And Words Are All I Have

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Vimy Ridge boys, I Am Not Resigned,

At What Cost.

A poem of mine remembering the fallen.

On Their Way to Vimy Ridge

They are packed shoulder to shoulder in the back of the truck
The oldest of those pictured might be 22.
The photographer has asked for a wave
As they head out to the front that bright April morning.
He needs to bear witness back home.
And they oblige, graciously,
No artifice or ego in their response,
Knowing not what lay ahead
Seeming unconcerned.

Their spontaneous eruption of solidarity
A thing of unvarnished beauty.
Canadians all, together for the first time
In ways unimagined,
There to get the job done,
Before heading home to
Welcoming parades,
Sweethearts and young marriages,
And if luck is with them,
A job at the local Co-Op.

i write
Allow yourself Lowness

And this one by Edna St Vincent Millay. For me no one could honor our fallen heroes more eloquently than Millay does here. I love most her defiance here, her unapologetic refusal to accept such unspeakable loss.

I Am Not Resigned.

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.
Crowned with lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve.
And I am not resigned.

Remembrance Day 2

The Cost

Yes, painful so very often
to have fewer filters than most.
To be awake to the hurt in the world.
I look across at the driver next to me at the stop light
and wonder if he is loved.
It is involuntary. Born in some. Inescapable.
This breathing in of others.
Drawn inexorably
to the one lonely person in the room.
Drawn to what is broken, the dreams surrendered,
all that needs tending,
powerless to look away.
And always more yet to see.
But I pay the cost.
I would pay it twice in this life of mine
for what it gives in return,
my unseen affliction.
See me here still standing.
With laughter that comes so easily in me.
a child’s delight in an unexpected gift,
a fresh snowfall,
a baby returning my smile.
See me here still standing,
scars beneath my clothes,
See me, still,
so utterly vulnerable to joy.

~ Tricia McCallum


As the final curtain falls before my eyes...
Take a moment and listen to this song by the Alan Parsons Project, When I'm Old and Wise. It never fails to bring unbidden tears whenever I hear it. What is it about a song that can touch us all to our very heart's core.
tricia handwritten signature
Our memory is a more perfect world than the universe:
it gives back life to those who no longer exist.

~~ Guy de Maupassant


Recent Post


We are left adrift it seems. Dr Laura is too busy plugging window blinds to be taken seriously. And these days Dr. Phil appears a mere dead eyed huckster for his wife’s line of miraculous subterranean botanicals. Archbishops are led away in handcuffs while princes in island mansions prey upon the under-aged. In search of wisdom we seek …

Michael O'Donnell didn't return home from the Vietnam War, but his poetry did. Alum Daniel Weiss was so taken by O'Donnell's work that he spent the last decade-plus learning about its author.

This is from an essay by Bret McCabe, himself a vet, published Spring of 2020.

Helicopter pilot Michael O'Donnell could hover near the ground for only a short time before returning to the sky. On the afternoon of March 24, 1970, O'Donnell had guided his Huey below the dense foliage of Cambodia's mountainous northeast region to retrieve an eight-man reconnaissance patrol that had been inserted to gain information on the size and movements of enemy forces but encountered gunfire early on. Three days into a planned five-day patrol, they needed to be evacuated.

O'Donnell, a 24-year-old from suburban Milwaukee, was part of the helicopter rescue mission involving two unarmed transports and four gunships that were dispatched from an airbase in Vietnam's central highlands. After lingering at 1,500 feet, waiting for the recon team to reach the extraction point, one transport had to return to base to refuel. The transport was on its way back when the recon team radioed that it couldn't hold out much longer. O'Donnell dropped his helicopter into a windy canyon and through a small opening in the canopy, lowered his craft to just above the ground. The recon patrol emerged from the jungle with enemy fire trailing after them. It took about four agonizingly long minutes for all eight men to board, a little longer than the average pop song.

After ascending about 200 feet, O'Donnell radioed to air command, "I've got all eight, I'm coming out," right before his helicopter burst into flames, likely struck by a ground-based rocket. The pilot, his three-man crew, and the recon patrol were officially declared missing in action in 1970. O'Donnell wouldn't be declared dead until February 7, 1978. His remains were discovered in 1995 but not officially identified until February 15, 2001. And on August 16, 2001, he was interred at Arlington National Cemetery, which was created as a final resting place for soldiers on land seized from a plantation owner after the Civil War. O'Donnell left behind his wife, his parents, a sister, his best friend and music partner, and a collection of 19 poems, some of which he included in his letters to friends, discovered in his footlocker after his death.

One of those 19 retrieved pieces, printed below, O'Donnell had mailed to his friend Marcus Sullivan in 1970. Sullivan served as a combat engineer in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, and they wrote each other throughout their training and tours. O'Donnell's daily missions transporting the dead and wounded back from the front lines were taking their toll.

If you are able,
save them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can
no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always.
Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own. And in that time
when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes
you left behind.


Book Sales

The Music of Leaving, my collection of poetry, is available to order.
Order directly online — for both Canada and U.S. orders — from Amazon, Brunswick and Demeter.
The Music of Leaving - Tricia McCallum

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