The Poetry of Fred Norman

    Memorial Day, 2016

    American soldiers dead, their history forgotten
    except by those who knew and loved them,
    their roots in pride and patriotism, in family,
    as sons and daughters, siblings and spouses.

                Blane D. Bussell, 2016.

    Another Memorial Day, a day to memorialize.

    And here we meet at a Memorial to memory,
    neither antiwar memorial nor peace, neither
    pride nor shame, neither beauty nor duty,
    but merely a place of cleansing remembrance.

                John D. Gerrie, 2016.
                Matthew Q. McClintock, 2016.

    Another Memorial Day, like a star in the universe.

    One star among many, a dim light amongst the dark,
    too dim to be seen in Washington, DC, too dim
    to be seen in Baghdad or Kabul, way too dim
    to be seen in Syria, way way too dim for ISIL.

                Nathaniel H. McDavitt, 2016.
                Louis F. Cardin, 2016.
                Charles H. Keating IV, 2016.
                David A. Bauders, 2016.

    Another Memorial Day, a candle in the night.
    Our leaders see it as an enemy in search of us,
    our Congress sees it as mirage, ghostly unreal,
    our generals see it as a threat, a fatal weakness,
    most Americans do not see it at all, myopic, blind.

                Connor A. McQuagge, 2016, age 19.

    Another Memorial Day, another name, one more
    but not the last in 2016, only last until another
    day, another night, another candle shining light
    on an entire Hill of names, thousands among

                millions more I cannot name —

    tens of thousands of Afghan civilians dead,
    millions of Iraqi civilians dead, children,
    children, children dead, children I do not know,
    children I will never know, children just like mine,

                and I cannot name a single one.

    Yet a desert star shining brightly in their desert night
    also shines on us and our sun shines down on them,
    both to light the Way from the Cradle to our Hill,
    from a beginning to an end, which our Hill must be

                if we are ever to know their names,
    for they are here. Our soldiers are here. On our Hill.
    Today. Memorial Day. Memories. Remember them
    Stars in the universe. Candles in the night. Sunlight.
    I do not know their names, but I know ours, and ours
    on Memorial Day the same as theirs — say one, say all.

                                    © Fred Norman, Pleasanton, CA

    Read at the Crosses of Lafayette, Memorial Day, 2014

    Torn Between Anger and Grief

    I am a Veteran.

    I am at a vigil
    honoring my fellow Veterans
    who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I am at the Crosses of Lafayette in Lafayette, California —

    my Crosses of Lafayette,
    your Crosses of Lafayette,
    their Crosses of Lafayette,

    and I am torn between anger and grief.

    I am at a Memorial Day vigil
    at the Crosses of Lafayette in Lafayette, California,
    my seventh Memorial Day vigil
    at the Crosses of Lafayette in Lafayette, California,
    and I am torn between anger and grief.

    After seven years I finally ask myself: What is the meaning of vigil?
    I search and research and find references to watchfulness,
    to quiet contemplation, to sadness, to prayer,
    but I find no references to anger.

    Ater seven years I finally ask myself: What is the meaning of memorial?
    I search and research and find references to honoring the dead,
    to remembering the dead, to grieving for the dead,
    but I find no references to anger.

    And I am grieving — Yes! — as one should grieve
    at a vigil, but why is it that I am so angry?

    I find no references to 3,000 dead Americans on 9/11.
    I find no references to 7,000 dead Americans
    in retaliation for those 3,000 dead Americans.
    I find no references to hundreds of thousands
    of dead Iraqis and dead Afghans.
    I find no references to little children
    machine-gunned while out gathering firewood.
    I find no references to droned wedding parties
    or destroyed families or unspeakable violence.

    I find no references to “Why”,
    I find no references to “Who”,
    but I know why and I know who,
    and that is the source of my anger;
    I know why and I know who,
    and that is the source of my grief.

    Anger and grief, why and who, the living and the dead.
    Who is on this Hill? Let us bow our heads and grieve.
    Why are they here? Let us raise our heads in anger.
    Who are the living? Who are the dead? Who am I,
    torn between anger and grief, not knowing what to do,
    not knowing how to feel, fists clenched, tears in my eyes?

    Perhaps anger and grief are symbiotic, anger necessary
    to start a war, grief necessary to understand a war,
    both together necessary to end a war, to build a peace,
    to memorialize our family on this Hill, to be with them
    tonight in a vigil symbolizing our shared humanity.

      © Fred Norman, Pleasanton, CA

    Read at the Crosses of Lafayette, Veterans Day, 2013


    Once there was Armistice Day
    to commemorate the end of war.
    Now there is Veterans Day
    to mourn the veterans
    who have served and died
    in war after war after war,
    and who will continue to serve and die
    in war after war after war.


    Look at our Hill -
    These are the Americans who died
    in only two of our wars.
    Imagine them standing here with us.
    Imagine those without arms and legs
    standing here with us.
    Imagine all of the veterans of all of our wars
    standing here with us,
    standing here mourning the years and years of war.


    Imagine instead all of us and all of them
    standing here celebrating years and years of Peace.

    Look at yourselves. Look at me.
    Look at those who worked on this Hill.
    We nailed wood into Crosses,
    we carved out Stars of David,
    we sculpted Crescents,
    we tried to include on our Hill
    every religion, every ethnicity,
    every civilized point of view
    that exists in America -
    but we did not include the dead Iraqis,
    we did not include the dead Afghans.

    We must beg their forgiveness.
    We must ask that they join us.
    We must beg the forgiveness
    of the innocents we kill with drones,
    and ask that they also join us.
    We must beg the forgiveness
    of those we will kill in future –
    the generations of families,
    the armies of their friends,
    those who might be our friends, too –
    We must ask them all to join us,
    for only together can we


    the wars.

    We have run out of space on our Hill
    to mark when war feasts next on a  kill,
    we have run out of room in our hearts
    to beat as each murdered friend departs.


    We must do something!
    To truly honor the dead that tonight you see,
    we must end the wars and set them free –
    not meeting after meeting after meeting for naught
    while loved ones of ours die as they fought,
    not writing a poem to be read to the choir,
    not listening to poems, then home, hearth, and fire.
    No. Doing is action that we must decide
    to actually do if ever we wish to rid the red tide
    of blood from our shores – never to


    saving the lives of those next to die.
    Oh, end these wars together we cry,
    for then, only then, will ever we


         © Fred Norman, Pleasanton, CA

    We Are Family
    Dedicated to Jeff Heaton
    (Crosses of Lafayette,
    Memorial Day, 2013)


    I at the podium reading am family,
    You on the flat listening are family,
    They on the Hill watching are family.

    We are sons and daughters,
    Fathers and mothers,
    Brothers and sisters.

    And we must take care of one another.

    There are 7,000 of us gathered here today,
    Some to be memorialized, some to pray,
    Some to question what went wrong along the way...

    …What went wrong along the way?

    Yes, by gathering we emphasize the negative,
    Our tears of sadness activate the adjective,
    The word dysfunctional leaps to clarify the noun,

    For when we look up at the thousands on this Hill
    We cannot say that this is normal – a hundred
    Of us here, 7,000 of them there, a normal family?

    Our family – A hundred of us living looking
    Up at 7,000 dead, not only dead but murdered,
    Our government's protestations barely murmured.

    One family, they mumble, but I ask you this:
    Is this how we treat our family?
    Is “calamity” the only word to rhyme?

    We know that families should grow with time,
    And we know that cancer also grows with time,
    And we pray supine that cancer is not us or mine.

    And we pray supine that cancer is not in our family.

    Yet we know it is, for we can see the Hill,
    We can count the missing – each one watching
    From the Hill is only one, alone – we can count

    The family members who are absent, the nuclear four,
    Four times 7,000, a family of 28,000, 21,000 missing,
    21,000 who could defeat the cancer of these wars,

    Who could bring to an end the growing of the dead,
    End – by God – this madness that we dread,
    End this cancer at 7,000 here, all 7,000 dear,

    For we are family, we are sons and daughters,
    Fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters,
    And we must take care of one another.

         © Fred Norman, Pleasanton, CA

    Armistice Day
    Crosses of Lafayette,
    Veterans' Day, 2012

    Waltzing Matilda,
    Waltzing Matilda,
    Please come a-waltzing Matilda with me...

    And on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month
    a group of men in suits finally decide to end the war
    to end all wars,  and the church bells ring 11 times,

    and the men and women on this Hill
    will never go a-waltzing Matilda again,

    for it was not World War I but World War Lost
    not World War II but World War Lost Again.
    It was freezing dead in North Korea,
    the burning napalm dead of Nam.
    It was willie pete Falujah,
    green-on-blue Afghanistan.

    Each day a cross goes up, a marker, white,
    a Star of David, Muslim Crescent, Wheel
    of Life, all showing death and deathly quiet
    so the dead can hear the bells the living
    either cannot hear or do not understand.

    I wish a poem to you who roam this Hill at night,
    you who hear the bells, I wish a waltz for you.
    I wish a melody in harmony with my apology,
    instead of poetry, a song to say I'm sorry,
    a man who wasted most his life instead of saving
    yours, a man who knows there's things much worse
    than dying, there's things much worse than dead.
    The worst is to forget the dead, to forget you live
    upon this Hill, to forget you once could dance.
    If I do that, if we, you should never us forgive,
    for if I do that, if we, you disappear from history.

    And the band plays Waltzing Matilda,
    and old men like me get tears in our eyes,
    but as year follows year, we all disappear
    into silence or fear as we listen to lies
    while we wait at the foot of our bier
    singing silently songs of a chance
    to see you and Matilda in dance.

    Waltzing Matilda,
    Waltzing Matilda,
    Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

              © Fred Norman, Pleasanton, CA

    Fred Norman     56 lines
    7986 Driftwood Way
    Pleasanton, CA   94588
    (925) 462-7495

    Memorial Day 2012

    Once the earth was flat,
    monsters made it round,
    killed every single human found,
    put them in the ground one on top the other
    to form the Himalaya,
    children only for the Alps,
    injuns for the High Sierra,
    Blacks the Blue Ridge beauty of the east,
    Washington, DC, the belly of a beast
    that belches body bags of glory
    that we in Lafayette exchange
    for hoary markers to be planted
    as a Hill of Crosses, sowed as seeds
    of sorrow, grown as memories tomorrow,
    reminding those who kill to cease
    destroying those who wish for peace.

    This Hill has not always been here –

    When monsters first arrived on our eastern shore,
    when they claimed the land for themselves and more,
    when good Indian became dead Indian genocide,
    we did not cover this Hill with one million eagle feathers;
    instead, we watched complacently as they died.

    When they began the American custom of enslaving
    every black-skinned person they could capture or buy
    – not just a Constitutional 3/5 of every man or boy
    but 100% of every male, all of every female, joy
    every family should know, every beautiful son
    a mother might love, every daughter, none
    who would escape the whip, the noose, the gun –
    when they began the American custom of slavery,
    this Hill was not a terminal of Underground Bravery.

    When they rounded up our Japanese-American brethren
    this Hill was not covered with katakana apologies.
    When they bombed the innocent of Guatemala,
    the people of Panama, the children of Nicaragua,
    the women of El Salvador, this Hill spoke no Spanish.
    When they bombed the schools of Grenada, Operation
    Urgent Fury, there was no urgent fury on this Hill.
    When they killed 60,000 Americans in Viet Nam,
    there were no 60,000 Crosses on this Hill.

    Good Lord!

    The Land of Peace and Freedom has bombed
    twenty-five different countries since WWII,
    almost none of whom now have freedom,
    almost none of whom now have peace.

    We could end these wars, we standing here tonight,
    if only we would merely do tomorrow what is right,
    if only we would stand where this Hill now stands
    inside our minds and at every opportunity shout
    out a Cross of Lafayette at those who cannot see
    the meaning of our Hill for those who gave their lives
    believing it would bring us peace and make us free.

    This Hill –

    No, it wasn't always here for Peace,
    it wasn't always here for you and me,
    but it is here now, and so are we.

              © Fred Norman, Pleasanton, CA

    Once Upon A Time

    One day a little girl in class approached her teacher
    and whispered as if a secret, “Teacher, what was war?”
    Her teacher sighed, replied, “I will tell to you
    a fairy tale, but I must warn you first that it is not
    a tale you will understand; it is a tale for adults -
    they are the question, you are the answer – Once...”

    She said, once upon a time...

    there was a country that was always at war
    – every hour of every day of every year –
    it glorified war and ignored those who died,
    it created its enemies and slaughtered and lied,
    it tortured and murdered and butchered and cried
    to the world of security needs, of freedom and peace
    that hid well the greed that makes profits increase.

    Fiction and fantasy, of course, but imagine it if you can,
    and imagine also the inhabitants of that fictional land,
    those who laughed and partied and were warm and well fed,
    who married their sweethearts and had children who led
    lives of the free in homes of the brave filled with twitters
    and tweets and occasional bleats of happy talk jitters,
    the entire family all playing the roles of fairy tale critters,
    a real make-believe land in which nobody ever, never
    once in any single day, made any effort to end the wars
    that made their country the country that was always at war.

    Imagine also the enemy, those who were bombed
    and droned, dragged into the streets and shot, those
    whose families were destroyed, the sons who watched
    their fathers killed, the daughters who saw their mothers
    violated, the parents who sank to the ground as their
    children's lives soaked the soil on which they kneeled,
    those who would forever be the enemy of the country
    that was always at war, those who would forever hate
    the country that was always at war, and hate its people.

    And so the world split apart: one half bathed in happy
    lies, one half drenched in blood; both halves often one,
    indistinguishable to the dead, indifferent to the maimed,
    one gigantic world of misery, of IED’s, of arms and legs,
    coffins and funerals, of men in tears, of women in black,
    of gold stars, blue stars, stars and stripes, of black and red,
    the colors of the anarchist, of green and bands of white,
    the hated and the hate, the feared and the fear, the horror.

    She said, once upon a time...

    or words to that effect, adult words for adult ears,
    and the child said, “Teacher, I do not understand,”
    and the teacher said, “I know and I am pleased. I
    shall take you to a hill that reflects the sun by day
    and glows at night in moonlight. It is always shining.
    It is alive. On it 6,000 stars are twinkling, 6,000
    memories, 6,000 reasons that the wars you do not
    understand are wars that we shall never have again,
    for in this fairy tale, one day the people woke,
    the people spoke, and the country that had always
    been at war was now at peace, and the enemy, not
    necessarily friend, was no longer enemy, and little
    children did not understand, and the world rejoiced,”
    to which the child begged, “Take me to this hill.
    I wish to walk among the stars and live with them

    in peace.”

    Once upon a time – a teacher's vow.
    I say, the time is now.


    Fred Norman
    7986 Driftwood Way
    Pleasanton, CA   94588
    (925) 462-7495

    Copyright, © 2011 by Fred Norman; reprinted by permission


    The Ninth Year

    In this terrible ninth year of terrorist dread,
    on its haunting ninth Veterans Day of the Dead,
    the day brings me back to the year I was nine,
    the year I first learned of our evil and mine —
    of the thousands by ten of Japanese men,
    of the thousands by ten of their women,
    of the thousands and more of the children
    back then when the sun’s promise lied
    to Hiroshima’s fears, Nagasaki’s tears —
    in two days of war, 200,000 died.

    Nine years after I was nine,
    I joined the Marines and learned to kill,
    and then I joined the Air Force of free will
    and focused on my target drill,
    — O, Vladivostok, Russia —
    a city of another 200,000 men
    and robust Russian women
    and pink-cheeked Russian children
    and many Russian sailors then
    who would die
    when I was told to kill them.

    Nine years.

    I think now of my grandson who is nine
    as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis die,
    as tens of thousands of Afghans die,
    as 5,275 Americans die.

    And I think now of my grandson’s birth.
    I held him in my hands,
    so light,
    I touched his hair,
    so soft,
    I touched his nose,
    so smooth,
    I see him now as I saw him then,
    so innocent,
    and I am so weak with fear
    that he may be as I had been.

    Nine years from now he will be eighteen,
    a time to choose, but what do choices mean?
    Will he choose to live a life of peace and
    will a Cross of Lafayette be his one day?
    Will he teach his son to lock and load and
    will another father’s son send him to this hill
    as punishment for moral lessons unlearned still?

    Can he see the Crosses on the Hill?
    Will he know why they are there?

    Will we?

    Nine years from now,
    will we?

    ©  Fred Norman, Pleasanton, CA



Each night I ask myself
what did I do today
to end the wars?

If I answer back with “Nothing”
then the dead that day are mine.

I beg of them forgiveness.

    © March, 2011

    Veterans’ Day, 2010, and Counting

    We gather once again at this Hill of Shining Crosses.
    It’s Veterans’ Day, two thousand ten,
    Afghanistan-Iraq, five thousand eight hundred dead.

    Five thousand eight hundred dead.
    What on earth is wrong with us?

    Each day, every hour of every week and month and year,
    we play a counting game, a tally of immorality, of us:
    We count our dead, we honor those we kill — they die,
    we grieve, we cry, then we go home to eat and sleep,
    to resume our lives while over there the newly dead
    resume their cries, sink into silence, remain forever
    silent, the sounds of death the only sounds they hear.

    What on earth is wrong with us?

    We begin the count on Veterans’ Day, two thousand one —
    Afghanistan, a soldier’s life is done, inhumanity has won,
    the first of all these dead replacing dreams with dread.

    Then next year’s Veterans’ Day, two thousand two —
    Afghanistan, the count is sixty dead, but there are plans
    to increase this by multiples of ten, by powers of ten
    if necessary, mere multiples of shame not shame enough
    for those who play to win and profit by the counting game.

    What on earth is wrong with us?

    Continue with the count. Multiply by ten:
    Veterans’ Day, two thousand three —
    Iraq-Afghanistan, six hundred dead,
    sixty dead times ten, six hundred dead.

    What on earth is wrong with us?

    Again and again we count, year after year:
    Veterans’ Day, two thousand four —
    Iraq-Afghanistan, one thousand five hundred dead.
    Veterans’ Day, two thousand five —
    Iraq-Afghanistan, two thousand four hundred dead.
    Veterans’ Day, two thousand six —

    Iraq-Afghanistan, two thousand nine hundred dead.
    Veterans’ Day, two thousand seven —
    Iraq-Afghanistan, three thousand nine hundred dead.
    Veterans’ Day, two thousand eight —
    Iraq-Afghanistan, four thousand two hundred dead.
    Veterans’ Day, two thousand nine —
    Afghanistan-Iraq, five thousand three hundred dead.
    And now it’s Veterans’ Day, two thousand ten —
    Afghanistan-Iraq, five thousand eight hundred dead.

    These are our sons and daughters,
    our mothers and our fathers,
    our brothers and our sisters,
    our friends.

    And I repeat, five thousand eight hundred dead.
    And I repeat,
    What on earth is wrong with us?

    Shall we gather once again next year
    this Hill of Shining Crosses?
    Shall we play the counting game again?
    Shall we count the Crosses of the dead,
    Cross for every one who died, amen again?
    By that time six thousand Crosses will have been
    prepped and pounded, painted, planted, then
    weeds be wacked and fallen Crosses stacked
    like flag-draped coffins backed up in formation
    awaiting final orders to proceed to final destination,
    from child to memory, from memory to myth,
    from flesh and bone and blood and breath to death,
    from dust to dust, from life to mud and dirt.

    What on earth is wrong with us?

    Or shall we gather once again next year
    at this Hill of Shining Crosses
    to celebrate the end of war and count no more?
    Shall we end the game? Shall we end Afghanistan-Iraq?
    We can if truly we do
    try, our will in honor of this Hill.
    Each evening before bed, we each shall ask ourselves,
    What did I do today to end the count, to end these wars?
    And if the answer should be, “Nothing,” then nothing
    shall be done, inhumanity and immorality have won,
    but if the answer is a thing that is at minimum a mere
    sliver of a stake driven into war’s dark heart, there
    will one day be peace; the question’s answer thus:
    that there then is absolutely nothing wrong with us.

                            © Fred Norman, Pleasanton, CA


    Mothers’ May

    We give to every mother, Mothers’ Day in May,
    A day that once asked mothers please to pray,
    To work, promote, demand to speak for peace,
    To speak for life, for husbands, daughters, sons
    To love, for fathers home, for wars to cease.
    We also give to them in May a cruel reminder
    Each and every year that that most tender
    In a mother’s life is that which she must render
    Homage as memorial while holding back a tear.
    On every other day throughout the year,
    We give to them a sad and lonely gift
    All wrapped in gleaming light —
    It is this hill before us bright
    As blood cells white among the red,
    As the sweetest of sweet memories
    Burn and turn to dust, and hope to dread,
    As laughing children play among the dead,
    As grieving mothers sink onto the ground,
    As what they had is lost, never to be found
    Again, and life is now an empty shell instead.

    Arise! they said back then, and some did rise,
    Some women who had hearts and did advise
    Disarm! Disarm!
    but men continued to devise
    Inhuman ways to harm that which they fear —
    To Harm! To Harm!
    what women hold so dear.
    Arise! Arise! Look up, look out unto divinity:
    A hundred million stars at night define infinity,
    Each star a grieving mother in the universe who lost
    A child to war, each light a member of the trinity:
    Mother, father, child — the price of war, the cost.

    Arise! Look at this hill, this cost, and you will devise
    A way not to advise but to demand that war will end.
    Speak to me, five thousand hillside stars entreat,
    Tell us your plan to save our empty souls and defeat
    Those who will not count the stars upon this hill —
    A hundred million stars at night to count
    Cannot be done, for a thousand more are born
    Before the counting game is won, but to count
    The dead upon this hill is quickly easily to sum
    Even though each day the tally grows by one —
    To count the dead upon this hill is to end the war:
    That is your job, our job, our wish upon a star.

    It must be done. It will be done — It’s May.
    The tally will not grow by one on Mothers’ Day,
    Memorial Day will honor those dead yesterday,
    No stars upon this hill will plead for peace,
    For peace will be and war be history, history
    Will be the past, the future will be tomorrow
    When we will kiss each star goodnight —
    Will see it flicker, hold, then burn as every star
    Should burn: forever bright both day and night.

    Oh, to know a mother on Mothers’ Day in May,
    to see her smile,
    To honor mothers on Memorial Day in May,
    to hear them laugh a while,
    To never see another star placed upon this hill
    no more —
    To see each mother change to be what she had been

    It’s May. It’s Mothers’ May,
    It’s no
    more dead, we pray.

                            © Fred Norman, Pleasanton, CA


    Welcome Home

    Bombs bursting in air and the rockets red glare,
    shouldshould — give proof through the pain
    that we are still...where? — Here, for them still here,
    for them, when they return home once again.

    Oh, yes. So many safely in their family’s arms,
    loved and fed, clean sheets, clean clothes:
    at worst the backfire of a car, smoke alarms
    set off by oven pies; best, a baby’s pudgy toes.

    Home. To be home is to be alive, breathing,
    answering to a name, flesh and blood and love,
    a mouth that laughs, ears that hear a teething
    infant cry, eyes that see it smile, soft, a dove.

    And so they live happily ever after — the war
    for them is over, the death, the killing, shock
    and awe — the awe they feel now is all for
    family, friends, the ticking of a living clock.

    Home. Not all live happily ever after or even
    happily for a while; not all have a loving home
    and some who do may lose it — fingers not ten,
    legs not two, mind not one, in a fog they roam.

    In a San Francisco fog, 2,000 veterans sleep
    the streets; each day their numbers grow,
    each day their numbers change: they weep
    for those who pass; replaced, they sink below.

    Who are they, these vets in San Francisco?
    Name one, one who once would die for us.
    Give him or her a home, and with a home,
    a name — give him or her a name for us.

    The dead must also have a home, or should,
    and once again, a name: though dead, one would
    have a name, and I ask you now, name one —
    Of those who died, who died for us, name one.

    In Iraq, 4,000 dead. Name one. One name.
    The Gold Star Mothers can name a name,
    of course, and those who lost a friend know names,
    but for the rest of us, they died for us — one name.

    Without a name, they cannot have a home,
    veterans dead without a name — no home.
    On Veterans’ Day, on every day, at home,
    in every home, give them back their names.

    Who are you, I want to ask, what is your name?
    You died for us in Iraq; now live for us at home.
    I know you, I want to say, I know your name.
    You died for us there; now live for us here.

                                        Fred Norman, Pleasanton, CA


    This Hill

    This Hill before which we now stand
    glows day and night with quiet pride
    and throbs with slowly pulsing sorrow.

    Green trees frame a shining sheet of white
    that in its purity shocks the viewer to reality.
    Golden grass forms a bed on which to sleep,
    never to awake, never to breathe again, never
    to love again but forever to be loved, forever
    to be held, to be caressed by those who keep
    memories alive from dawn to darkest night,
    implying what is wrong by testament to right.

    Each day another soldier dies,
    each day another soldier gone,
    each day another soldier murdered
    by those of us who sleep uncaring,
    unwilling when awake to choose
    between right and wrong, singing
    hymns of prayer as empty song,
    ignoring that which most we dread:
    tomorrow is another soldier dead.

    This Hill upon which crosses mark each memory,
    this Hill which glows each day and night with pride,
    this Hill which throbs with slowly pulsing sorrow
    is meant to stop a war, is meant to say, “I’m sorry.”

    Each day a loved one of a soldier cries
    in lonely agony — day one a scream,
    day two the tears that lead to emptiness,
    day three dry-eyed outside, wet and cold
    inside — a flood of memories and frozen
    dreams — released, they make humanity
    to think; thawed, they remake us humane:
    they represent a country known for war,
    they name another family maimed by war,
    of the many thousands here, they are one,
    one more father, mother, daughter, son.

    This Hill is meant to stop a war —
    This Hill is meant to say, “I’m sorry.”

                            Fred Norman, Pleasanton, CA


    The Crosses of Lafayette

    There is a hill in California white with crosses,
    each cross a testament in honor of one who died,
    4,000 dead, 4,000 crosses, 4,000 memories.

    No bodies rest within the ground, no flesh, no bones,
    but the souls of those who died roam the hill as ghosts
    reminding those who live that once they, too, had life.

    Names: they once had names — Who are they now?
                There are those who would forbid us knowing them.
    They once had families —
    Who are their siblings now?
                There are those who would forbid us twinning them.
    They once were loved —
    Who loves them now?
                There are those who would forbid us loving them.

    There are those who would defile this sacred ground.
    There are those who would destroy these memories.
    There are those who roam outside the realm of man:

    They spit upon these dead, they scream, they curse, they move
    like animals, slobber, drool, they grab their crotches, jump
    into the air, stick out their tongues, profane, insane with hate:

    Hatred for the crosses on this hill in California, fear and hatred
    of reminders that all these dead were murdered by a hatred
    of the human race, a hatred now directed at those who love.

    If only they would sit among the crosses, they might see the truth;
    if only they would read, they might stumble on a book of verse
    explaining love as memories, 4,000 memories as love.

    This hill, of course, is poetry: cross rhymes with cross;
    it is an epic poem: 4,000 stanzas begging for an end to war;
    it is a song, a psalm: soft message on the wind, a lilting plea:
    Peace — please make for us a world of peace.

    To those who would treat us here as we were treated there,
    Peace — please make for us a world of peace.
    To those who would continue killing that we might die again,
    Peace — please make for us a world of peace.
    To those who would continue death that we might kill again,
    Peace — please make for us a world of peace.

    Ghosts murmuring with murmuring ghosts, soul with soul,
    soft message on the wind, a lilting plea, a rhythmic prayer,
    cross after cross — please make for them a world of peace.

                                                    Fred Norman, Pleasanton, CA


    So Beautiful

    At 10 PM on a full-moon night
    this hill of memories glows bright —
    My God! It is so beautiful.

    At 1 AM on this same-moon night
    this hill of memories still glows bright —
    My God! It is so beautiful.

    At 3 AM the full moon sets,
    begets reflections from more distant
    living suns that shine, perhaps, on distant
    life, reflecting into resurrecting eyes,
    if eyes, indeed, at 3 AM are there to see —
    if seen, My God! It is so beautiful.

    And yet, among the glowing memories,
    shadows lurk — stark, contrasting, dark.
    Is each glow the headstone of a
    is its shadow that which I call beautiful?
    Is each glow a grieving
                broken spouse,
    a child now alone,
    and are their shadows that which I call beautiful?

    Proud to be American, proud to be Marine,
    is that what I call beautiful?
    My buddies gather here,
    your buddies, too,
    your fathers, sons, your brothers,
    sisters, mothers, daughters,
    all here, glowing in the moonlight —
    Is that what is so beautiful?

    No. Oh, no. It is the memories.
    This is a hill of memories.
    It is the memories that glow.

    They speak.
    I remember you, they say,
    and you must remember us.
    Think of us on the full-moon nights,
    call out our names, connect them to our souls.

    These — our memories and our souls —
    These — these once were beautiful,
    make them beautiful once again.
    They glow on moonlit nights,
    make them glow in rain,
    make them glow in sunlight,
    in the dark, in fog,
    morning, noon, and night —
    My God! They are so beautiful.

                                        Fred Norman, Pleasanton, CA


Fred has published his poetry in a beautiful book, A Hill of Poems. You may inquire about it by e-mailing him at
You may also read an interview of him!

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