Gail

Queens born and bred

Bayside, in fact.

At first glance

As down to earth

And regular as she can be.

 

Who would have guessed

That the soul of an artist

Resided in her.

 

At age 12 she fell in love with Picasso.

And tried to paint like him.

She studied art history

But succumbed to the elitism

That stifles creativity in so many.

 

Swept up in the the sixties,

Gail joined the revolution.

As hardworking as she was radical.

Gail defied convention

In her conventional way.

 

The development community

She helped build

Gave birth to the

All Stars Project

With Gail as its first leader.

 

Her grandmother had

Been a Bolshevik in Russia;

It’s in her blood.

 

Gail did not just do “prison work”

She fell in love with the Capeman,

Led the effort to win his release

And lived with him when he was freed.

 

She worked as director of sales

For a radical theatre,

Collected petitions,

Organized Hudson River cruises

To raise money for her causes

And put in her time from 9 to 5.

To pay the bills.

 

And then, a year ago at age 70

Gail began to paint again.

Picasso is still her inspiration.

Color, angles, weirdness

Draw you in and challenge you.

That’s Gail.

 

 

Harry Kresky

July, 2018

Vietnam again

I’ve been to Vietnam.

Not because I was drafted,

But because I wasn’t.

 

I had to see first-hand the people

Who defied the calculation

That massive doses of

Napalm and bombs

Would bring surrender.

 

The war in Vietnam

Has lived with me.

Has shaped me.

It made me an activist.

My trip to Vietnam

Made me more of an American.

 

In a small boat in the Mekong Delta,

I touched the fear of GI’s on patrol

Who could not see behind the dense growth

Along the banks.

 

As the Vietnamese rebuild their country,

American visitors are welcomed and

Reminded who won and who lost.

 

On the lawn of the former Presidential Palace

In Saigon were replicas of a Chinese and Soviet tank

That helped dismantle the old regime.

Nearby was a U.S.  fighter jet hijacked by

A Viet Cong pilot who joined the assault.

 

In Hanoi we had lunch at the hotel

Where Jane Fonda and other leaders of the

Anti-war movement stayed during their 1972

Visit to the leaders of the communist government.

 

I came with admiration for the Vietnamese

Liberation of their country.

In Vietnam I  

Faced the trauma

Of the GI’s and officers

Who fought there.

 

We visited the prison where

John McCain and other

Captured American pilots were held.

 

Fifty miles outside Saigon

Was a war memorial

That showed a short documentary

About a 16-year-old Vietnamese girl

Who killed a record number of American soldiers.

 

An American veteran

Allowed our Vietnamese guide

To use him to demonstrate

How hidden doors on the jungle floor

Trapped American soldiers.

 

We were invited to enter the

Tunnels where the Viet Cong

Laid in wait for them,

I was too large and too

Afraid to follow him inside.

 

I mentioned to our guide

The millions of Americans, like me,

Who opposed the war —

Marching, protesting, demanding

“U.S. get out of Vietnam.”

Our guide said he understood.

 

Back in Saigon,

A city with pulsing energy

That made a New Yorker feel at home,

A Young Vietnamese businessman

Spoke about the dislocation and turmoil

His pro-American family endured.

 

50 Years later,

Not exactly friends,

Vietnamese and Americans

Are coming to know one another

And ourselves.

 

July, 2018

 

The Fish

Elizabeth Bishop, 19111979
I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

What is to be done?

My sweet spot is peaceful and beautiful.
An old friend.
But there’s not even a nibble.
Nearby —
More ordinary, but fish are biting.
I must admit, that’s exciting.
Can we split the difference?
Go from one to the other?
What’s fair?
What’s true?
What matters?

July, 2018