Saturday 23 April 2022

Five Poems by Duane Vorhees




--You grey many-symboled bird, 

O killer of murderous snakes. 


Trying to keep their spirits up 

these cold, these weary, these hungry doomed soldati 

sing their mournful Zhuravli* 


At times I feel the casualties 

of battle never really died. 

Their buried flags are flying V's. 

They became cranes unfurled in flight. 


The cold, the weary, the hungry, the doomed 

sing the paean to their Great Patriotic War fallen 

not knowing they sing their own prophecy

as they ravage their way blindly

through the countryside and out. 


The wars of long ago are not 

so long ago. The cranes still cry. 

The air is filled with fire and shot. 

Low moans and shrieks shatter the skies. 


Crane -- you listen and recall. 

Kyiv had indeed once been freed  

by their very grandpas. 

And now they seek to enslave it again. 


The cranes still flap in formation 

through the twilights and through the mists. 

A line break, an indication 

I'll fill that vacancy we missed. 


Crane -- you stand for freedom, 

honour, prestige, supreme military dignity.  

Sorrow for a motherland. 

And longevity! But also sacrifice. 


And so the day will surely come 

when I take my place in the gap 

and you'll hear my birdwings hum from 

where I left you there on the map. 


Crane -- you sound your trumpet. 

You stand tall and upright in Dnieperland. 

Be like your cousin cranes, 

the guardians of Midir's gates 

who stripped away the courage 

of the battle-bound warriors 

who passed their way.  

Feel pity for the soldati 

even as you punish them. 


*”Cranes,” popular Russian song by Rasul Gamzatov and Yan Frenkels



Courage is not just the medal, and love not the ring. 

Our identities transcend our organs, nerves, and bones. 

No ideas, no concepts, are ever concrete things, 

and neither are the handsome words by which they are known. 

The world we see is made of steel, stone, plastic, glass, wood, 

material structures made of molecules, atoms, 

nucleons, hadrons, quarks, firmions, and other coulds 

and shoulds (names await definition of a datum). 

We preside over realms of rebars and 2X4s

but we're subjects of shadow monarchs called metaphors.



I found a dime 

by the railroad track. 

It was old and grey 

bent, dull, 


The tail was battered, 

the head worn and blank. 

We were minted 

the same year. 



and beginnings end and ends begin. 

eternities move ahead and back. 


our present is our time to butcher 

before the now determines our fast. 


in the spot between gone and again 

all whitenesses contain shades of black. 


some poets remember the future 

and other poets create the past. 



antigrav daydream swimming 

timeless buzzbrain grins 

rhymes of elusive elucidation 

and dizzying distraction -- 

isn't that what being in love was like? 


And, alas, time's the effective scrubber 

of the festive infestation.

Duane Vorhees lives in Thailand after teaching in Japan and Korea for many years. He was raised in Ohio and received his PhD in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University. Hog Press of Ames, iowa, recently published tree collections of his poetry, THE MANY LOVES OF DUANE VORHEES, GIFT: GOD RUNS THROUGH ALL THESE ROOMS, and HEAVEN. 

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