by Steve Gaines

between what might otherwise have been
an arbitrary date in December nineteen forty-one
and another in September two thousand and one
the world has turned at an inconstant rate
sometimes at peace
sometimes not

sometimes an encouraging existence amid promises
and hopes
abundant
sometimes history bouncing back
and forth sounding in the violence
and echoes of unspeakable terror

circumstances of the human condition
not easily explained
death and destruction abroad on the land
lessons of the past we have apparently ignored
or misunderstood to our great misfortune evil
and uncertainty like broken glass on the highway
giving us question and doubt of our journey
keeping us on edge
and leery
of every new step in any new direction

moments that speak so of dread and misgiving
holding out nothing of promise or joy
nothing of peace or long life
the exceptional experience
of living otherwise confounded
by the dangers and wastes
of whatever new and inevitable war

it seems extraordinary
that we have come so short a distance
in our evolving humanity

when I was a young boy in nineteen forty-one
life was all about new beginnings
as it is for all young boys I think
it was about the great adventure of discovery
things were about as exciting as they could be
I didn’t think it would ever be anything different

I can bring back that young boy’s perspective still
even in this distant place
like a brand new Technicolor movie
all about growing up and searching for direction
in a world where there were no wrong turns
where I had been led to believe
it would be never be any different

until one sudden Sunday shattered that rose colored view

Pearl Harbor!

until that geographical delineation
had become a call to arms
until my father left with all the other fathers
and sons all the mothers
and daughters the brothers
and sisters until so many families had been torn apart
all of them bravely heading into an uncertain future
until my mother’s silent fear
had become apparent even to the child
I was
I had not experienced any of the dark side of life

that moment in time
that Sunday in December had pulled out the rug
had taken away so many possibilities
and I couldn’t explain it in my five year old’s mind
I couldn’t understand a world gone
suddenly over some invisible insane edge

now I have become a sixty six year old grandfather
of twelve
and comes another rug
pulled away another of the too many
human mistakes
we have come too easily to expect I fear

now
September eleventh…
two thousand and one!

I can not help but wonder
about that long ago December
and how this brand new call to arms echoes
in that memory

do my twelve eager young
twenty-first century grandsons and daughters
have the hopes I had…then?
do they have dreams and promises
that are now at risk in the shadows
of this modern new terror?
will they surrender something of their youth?
will they struggle
with the unanswerable questions of today?

and how many other thousands
and millions
of their generation
will be at similar risk?
how many more expected horrors must they expect!?

can we somehow end the Sisyphus-like journey
mankind seems to have embarked upon?
can we stop the vicious circle of hate
can mankind evolve
just one more
step
toward common sense?

the answers of course are with those very children
mine and theirs
with whatever the newest generation
who can only see how wonderful life can be
who can not yet understand the expected mistakes
who can forsake the lessons
and examples of all the generations before them
and refuse to accept things
as they are
who can gather up all of history’s terror
and tragedy
in some museum
of the bellicose
then lock it up
and throw away the key!

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