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Archive for May, 2015

On this Memorial Day May 25, 2015, I’m working on my book about a Springfield liaison pilot who never came home. Among the wonderful collection of documents Connie Ann Walker, his and wife Geraldine’s (Gerri’s) only child  shared with AeroKnow Museum was a scan of the letter JTW’s commander, General Mark W. Clark wrote to her following his unexpected death. This transcription will be included in my book “Story of a Hero Who Never Came Home.”

Headquarters 15th Army Group
Office of the Commanding General
APO 777, U.S. Army
February 23, 1945

Dear Mrs. Walker:

It is with deep sorrow that I write you of the death of your husband Lieutenant Colonel John T. Walker. I know you will have received the telegram from the War Department now.

As you know, Jack had served as a member of my personal staff as my pilot for seventeen months. He had told me so much of you and your daughter that I feel I was acquainted with you both, a fact which makes this letter even more difficult to write. He had made many plans or his homecoming; plans that were about to be realized, when destiny intervened.

As a reward for the superior manner in hwich Jack had performed his duties with me, I had arranged for him to return to the United States on a twenty-three day leave of absence. He was to make the trip by air. Jack boarded the plane, a twin motored bomber, on the morning of February 19th, on the first leg of his journey home. The plane took off from the field, then, when  only five hundred feet above the ground, was seen to shudder violently and go into a spin.  It crashed about half a mile from the field, instantly killing all aboard. I went immediately to the scene of the crash, but nothing could be done except mourn the loss of a gallant soldier and comrade.

No definite cause for the crash has been established. However, from the reports of several of Jack’s friends who were at the field to see him off, it is believed that one motor failed, the resultant drag on the other motor causing the plane to turn over.

Funeral services were conducted on February 20th at an American cemetery near here, and a memorial service was held at my headquarters at 11:00 A.M., February 22nd. I attended both services, along with  his many other close friends on my staff. I know how much it would have meant to you, had you been able to be present. As this was impossible, I made arrangements to photograph the ceremonies. The photographs are enclosed with this letter.

I am also enclosing a photograph of Jack receiving his Legion of Merit, awarded in recognition of this outstanding service with me, on February 10th. As far as I know, it was the last photograph taken of him.

I know that there is nothing I could say that would in any way temper your grief in your great loss. Knowing Jack as I did, however, I can more closely share your grief. He was one of my finest officers, loved by all who knew him. His memory lives on in the hearts of his many friends.

Please accept my most heartfelt sympathy.

(signed)
MARK W. CLARK
Lieutenant General, USA,Commanding

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FOR SOME NUTTY REASON, I CANNOT re-format this text to standard; not italics. When I highlighted a title to change to italics, the title changed, and so did the rest of the blog.

Tuesday May 19th I decided to push past a feud with a friend and return to a regular “all poets and songwriters and essay writers open microphone (open mic)” at a favorite restaurant in lyrical downtown Springfield.  On Wednesday, I did.

It was a poetry-event-thing-feud, details of  which are not important now. Friends not connected to it had urged me to put it behind me and by last Tuesday, I knew it was time.  People I hadn’t seen for several months confirmed with their smiles and warm greetings that I had made the right decision. Only when the enjoyable evening was almost over did I come to realize it had not been a FEUD had touched me off like a rocket last August; it was a misunderstanding. The difference is important.

A major challenge to emcees at open mics involves dealing with new, aspiring communicators, some young and inexperienced behind a microphone and some old and inexperienced behind a microphone; some who have learned their craft and some who are essentially the same wordsmiths they were in 1993 when the local literary community began coalescing into an active organization which is, today, known as Springfield Poets and Writers. Many writers of all stripes have come and gone over the years, but three of us have remained, more or less, coalesced. Some of the newer participants — even a few of the long-timers — regard open mic nights as their opportunity to rehearse their one-person show they imagine is destined to play  at Carnegie Hall. During the early years, we who learned as we loped along came to be cool with the notion that three poems or songs were a fair way to share, as a set, behind the microphone. Many newcomers noticed this and caught on, gladly. But some, newcomers and long-timers, did not.

Since most of my time behind the microphone since day one has shared poems and songs I had memorized, I had become well and happily acquainted with a little thing called PRACTICE. That’s how we memorize and maximize impact of what we say with appropriate projection of our voices, pauses, steady and changing tempos. I always been aware of how long each poem or song I intended to share took. I was not as aware of the time I intended to spend introducing content. My proclivity for happy  banter when introducing poems, songs, was sometimes longer than what I had practiced. Even so, if my poems took a little longer than planned, thanks to my pausing for people on the far side of the microphone to finish reacting, no one seemed to mind. Other participants who went on and on and on and on and on and on . . . . disappointed some of the audience. It made excellent sense to draw a line in the sand of time allotted for each participant — I mean EVERY–  open mic participant. Those of us who planned ahead would not mind adjusting our content. Sharing shorter poems and  less banter made sense. People had come to share art; not ad-libbed quips from a second-string Rodney Dangerfield. Longer poems require less banter, but all “art” stands best that stands alone, does not require a map before beginning to reveal it.

If I am compelled to share a longer poem, the best way,  at some open mics, is to share a sample of it: an excerpt, a taste. Listeners can offer me a dollar for a copy (I will bring copies to future open mics) or buy my books. When an open mic emcee/coach announces a time limit. . . . . . it makes good sense that this is how I will play the game in that ball park.

After the microphone was put away and we were saying goodbyes, getting ready to head home, I apologized to my friend for what was my misunderstanding. I said that I,  NOW, better appreciate how it works to the benefit of us who do what we do reasonably well AND for those who are still learning . . . and those who will never learn.

She thanked me for attending and participating. That meant a lot to me.

We wh0 do what we do reasonably well may consider developing other performance opportunities, perhaps inviting two or three poets-songwriters-essayists who KNOW HOW to use a microphone, who KNOW HOW to recite or read a poem or essay without stumbling over and repeating every eighth word, can speak clearly and be understood, who KNOW HOW to and WANT TO engage the audience to DO IT without the line in sand of  time. Nobody gets to Broadway without knowing how to use the voice and how to deliver lines clearly.  It’s not about technique or persona behind the microphone. Not everybody wants to be Rod McKuen or Boxcar Willie. Variety is wonderful.

We in Springfield are lucky to have Robbie’s on third Wednesdays and an intelligent, disciplined emcee/ringmaster whose devotion to good writing is evident and appreciated.  Robbie’s owner and area writers have supported third Wednesday open mics for several years.

Most of my day at work before heading downtown was spent selecting two poems appropriate to share. I knew I would recite TWO. If I did well, the folks would look forward to my reciting poems again. If my poems were recited poorly, at least there was no major investment of time in prepping only two poems.  I did not expect to do poorly and I didn’t. My view of the audience told me I did fine. Traditionally I “opened” with a Vachel Lindsay poem “Niagara.” Before the first word of the poem, I invited anyone who knew about Vachel and wanted to talk about him to talk to me after everyone had shared their writing. The poem I wrote, that after considering every poem in my first book “Minstrel’s Ramble: to Live and Die in Springfield, Illinois” I thought appropriate to share, was “I Want to be Sedated.” That poem follows this pre-poem ramble.

I had a fine time the evening of May 19 and look forward to attending the next open mic there. June 17, starting at 6 pm and concluding about 8 pm.

I Want to Be Sedated
by Job Conger

This world, it seems so topsy-turvy,
hell-bent for Armageddon soon:
too many creeps passing for prophets,
and mystics baying at the moon.
It’s hard to find a lucid stranger
and make it past the surface smile
in an age that’s sadly superficial;
a litany of bitter trial.
I-I-I want to be sedated.
Don’t want to feel so mad and mean.
I-I-I want to be sedated.
I’m even swearing off caffeine.

The many demons in my closet,
they shake the door, they yell and scream,
and though the door is double-bolted,
the noise is curdling my cream.
And noise from demons all around us
contaminates the life once sweet.
It’s getting louder by the minute.
I need to make a swift retreat.
I-I-I want to be sedated.
Don’t want to hear your angry bile.
I-I-I want to be sedated.
The sound of music’s more my style.

Some people flirt with boozy weekends
and chug the their drinks like popcorn shrimp
while others ride passionate hormones
and get their jollies from a pimp.
The chemistry from basement gardens
will never see this body through,
but if you have a good solution,
I sure could use a dose or two.
I-I-I want to be sedated
with more than nods and knowing grins
I-I-I want to be sedated
and find the road where hope begins.

written July 24, 1995

Live long . . . . . . . . . and proper.

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pre-poem ramble:

I’ve been better.

When I had cataract surgery a few months ago, the prognosis from the good doctor was that after conventional, less expensive, treatment of my better left eye and the Lasik, high priced spread, laser fix of the right eye, both involving corneal implants, I’d be issued eye glasses in early April  for close-up vision and my longer range sight would be much improved. n, It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

The cataract “the size of Milwaukee” which had prevented the doctor from even seeing the back of my right eye, also prevented accurate diagnosis of the condition of that eye. Post Lasik examination revealed my right eye is slightly smaller and not as well-developed as assumed. Nothing is going to improve the vision in that eye. Vision in the left eye has improved in a major way: no more halos around oncoming lights. Things I see are brighter than they were and . . . . well, not so fast.

The doctor assigned to me by the clinic after the operation is not a surgeon doing post op evaluation, he is an optometrist — or at least something like that — doing evaluation of resulting condition, preparatory to the providing of prescription eye glasses. For weeks I self-administered three eye drop medicines intended to complete the healing of the eyes so that glasses could be made and worn. Two of the prescriptions were discontinued after a month. The third continued. The anticipated progress did not happen, even after two weeks between optometrist visits instead of what had been almost a three-month routine of weekly visits. My vision in my left eye is LESS than it was before the cataract removal, and he doesn’t know why.

So it’s “back to the  drawing board.” I’ve been scheduled to meet with a new member of the clinic staff for some serious “look see.” I know this because I’ve been told I’m going to  have to take a cab home after the visit. That’s no big deal, I’ll drive to the doctor, cab home, cab back the next day for follow-up and drive to work. That’s the plan. All I really want to do is get a certificate from “a qualified treatment professional” that tells the Illinois Secretary of State’s people I am legally qualified to drive. And please get some eyeglasses made for me so I can read smaller type.

The optometrist wants to be sure the great clinic staff (and they are; just terrific people) has done all that can be done to maximize my vision before they release me. I appreciate that attitude. I shall stay with this. No pain is involved; just SIGNIFICANT cost, even with Medicaid, and time away from earning a living.

Other factors in my life are contributing to a sense of near-constant hopelessness. Still no progress repairing the upstairs duplex so I can find residents for it; suffocating under the daily thinking and communications incapacities of my employer, too much to do at the museum where I’m investing 90 percent of my thoughts and 50 percent of my activity in a 24 hour day, no time to catch up with blogging, taking care of my finances, yard work that I’ve much-too-long neglected! . . . . . I’ll jabber more, but for now, you’ve suffered enough.

September Trees
by Job Conger

Where are songs
of robins warbling in the park
in late September?

Could it be
that there is nothing left
to sing?

The mates have found their mates.
The un-mate-able are resigned
to their loneliness and sublimation.

The fledgelings have flown away,
and with those young
have flown the dreams.

There is nothing left to learn,
nothing left to prove
that can be proven.
No one left to love
who can be loved.

—————————————- written 10:10 pm, October 3, 2002

Live long . . . . . . . and proper.

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