Oh Surge, Survivors: A Poem in Seven Parts, for American Veterans

Written for Veteran’s Day, 2016 and for Footsteps: For Homeless Vets. There is also a live reading of this poem.

Part One

Whatever beginning there is, it’s true that it might be something else’s finish.


Lines for the hollowed.

Lines for the haunted.

Lines for the courageous.

Lines for the surged.


(fractal, despite cortisol, despite                                confrontation)


Veteran, as an image. As an image through our personal histories. Go back. Unlock the cortisol: the boundary of that which is known, kept, and that which is unknown, abandoned. Unlock. Begin.

The embrace is a fragment of light

and to know is to breathe infinities.


Radiant is the way the surge goes:

to surge, to rise up, to open up:


Oh Surge

Oh s                       s



A surge                 a surge                 assurgance                         assuage


Halt. And let

the passage expand

like an iris                                            purple                                   or a pupil                                             black


Part Two

Belief in stability requires roots of sharing.


Forgiven. This world shall be forgiven.

Muse, let us in: let these ideas in. Where we have been, where we have flooded into. Our water experiences.

Our watery gazes. This frigid gaze, these chilly eyes. The lanes driven. The paths pressed beneath feet.

Eyes expanding open. Foothold and footfall for the veteran and their breath.

Winding up and down, an elastic boundary. A breath of rubberized bands.


calm                       down

down to the center of

this space:

for me, a certain Renton Avenue

a certain curiosity

explode of the curios

an orange hue lastly

it lingers

within all of us

Let us in these eyes of experience

shining like the crazed eyes of the auto,

the headlamps smote with rock,

we have hit the cliff,

we watch the waterfall splash upon our heads,

stone of cliff thrown from palm of a being larger, longer (amassed, choral, the weight of the unknown force)


Part Three

The dream begs us to wake up.


Please let me take one more moment, one more spoke, one more twist, turn, gyre, functioning blip on the evening’s radar.


It was from atop the valley, upon the vista where I thought of the suffering:

In this landscape, in this holy roam of the ghosts in the tunnels of the streets, we keep heads down,

keep pushing, the gravity, of ourselves, off of ourselves, this gravity, this heaviness,

off the sounds of the edge of asphalt, tarmac, the language of the street, where we are, where we sit,

an if, logical statements, situation of logic, if and then we are here, together, torn apart, ragged, survival.


Words collected like refuse. Words collected like refuge.

I remember meeting person after person

individual after individual

back from a landscape of loss,

back from a wildness in rouge,

whether war or wait

the blood was already spilt.


Meeting them in the parks, along the streets,

within the bars, or the cafes,

or the planes, or the living rooms,

or the libraries, a landscape of spilt blood,

long line of friends, sufferings, and joys.


only understand that which could arrive

despite the blood and the bone


Part Four

Love’s collage is a continuation of the self.


Think of how we abandoned ourselves, or each other. I think about what I abandon all the time.

I think of glazed looks. Imagining again the rainfall and the cliff through the windshield.

Long sensations of sighing and an echo.

To act as a pitfall in the jungle, to keep lashes perked like ferns, to sit up and shout at no one in particular. The landscape sucking us down, keeping us within, an entering of chasm and cornerstone. The sense of the I, individual, looking at experience like giant, triumphant, or tragedy. A blend of realities, hybrid existences. Image to image, like a necklace.

I think: freedom through imagination. That we could all be so special, that we could all be living our day to day confluence in harmony, and in agreement, if we didn’t lack that which has to be sturdy enough.


blood and streets fading into and out of memory and the books of the dead crumble in small libraries scattered across neighborhoods and cities and farms and what else do you know of the scattering?


a poem, a chant, a ritual:

scatter shot ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: scattered :::::::::::::::::::::::: embedded piece of fracture

the image of a bone splintered

an image of a family splintered

the way we walk across the ground in a fragmented sense open

purple talons clutching books

the pages torn like skin

torn like our lineages



Part Five

To write is to offer the sacred to the other and the self, at once.


In a chat I chat: “there is so much more purpose here”

and it is the second revision of this poem

and I stare at the lines I wrote last time, before thinking of purpose.


I wrote:                                as scarred as openly wounded

calm like

a plant, watered



(and the lines broke down, or built up, vibrated, beneath the energy)

th                         th            thin                        think


Sound comes. Plays. Enters. There is room for play.

There is survival. There is room for play within survival.

(and so: playing)

Muse. Muscle. Mortem. Mastery.


The idea of the: Veteran

Vet err an

Errand                   (no)

Not errand. Not an err. Not vet.

Veteran. Veteran.

A word that sounds like a wing full of feathers.

Like a gruff passage through a canyon.

Or like having to sit down on the curb.


Part Six



is a surge

if it is a surge

then it is a surge

surge of water through a flood

surge of the electric to blow up the room in light

surge of fog and surge of warmth


if it is

but a surge

I stare at it

and a meek sense of buoyancy greets me





in a blanket

waiting for me to rise


Part Seven

Falling Song

For the dead,

Veteran’s Day, 2016


and it is


it is


but not



and the shattering consequences

I’m thinking

like machines



of a vase

of China

in New England


a body

of smoke






I wrote:













and then

we sang


Where singing is:

the song of the flesh

the song of the body

the song of the brightness

the song of the damp


these are the words

that keep me                                     (myself)


these are the words

that keep me

trekking (onward)









disjointed arms

despite a weakness

they keep swaying


belly fat

and bear jowl

corroding identity


(breathe, longer)


the body and then the path


notice the path

notice the way the roads creak

notice the longitude and the latitude of the being

as it sits upon the axis


we have survived

another moment

we have been strung

we have been strong

and it gets crazier, crazier, the shifting

the splintering, the sound of history being rewound


sings like a serpent

hissing: choose!

(somewhere within

my head rumbles

for a choice

and an understanding)

but I know not

what options

there are


survival is beyond options

it is

a scattered survival


dear dead

with your eyes like clams

tightly shut escaping water

these challenges

this uprising

in new strokes along the scalp

new wraps at the door covering my face

that which is, that which we see




I see a favorite flock of geese, I see a mellow tarpaper strip

I see women whose smiles will overturn the many lengths of miseries

I see men laughing and overturning the tables of our daily keep

I see grating and wonder what’s within and I see the knots in the cords we keep close

I see love and I see the way this love gets seen, allows itself in


is perched

upon the shoulders

of the people

we have perched

upon the shoulders

of our selves


our falling body

still supporting

in widest arrays

in wildest chromatic spectrums

the heart full of flame and ice

equally of light

an expanse                                     electromagnetic

can be heard

can be received

a transmission as throbbing as the wounds we carry