Norman MacAfee: Afghanistan and the Effects of War on Men

  Norman MacAfee

  Afghanistan
  and the Effects of War on Men

 

‘Worrywart’
first use
1936
fits my sister
born 1939
the year
war begins.

I am conceived
the night
Churchill enters FDR’s
White House.

My birth year
we are
winning the war.
Dad bursts into
‘O What a
Beautiful Morning!’
out that year
1943.

After the war
on the beach
enormous
dirigible looms
as Alice runs
to shield me.

After war
we look at
moon:
‘A hundred
miles away’
I say;
‘More’
she says.

After war
our cousin returns
from Battle of
the Bulge.

Twenty-three
he pins me
to the floor.
I am five.
He says,
‘Now I’m
going to take
off your shirt…’
No, I say
and he obeys.

Elementary school
chorus sings
in something
thrilling I never
heard live:
two-part harmony:
‘Walk on
walk on
with hope…’
two
sides
of
my
brain
open
knit.

At Baldwin School
Bryn Mawr
Victorian castle
by Frank Furness
greatest Philadelphia
architect starchitect

before Louis Kahn
whom Alice
when at Penn
will adore
from afar
and who will die
alone in that
horror new
Penn Station

but his Four
Freedoms Park
for FDR
sails ever to
Eleanor’s UN
our distant
cousins —

in 1957
at Baldwin
Alice writes
two papers

about

author of
All Quiet on
the Western Front

about

that land of
Bamiyan Buddhas
graveyard of empires.

Those papers
disappear
as alas
does Alice
1939 to 1987
so I write this poem
with their titles
‘Afghanistan’ and
‘The Effects of War
on Men’
oh prescient Alice.

Alice calls it
draft dodging
but when I say
I am resisting
she sees a little.

DR. KING
full-page
tabloid headline.
Democrat I
Republican she
telegram LBJ
to honor King
with ceasefire.

A little tipsy
she says she
loves me very
very much.
Vectoring her
toward ‘meeting
people’ as she wants
and soon will
I alas reply
‘That is a
cross I bear.’
She rises to
weep in the
ladies room.
I shock
myself covered
in shame.

Alice alas
keeps smoking
when all about
are losing theirs
cigarets as I
life as Dad
and she.

Skinny black
homeless man
weaves through
subway car singing
‘When you
walk through
a storm’
reducing us
travelers
to tears.

Carter’s
Kissinger
Zbigniew
Brzezinski
makes Soviets
pay for Poland
by giving them
their own
Vietnam
with
Afghanistan.

US
Mujahideen
overthrow Soviets’
Najibullah
Afghans’
only good
president ever.

Mujahideen
torture
castrate
kill
Najibullah.

Mujahideen
become
Taliban
&
Soviets’
Vietnam
becomes
US
Vietnam
or do I mean
US
Afghanistan?

Tom Savage
NY Buddhist
goes there
in the sixties
&
in the new
millennium
in the East
Village writes
a great poem
which begins
‘We are
or were
the Bamiyan
Buddhas…’

Pondering
power equations of
China & Japan
I have a hunch
sister Alice.

I go to world
wide web
for exact
measurements of
surface areas of
China
Earth
Japan
moon.

I’m right!
China and Japan!
Earth and moon!
Area ratios
are the same!

Twenty-five to one:
China and Japan.
Twenty-five to one:
Earth and moon!

Oh China!
Oh Japan!
Oh Alice!
Oh moon!
Oh Earth!

Why should I
write a little
song
oh my dear
epic begun
three million
years ago
with our
first mother
in Africa

 
 
 
 
 

Copyright © 2016, Norman MacAfee and Miguel Cervantes-Cervantes

 
 
 

Norman McAfee at seven, in 1950.
Norman MacAfee at seven, in 1950.

 

Pictured here in 1950 in Brookline, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia, myself at seven with the two Alices, my grandmother, Alice Pauline Dietz (1874-1961), and sister, whose married name was Alice Randall (1939-1987). Photo by our mother, Thelma MacAfee. Copyright © 1950, 2016, Norman MacAfee. Two years earlier, in 1948, I learned about Metacomet, who would become the hero of my opera, ‘The Death of the Forest’, to music of Charles Ives, which is making its way to production. Also in the works: ‘Man at the Crossroads’, poem-opera-public initiative to Diego Rivera; ‘Life Begins Tomorrow’, play-screenplay to Jean-Paul Sartre and Olivier Messiaen; ‘The Re-Creation of the New World, poems 1974-2016’; ‘Bowery Rembrandt’, film documentary of photographer Nancy Miller Elliott with music by Buck Clayton; ‘Gloucester’s Eyes’, dance theater work from Shakespeare and Monteverdi; ‘The Gospel According to RFK’, film documentary of the 1968 presidential campaign of Senator Robert Kennedy (1925-1968).

 

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