Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Journey to Copenhagen

Pedestrian street in Copenhagen

Just yesterday, I learned of  a worldwide poetry event: "On the 21st of March, World Poetry Day, the National Poet of Belgium, Els Moors, invites all people worldwide to gather their most beautiful odes and elegies on their cities (/ countries / states / …) and make them public. In times of gentrification, mass tourism and worldwide migration we are craving for lonely flâneurs and notorious wanderers who want to lay bare the mysterious heart of their cities. Are you still in love with the city you were born in? Were you pushed on by love, or obliged to leave your hearth and home? Adopt your city by writing an urban elegy and take part in the writing of the most exotic Lonely Planet: The adopted cities."

You can go to their website at to enter your own poem about your own city, or your adopted city.

I decided to do a poem about my visit to Copenhagen, Denmark 35 years ago. I was fascinated by the city, but never wrote about it until yesterday when I heard about the National Poet of Belgium's invitation.

Journey to Copenhagen

The far point of my travels that summer.
Riding the train from sunny Italy
That July morning we entered Denmark
Chilled me to the bone.

Once acclimated to the northern clime
The grand city won my heart.
Solid and settled
With ancient memories –
Wholesome, strong and pagan –
And civilized.
It’s what people eventually do
When they get the routine down
Of living together
To enjoy the fruits of their labors.

I plotted out my course through the city.
Such wonderful fountains – especially that mighty bull
    with dramatic prays of water coming from his nostrils!
Grand dining,
Old buildings,
Stately churches,
And half-clad women in the park
Who were more acclimated to the weather than I.

A tour guide told us
Of the glorious palace,
How it burned down twice
Before its present majestic state.
He told how the crown
Brings in wealth from exports
Because no one else in the world
Knows how to make beer like the Danes.

The old world gaiety
Of Tivoli Gardens
With men singing in beer halls
And vendors selling ice cream in fresh-made waffle cones.

I parted from the crowds
And made my way to the cemetery
Where I sat by Kierkegaard’s grave.
Under the old oak tree
Sitting on a cement bench
I read Philosophical Fragments
And recalled the commonality of tears
That connected us
And brought me to this far point
In my travels.

                                                                     ~ CK


Photo Credits

Upper: "Strøget" - The Pedestrian Street in Copenhagen in the old Medieval part of the city
            From Copenhagen

Lower: The Gefion Fountain against background of St. Alban's Church. Copenhagen, Denmark,                       Northern Europe
             Credit: Mstyslav Chernov
             Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Monday, March 19, 2018

Monday Music: Morning Has Broken

In 1971, Cat Stevens awakened the public to a beautiful hymn from The Presbyterian Hymnal. The hymn, first published in 1931, was written by Eleanor Farjeon and set to the Scottish Gaelic tune, "Bunessan." Stevens made the song popular, though he erroneously pronounced "re-creation" as "recreation." An understandable mistake since hymnals typically will hyphenate words to fit the notes. One could see it and not realize that it is the actual hyphenated word, re-creation. Nevertheless, it is still a timelessly beautiful song.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

The My Lai Massacre: 50 Years Later

Helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson speaks with reporters at the Pentagon on Dec. 4, 1969, 
after testifying about the My Lai massacre in South Vietnam. (Associated Press)

Last Friday, the LA Times ran a story on the 5oth anniversary of the My Lai Massacre (March 16, 1968), “A forgotten hero stopped the My Lai massacre 50 years ago today.” It tells the story of helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson, who courageously stopped the massacre and filed the initial complaint with the army.  The army then tried to cover it up, but journalist Seymour Hersch found out about it and reported it to the world. It would be over a year later, in November of 1969, when Hersh's report was filed to the press. 

Tragic Civilian Loses

All of us heard about the My Lai incident during the Vietnam War (note: we typically referred to this, if my memory serves correctly, as the My Lai Incident, not the My Lai Massacre). I was in junior high school at the time. I did not know this story, however, about the young soldier who stopped the massacre. Moreover, I was not aware that “Americans killing civilians in Vietnam was pervasive and systematic,” and that there had been “a My Lai a month.”

I do remember at the time that the adults were saying things like, “That's just the cost of war, especially over there with guerrilla warfare, where you can't tell who the enemy is.” I say, that is just one more big reason not to engage in war. There were 507 killed in My Lai that day, and who knows how many civilians were killed in those unreported from previous incidents (massacres).

The article highlights the tragic loses in the numbers of children who were killed:

Today there's a little museum in My Lai, where Thompson is honored, and which displays a list of the names and ages of people killed that day. Trent Angers, Thompson's biographer and friend, analyzed the list and found about 50 there who were 3 years old or younger. He found 69 between the ages of 4 and 7, and 91 between the ages of 8 and 12.

Our Tragic Wartime Bent

Tragically, our country has made war engagement much easier in the intervening years. We ended the draft, but that has only led to removing most of us further from the brunt of war. Since we no longer fear our sons and daughters being drafted into service, we have fewer qualms about sending other people’s sons and daughters to do the Empire’s bidding.

We have been laying waste to villages for years now over in the Middle East without ever officially declaring war. Our drones will decimate wedding parties in other countries in an attempt to kill a terrorist (it is still hard for us to tell who the enemy is).  Urban areas are being bombed in order to maintain control or regain control of countries.

We always seem to find the money and a good excuse to engage in military conflict. As a result, whole generations grow up knowing only wartime and destruction under the heavy arm of Empire as we seek to maintain oil supplies, and “national security” (read, protection of our corporations’ overseas interests).

We have yet to learn from the costs of war.

*   *   *

Monument to the victims of the My Lai Massacre
(Photo property of

*Read about one man's visit to the My Lai museum here.

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