Early Poems of PhilipVassallo
 
 

SEVEN UNSUCCESSFUL ATTEMPTS AT MEMORIALIZING 
THOSE KILLED IN ACTION (1973)
 
 

THREE MILE ISLAND SEEPS (1979)
 

BACK AT THE RANCH: A TURN (1979)
 

BY FACING DEATH HE FACES LIFE (1978)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

SEVEN UNSUCCESSFUL ATTEMPTS AT MEMORIALIZING 
THOSE KILLED IN ACTION (1973)



1. 

Nothing 
but the 
darkness 
hears the 
dying 
soldiers 

lying 
on the 
landscape 
crying 
for their 
mothers. 

2. 

The skies collapse 
on ruptured earth. 
Survivors count 
the casualties. 

3. 

Floodlights guide the tractors 
plowing corpses over 
hillocks, into fissures, 
down ravines. The soldiers 
weep for nothing but their 
aching bones, their stomachs. 

4. 

Survivors say that bastard luck 
invoked them to renounce the dead. 
"Forget, my man, tonight we fight. 
So shed one tear to honor them, 
but memory cannot win this war." 

5. 

And the soldiers in battlefields cannot quite fathom the privilege of war: 
Vietnam, the Korean fiasco, the noble World Wars, 
the appalling entitlement chance, in its cruelty, bestows 

on their breathing as brothers in trenches lie dying beside 
them, as darkness grows darker and bleeding flows brighter, as boys 
in this moment can't grieve for their lives but must slaughter their foes. 

Now at daybreak behold the proverbial lilies of the field 
as they sprout from the fault line to track the agronomy: Death 
fertilizes. And then the vultures descend in maniacal flight. 

6. 

The Darkness passes: 
Granddaughters trample the graves 
to uproot lilies. 

7. 

The living breed death, 
the dying breed life. 
 
 

next   /  top   /  to Philip   /   to Moongate
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

THREE MILE ISLAND SEEPS (1979) 


Three Mile Island seeps 
The invisible Wizards of Ooze, 
Who rock the world until it sleeps 
Then still it in a deadly snooze. 

The invisible Wizards of Ooze 
Erupt the reactor they choose 
Then still it in a deadly snooze 
To render their terrible ruse. 

Erupting the reactor they choose, 
Through earth, wind, and fire they cruise 
To render their terrible ruse 
And pay to the devil his dues. 
 

Through earth, wind, and fire they cruise 
They rock the world until it sleeps 
And pay to the devil his dues-- 
Three Mile Island seeps. 
 

 next   /   top   /   to Philip   /   to Moongate



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

BACK AT THE RANCH: A TURN (1979) 


One birch bends, the other splits in two. 
Upon both trees one cardinal nests; 
A tabby scales both trunks in rue 
And claws the roots and never rests. 

Upon both trees the cardinal nests 
Far from the tabby's reach; 
He claws the roots and never rests 
And blanches the bark of each. 

Far from the tabby's reach 
The cardinal flits from branch to branch 
And blanches the bark of each, 
Disturbing all the ranch. 

The cardinal flits from branch to branch. 
The tabby scales both trunks in rue, 
Disturbing all the ranch. 
One birch bends, the other splits in two. 
 


next   /  top   /  to Philip   /   to Moongate
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

BY FACING DEATH HE FACES LIFE (1978)

(For Martin Luther King, Jr.) 



He faces death by facing life. 
He says longevity has its place 
Yet dreams of peace where fear is rife. 

He takes the bullet, feels the knife 
From men protecting half their race, 
Thus faces death by facing life. 

He hears the bugle, drum, and fife, 
Us marchers, mourning in our pace, 
Who dream of peace where fear is rife. 

From mountaintop he sees our strife: 
Our blood flow free, our nation's grace. 
He faces death by facing life 

As brother, sister, man and wife 
Endure the hose, deflect the mace. 
And still dreams peace where fear is rife. 

The Promised Land inscribes our strife, 
Infuses blues and the Diaspora we trace. 
In facing death he faces life, 
So dream of peace where fear is rife. 
 
 

top   /   to Philip   /   to Moongate