Amerithon – (IV)

Omaha Beach

“…and I wept over them, and men and women sprang into being from the tears which came forth from my Eye.”

 

O vision beheld on the beach of Normandy,

beheld from the starboard bow flashing,

climbing down the cargo nets over the starboard side,

our Higgins descending by the davit’s grip.

 

There I beheld the likeness of all things,

and fell in love so deeply with the past, for I had become intimate with the present.

Was it not the fire of Prometheus yielding to me,

green ignus fatuus flashing out of the dawn breaking,

light of the casemate’s lamp, and of the sparks that leap out of the bridgehead further inland.

Was it not unfurled before me like the wiigwaasabakoon, the golden etchings of Ojibwe?

Was it not the same vision as you had, Waynaboozhoo, from the shoulder of your dug-out,

as you weathered the Flood a full moon’s time?

 

I beheld all men breaching Easy Red

as seedlings of rice dipped one by one into the paddy water,

one by one planting their cheeks against the sand,

rolling backwards and dragging across the sandbar,

hedgehogs tenderly catching and cradling their bodies.

Waynaboozhoo, they were like the wild rice you gathered from the river,

as you fasted in your wigwam that long, chill winter,

the same wild rice you mistook for feathered headdresses of Ojibwe men dancing on the water.

I, too, saw E company, their Higgins like a cork upon the waves,

and felt as though I were dreaming,

for they and their flotilla breaking the fog

looked as iron-white seafoam riding in on the tide,

like Heavenly Aphrodite borne out of the ocean.

And from this vision three ideas seized me.

 

The first, as I descended the cargo nets,

my Garand’s sight snagging in the swollen knots,

lost to me climbing down to the Higgins,

was such love for these men I almost could not bear,

such delirious, selfish love for them,

both for those beside me, my own company,

in whose vomit we waded that filled the boat’s shallow draft,

and those men on the beachhead whose names I knew not,

yet I was in love with them all the same.

I was in love, even, with those men in the pillboxes and turrets,

for they were of the same seafoam washed up on the tide,

the same salt-water corrosive to their lost sea-skin.

 

The second idea was of importunity.

As the coxswain summoned his voice overhead,

my gaze dropped from the battle to look upon him,

and I fell to questioning, desperate and heartfull,

as princely Arjuna, scorcher of foes, as the son of Pritha

was full of doubt gazing upon the yellow plains of Kurukshetra,

surveying from his shaded chariot the armies left and right,

and fell into despair, and called upon his driver,

who was Jambul-skinned Krishna, Lord of the Universe,

Husband of Fortune, Chief Herdsman, Protector of Cows and Souls.

Bhagavan Krishna, the Supreme Purusha,

to cure the prince’s heart-sickness,

arrayed His Divine Form to Arjuna,

that world-destroying Time, Ishvara, in celestial gowns resplendent, Ishvara,

into whose myriad flaming mouths go all the heroes of men, and have gone, and will go,

as moths go swiftly to radiant perishment.

So as Arjuna beheld the terrific Lord Brahman on the lotus,

and trembled with consent,

I was brought before the same portal by the coxswain’s own doing,

the bow-ramp’s jaws drawing open for me.

 

Of the third idea, it was the same as yours, Waynaboozhoo,

returning with the wild rice cupped in your hands,

returning to the village troubled with long winter,

returning with news of hidden crops of long seeds in the river.

You told your families so they would not go hungry,

so they would not be weak and hungry in winter.

I, too, found those seedlings adrift in the unconscious sea.

And this was the third notion I had,

unbuckling my haversack to stay myself above the wine-dark waters,

to tell of those seedlings among salt-lettuce and cloudy silt,

whose names I hold in my heart, and cannot speak aloud without weeping.

 

O vision beheld on the beach of Normandy,

the intensest rendezvous I witnessed on your shore

was the same as that of the future and the past.

That was the likeness of all things,

the uniformity of bodies stacked like cordwood along the bar.

All of history has taken place along the bar,

where ignorant clashings of seas with land embrace.


R. Charboneau