|Life on a Killer Submarine by Sarah Elizabeth Chuldenko|
LIFE ON A KILLER SUBMARINE
I had a warm, sequestered feeling
deep beneath the sea,
moving silently, assessing
what we could hear from far away
because we ran so quietly ourselves,
walking always in our stocking feet.
We'd listen to the wild sea sounds,
the scratch of shrimp, the bowhead's moan,
the tantalizing songs of humpback whales.
We strained to hear all other things,
letting ocean lenses bring to us
the steady, throbbing beat of screws,
the murmurs of most distant ships,
or submarines that might be hunting us.
One time we heard, with perfect clarity,
a vessel's pulse four hundred miles away
and remembered that, in spite of everything
we did to keep our sounds suppressed,
the gradient sea could focus too, our muffled noise,
could let the other listeners know
where their torpedoes might be aimed.
We wanted them to understand
that we could always hear them first
and, knowing, be inclined to share
our love of solitude, our fear
that one move, threatening or wrong,
could cost the peace we yearned to keep,
and kill our hopes that they were thrilled, like us,
to hear the same whale's song.
This warrior bard was a poet of place like Carl Sandburg: his place was not Sandburg's Chicago Midwest but America's rural South: many of his poems describe a boy's Huck-Finn-like experiences growing up in a society where racial segregation was the law of the land. Like Sandburg, his poems show him to be an perceptive student of nature, including the nature of human beings. The poet also became a Southern politician and wrote about that too:
|My First Try for Votes by Sarah Elizabeth Chuldenko|
MY FIRST TRY FOR VOTES
Uneasy in my first campaign,
I feared the likely ridicule,
but got up nerve and neared
some loafers I saw shooting pool.
I caught the eye of an older man
who seemed to know who I might be.
When I went up to him to speak
he cocked a bleary eye at me.
"Now wait, don't tell me who you are,"
he shouted out. I stood in dread.
Bystanders paused. I blabbed my name.
He frowned. "Naw, that ain't it," he said.
Politician poet was a family man. He wrote love poems to his wife, rhymed affections to his father, to his friends and to his dog (some included here). And his grand-daughter Sarah Elizabeth made line drawings to illustrate each of her grandfather's poems.
This family man was also a diplomat, mediating conflicts in every continent except Antarctica: his world-wide arbitrations earning this diplomat poet a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. A philanthropist as well, this poet worked successfully to reduce disease in Africa, to provide affordable housing to the poor and to fight injustice and inhumanity in his own country and elsewhere in the world.
Not only his words but his deeds as well prove this warrior/diplomat/family-man to be one of the most thoughtful, high-minded and moral figures of his day -- all these character traits (and this man's modesty too) clearly shine through his poetry. Reading these simple yet skillful verses, one is left to wonder, in such an amoral and barbaric nation as our own, how such a noble and high-minded man as this warrior poet could ever have been elected president of the United States.