Sarah's Poetry

The purpose of this blog is for some understanding that as I began my transition for all purposes, I had to reconcile some emotions that had been following me since my years in Vietnam. This small group of poetry began with "A Soldier's Time", an emotional catharsis starting in 1968 after I returned to the United States.

These poems emerged at the same time of Sarah's appearance.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Check Point Charlie

“Checkpoint Charlie”

One gate numbered as Charlie

Guarding the division of two worlds

One German city divided by the Wall

One city surrounded by darkness.

One gate standing between lives

Dominated by political terror.

Entrance to a path infused with the dark

Oppressive cold hands pushing at your shoulders

Sending chills down the neck and back

An opening to times past.

Like a faded black and white photograph.

Where the past dominates the future

Lines for a single loaf of bread,

Lines for a pair of shoes

Like the discarded pair left in the trash

New department stores with empty shelves

Broken escalators going nowhere

Plaza’s empty of crowds

People with empty eyes, frozen faces

Shuffle down streets with broken spirits

Looking through the bars and wires of the wall

Looking to the west

Looking for freedom

Looking for hope over the gate

Looking past “Checkpoint Charlie”

February 20. 2002

If you have never had the opportunity to walk through "Checkpoint Charlie" which was the most used gate between East and West Berlin during the time of Communist Occupation, then you miss a most chilling experience. It wasn't just being check by military police, you were given instructions on what to take, what to say and not to use US dollars the feeling of sorrow, pain, oppression was greater when you walked the tunnel to the Eastern Checkpoint, where your group was photographed and counted. It was going back in time, all the buildings still showed the artillery marks. For the first 100 meters you passed deserted buildings and dead echos. Such a strong sense of sadness, of blank stares in people we passed on our way to St. Marks Square in the middle of East Berlin. We have exchanged our US dollars for East German Franks as we got a better rate on the US side than we would have exchanged them 1 for 1 in the East. Which all the East Germans wanted.

As we walked around E. B. we came upon a line of people waiting to get into a shoe store to get 1 pair of new shoes. We saw a lot of shelves empty which should have had new things to sale. We did get a chance to buy some recordings and wanted to buy some instruments but didn't have the money or a way to get it back home.

When the wall came down the military moved the whole building to preserve it in the new museum which was being created. So you can still see and visit 'Checkpoint Charlie' if you can get to Berlin.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A poem of Catharsis

This poem is the beginning of my release of my life from my male self and life. I wrote this as I began to reconcile my emotions with myself.

A Soldier’s Time

Each soldier’s time in country is tied to another,

Ties that both bind and separate; bend with us or break.

Each arrives to make their marks, to carry the torch of duty.

As soldiers bend family ties, memories of their existence fade.

Soldiers step out of the plane’s doorway,

Faces blasted by fierce waves of searing heat.

Lungs gasp for cool air, engulfed by Asian humidity.

Unfamiliar smells overpowers youthful senses,

Fragile protective cocoons of yesterday, shattered,

Welcome to Viet Nam, grunts!

War preparations are everywhere,

Wings of steel birds beat the air as they circle.

Ever vigilant they circle, hunting to satisfy primal needs.

Soldiers with machines protecting the man made nest.

The nest of concrete and steel, spreading like a virus.

Welcome to Viet Nam, grunts!

Herded like cattle, we shuffle and push along.

Through processing gates we scramble,

With bags and boxes from home we stumble.

Speeches, instructions, rules, regulations and orders obeyed.

Bullets and beans issued on the appropriate day.

Welcome to Viet Nam, grunts!

Loaded with new equipment and orders

We board bus and plane as directed by higher headquarters.

We follow the tracks of soldiers we are assigned to replace.

Spreading across the countryside heading

To our new companies and destiny; we hear:

Welcome to Viet Nam, grunts!

Women in broad straw hats wadding in paddies planting rice,

Men in metal helmets beating the bush looking for signs

Of the Asian soldier we call “Charlie”.

Kids in the streets with baskets loaded with items for sale,

Hawking “shoe shine”, treats or beer.

Welcome to Viet Nam, grunts!

Women in colorful dresses, standing in doorways of bars,

Selling themselves to pay mama-sans, buy food for the table.

Men in olive drab in doorways of war birds, watch for tracks

Losing pieces of their innocence expending M16 cartridges

Gaining caution and fear of what tomorrow brings.

Why are we here in Viet-Nam?

First we raid and destroy with bombs to preserve democracy.

Then we perform musical concerts to pacify and entertain.

Rifles and clarinets, bombs and drums;

Bullets zing while triangles ring.

Noises of war grow with a crescendo,

Clashing with music at the fortissimo.

We are in country first to play, second duties are to fight.

Why are we here in Viet-Nam?

Soldiers die and their thoughts and memories fade,

Just as melodic strains of marches echo’s through the hills,

Clashing with machines grumbling then dies away.

Soldiers count remaining days with short-timers sticks,

Until one’s time in country has been fulfilled and are replaced.

Why are we here in Viet-Nam?

Some soldiers can walk away, others must be carried,

Each arrives home in their own way, to testify to their bravery.

Those that can tell loved ones; what they feel and how they survived,

Must remember to tell the stories of those who lost the battle.

Each deed must be remembered, each life must be lifted.

To tell our children, why we were in Viet-Nam!

Each soldier’s time in country is tied to another,

Ties that both bind and separate; like fragile strands of fine ribbon,

Reaching back to the hills of Viet-Nam, are the strands of our memories.

Trampled and obscured as the next soldier carries his torch of duty.

Back home our faded ribbons hang on sunken chests

Signifying our ribbons of fading memories

To “Our Soldier Time”, in Viet-Nam.

Sp5 Riggle

First Cavalry Division; June 67-June 68