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CYC-Online 97 FEBRUARY 2007
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moments with youth

Monks in Training for War

Mark Krueger

Like many others, I have been thinking a lot about war, youth, and lost childhoods. Recently I brought out this poem, which I started a few years ago, and began to work on it. All my poems are works in progress. This one is based on memories of basic training in San Francisco during the Viet Nam war. I joined the reserves to avoid the draft. After basic training I went home to serve out my time on once a month weekends and summer camps while I worked as a Child and Youth Care worker. The other kids, mostly poor kids, were sent to the jungles. I can still see some of their faces. I used to lay awake at night in the barracks and think about how we were being brainwashed, and how lucky I was to be going home. One night I got up and snuck out of the barracks and sat by the ocean contemplating swimming away. I remembered how as a boy I had swum “up north” in the warm lakes of Wisconsin.

A few of the kids had died from spinal meningitis. When they got sick someone would come in the barracks and take them away and we would never see them again. It was cold and damp, I remember, because they had to keep the windows open for circulation. The pacific sea breeze would flow over the covers. This all got me thinking about lost childhoods and experiences I have had since those days, and how in many ways little has changed.

I offer the poem as a small contribution to the effort to raise consciousness for peace.

Monks in Training for War


hands bled on rungs 
of overhead ladders

script and discipline fed in
pills of deceit 

under the covers
shrapnelled ejaculations 
and shattered solitudes 

wait for the quiet


Such injustice
to steal youth

into the longing 
and the sea 

Of Being Numerous

opposition kept afloat
in Oppen's Tao stone 
full of holes
through which 
breath and water flow


heads turn up
then down
then up again

submerged in the ripple
that stirs close to the mouth

beneath the branches
the spore is 
a clavichord of the tree
and the tree is lust

 words stolen
on the way to the 
spearman's light


a bullet hole
in rivers
and canyons of bark

a small lake of white sap

look into it
the cold milk 


low crawlers
In the Zen of war

moving in place 
of shadow and light

words let go and reclaimed
let go and reclaimed

in the distance

Tres Orejas

Abiquu San Francisco 

 red cliffs

parks and oil fields

cows walking

in dry river beds
a hacienda

almost reachable

in the still moonlight 

dawn and the staccato voices

of lingering night

the rat tat tat of machine guns

tears like mist drying where 
shadows fall into 
the rising sun


in the barracks of despair
the blood letting almost done

callused hands 
loosing bouyency 

the words grappling 
in the waves  repeated


struggling for breath 

necks stiff 

another glance 

at the lights from the night ships

on the watery windshields

of distant dreams


“There are things we live among
And to see them
Is to know ourselves”

– From George Oppen's Of Being Numerous

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