was singed dark by the bomb.
He had nothing on him to identify him
except this box of joke trick matches;
he liked to have them on him, even at mass.
The police were unhurried and wonderful,
they let me go on trying to strike a match...
I just wouldn't stop-- you cling to anything--
I couldn't believe I couldn't light one match--
only joke-matches...Then I knew he was Richard."

   --Robert Lowell (1917-1977)