Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

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lazariuk
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Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby lazariuk » Mon May 11, 2009 6:43 pm

Mrs Owen - gmw (~greg)

I was his Chaplin
And I've been commissioned
To send you his ribbons
And to have you understand

That we're sorry too,
He was a big brave boy,
And we're really very sorry,
Mrs Owen.

He was a big brave boy
Who took it when it came,
What else can I say?

He showed a picture
Of his sister,
And that was ok.

But then he said
"I'm just going to cleaner bed,
Tell mother I'm not really dead".

And that was all he said
Before he died.
He didn't cry.

We thought that was kind of odd.
But we liked the boy a lot.
And we send you all our heart
Mrs Owen.
When reading this poem a lot of thoughts changed during the reading of it. It begins with a chaplin saying that he has been commissioned to communicate something and I took that as meaning that he is telling someone that he is being paid to say what he is about to say and then goes about saying it. Then further on he uses the expression "And we're really very sorry" and I took the double use of the word really to mean that the Chaplin wants to convey that although this is his job that he or she is really meaning what is said.

Then what is said is
he showed a picture of his sister
said he was just going to cleaner bed
and to tell his mother that he is not really dead

and her son was a big brave boy

"going to cleaner bed" is confusing
was it to mean "going to a cleaner bed" in which case one wonders if that had anything to do with showing a picture of his sister at the time? or since the chaplin was writing what he heard, that what was really said was "I'm just going to clean her bed" Would anyone at that point ask the dying man to clarify his words? Is there any way to tell "cleaner bed" and "clean her bed" apart?

then he says to the mother "We thought that was kind of odd."
What is that which he telling the mother they were thinking was odd? The fact that he didn't cry, that he showed a picture of his sister and said he was just going to cleaner bed, or that he wanted his mother told that he is not really dead?
That he said "We thought" suggests that he and others talked together about what was odd.

The poem is called Mrs Owen and so that suggests that it is written to her and that causes me to think that might be suggesting that the writer is trying to convey that sometimes things should be told just as they are even though they are not understood. That he just knows what he heard and thinks it right to pass it on as is - as a mystery for the mother to unravel if she is able.

I got to thinking about this poem because sometime in the next few days I am going to be speaking with a woman whose brother was a close friend of mine who died of a drug overdose. There are some things that I am thinking about saying to her and am a little unsure of some things. I have spent a lot of time considering what might be of some use to her and Greg's poem caused me to reflect on how little we are able to determine those kind of things.

Jack
Everything being said to you is true; Imagine of what it is true.
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Re: Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby Harry S » Mon May 11, 2009 7:59 pm

Jack, I was thinking - have you pm'd anunitu yet to apologize? I saw a lot of horribleness in the way you spoke to that man. Why should you drive away another poster just because you are so clever to criticize his poem title?
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Re: Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby imaginary friend » Tue May 12, 2009 3:48 am

Jack wrote:
I got to thinking about this poem because sometime in the next few days I am going to be speaking with a woman whose brother was a close friend of mine who died of a drug overdose. There are some things that I am thinking about saying to her and am a little unsure of some things. I have spent a lot of time considering what might be of some use to her and Greg's poem caused me to reflect on how little we are able to determine those kind of things.
...and your friend's sister's perception of what you choose to tell her will further colour and warp the information you offer. But I like your approach Jack, that you take a piece of information, think about it and put your considerations back into the pot – for further consideration if anyone chooses to add or strip a layer away. It is the effort to be honest that works. I find it in Boss's poems and posts as well, although his style is different from yours.

BTW, I enjoyed the humour in your response to Greg's poem – hope that was what you intended – for me it fitted nicely with the humour that's always lurking in Greg's marathons.
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Re: Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby ~greg » Tue May 12, 2009 6:13 am

Jack

I am sorry about the loss of your friend.
There are some things that I am thinking about saying to her and am a little unsure of some things.
I have spent a lot of time considering what might be of some use to her
and Greg's poem caused me to reflect
on how little we are able to determine those kind of things.
Don't try to think of anything to say. You can't pre-think what to say,
so don't waste your time trying. It isn't about you anyway.
And it's no time to try to impress people.

But I know that that's not what you meant.
I know that it's the knowing that you'll have to say something,
and knowing that there is really nothing that anybody can say.

Well, whatever you think of Hallmark card type sentiments generally,
there is really no other way to go at times like these. If you are at all
human, then some banal words will come to you at the right time,
and you'll mumble them, and just as awkwardly as everybody else has to.
And those will be the right words. There's no way around it.
There's no point in wasting your time trying to think of one.

If the woman were dependant on her brother financially,
or in some other way, then the human race has settled
on one specific formula. We say: "It'll be alright. Everything will be all right,"
and then try not to express on our face the superstitious fear that by
simply saying that we have actually committed ourselves to make everything all right.
~~

But you should really ask Michael what to say. :)
He has had some training in bereavement counseling.

In any case, do not automatically discount the people
who have actually had experience in counseling for this
kind of thing. You may think that it's really too simple for
professional anything, the but the fact is that nobody
is born knowing what to say, what to do, how to behave,
how to feel about these things, and when the time comes
that you simply need a western hand to help you get across the road,
then you will suddenly realize that all the meditation
and Buddhist studies and everything else did not prepare
you for this particular moment in time.
Even the Dalai Lama cries.


====================================

Seeing my poem naked like that,
makes the spelling mistake in it stand out like a sore baboon's bottom.

Of course it was supposed to be "Chaplain" (as in "Chaplain of War")
and not "Chaplin" (as in "Charlie Chaplin").
wikipedia wrote:A chaplain is typically a priest, pastor, ordained deacon,
rabbi, imam or other member of the clergy serving a group of people
who are not organized as a mission or church, or who are unable to attend church
for various reasons; such as health, confinement, or military or civil duties;
lay chaplains are also found in other settings such as universities.
For example a chaplain is often attached to a military unit (often known as padre),
a private chapel, a ship, a prison, a hospital, a high school, college or especially
boarding school, even a parliamentary assembly and so on.
Though originally chaplain was a Christian term it is also now applied
to people in other religions filling the same role. In recent years many
non-ordained persons have received professional training in chaplaincy
and are now appointed as chaplains in schools, hospitals, universities,
prisons and elsewhere to work alongside or instead of ordained chaplains.
I had in mind, of course, a military chaplain.
And in that context "a commission" simply means "an assigned duty",
- not paid for above base salary.

I can not excuse the poem as juvenilia. But it's pretty close to that.
Like I said, it was a response to Eric Burdon's "Sky Pilot"
(his metaphor for "chaplain") which came out in 1968,
which was when I heard it, and wrote the poem.

You are right in saying "how little we are able to determine those kind of things."
It can't be easy for any commanding officer to have to write thousands of condolences.

But chaplains have reputation for being particularly callous.
Obviously because they believe in an after-life.
He smiles at the young soldiers / Tells them its all right
...
He mumbles a prayer and it ends with a smile
...
But he's still behind and he'll meditate
...
He feels good, with God you're never alone
He feels tired and he lays on his bed
Hopes the men will find courage in the words that he said
...
-Eric Burdon,
see also Phil Ochs' Chaplain Of The War

The whole point of my poem was the routine callousness of the chaplain types.

"I was his Chaplin / And I've been commissioned"
-- he didn't have to say that.
Or he didn't have to say it that way.
He could have said "It is my very sad duty to have to tell you...".

"To send you his ribbons / And to have you understand"
-- the tone here is as in: "I'll have you understand, woman, ..."
It is to preemptively respond with anger to her presumed anger.
The chaplain has had experience sending out these notices,
and he has either actually gotten some angry responses back,
or else he is sick and tired of "walking on egg shells" about
these mothers' feelings. Don't they know that their sons were
"soldiers of God"? "You must understand / The fate of your country
was in their young hands". Their cause was just. They didn't die
in vain. God approved. So there is really no need to get so upset
about it, woman. Get over yourself.
Would anyone at that point ask the dying man to clarify his words?
Is there any way to tell "cleaner bed" and "clean her bed" apart?
Jack, by saying that I assume you are either really crazy,
or else still sore about "Destination of hero's in the sky"
and trying to be sarcastic.

Well, in most barracks there is a public "hog board",
on which the residents pin up pictures of - whatever.
Mostly their girlfriends (or their claimed girlfriends,
sometimes believable, sometimes not.)

But the younger the recruit, the more likely he'll put up a picture of his dog.
Or his brother or sister or mother or father. (The brother or father
might be wearing a uniform of a past war.)

So "a picture of his sister" simply meant that the kid really was that young.
Our first close relationships are with our siblings. And sometimes we
actually like them. There is no implication of incest. But if you've seen
say "Born on the Forth of July" then you know how quickly they go from
being a child, with no experience of women, even just as friends,
beyond the sister, to being a paraplegic veteran, with no chance
whatsoever of ever having such an experience.


"a cleaner bed" = a body bag. Then a coffin.
It is curious, isn't it, how coffins are made to look like very clean, inviting, comfortable beds.
They are certainly cleaner than bivouac beds, which are just a sheet of plastic over mud.

"Tell mother I'm not really dead"
- I had several things in mind about this.

The kid is so young that he actually feels that by dying he is being bad,
and may even be punished for it.
I remember when I was about 6 I spent a day in the woods by myself.
A very large woods. I don't think I felt lost, I think I was just having
fun. But I was in there alone for about 10 hours, and when I finally
came out, late in the evening, it was to be greeted by a bunch of
frantic neighbors and police and my parents. And I certainly knew
that I was going to catch hell for that. Except that I didn't.
They just hugged me.

Well, kids don't know the difference. All that the kid knows
is that by dying he is hurting his mother, and that it's going to
make her cry. And that's the last thing in the world he ever wants to do.
"Tell mother I'm not really dead" = going to eternal life in heaven,
like the chaplain said. And whether the kid actually believes that
or not, he hopes his mother will, and that she'll find comfort in believing it.

(But it is astonishing how many kids raised in certain religions
think they want to die, not because they're unhappy, but just
so they can go to the wonderful heaven, which must be like
Disney Land, quicker.)

~~~~

The line I'm proudest of, and the reason I still remember the poem at all,
is "We thought that was kind of odd."

Because of the meter and rhythm.

I think that the whole poem up to that point reads rather blandly,
without any abrupt disruption in the rhythm. I wanted it to sound
like a man of the cloth might sound when speaking in a monotonous
routine manner in short sentences.

And then comes that longest line ,
--"we thought that was kind of odd" --which completely disrupts
the rhythm. It reads and sounds totally awkward.
Up to that line the chaplain was speaking mechanically, with out thinking.
And then, at that point, he suddenly actually thinks about what he's talking about.
That the kid said "I'm just going to a cleaner bed, / Tell mother I'm not really dead"
really was odd. You have said so yourself. And although I explained what it meant
to the kid, I really wanted it to sound like something that someone might say
when they're delirious, or dying, or both. Something that doesn't make
any sense to anybody else. Something like "rosebud".

So that was odd. And then the chaplain suddenly
thinks about how the kid didn't cry. About how odd
that was, because he's so young. He should have cried.

In other words, for something like a second, the chaplain felt
a touch of humanity. Vs just duty and theology.

And that's why that line broke the monotonous rhythm.

But it was just a feather touch.
And the chaplain suddenly realizes what a contretemps
it was to have actually said that to the mother!
How odd the kid was - should have been left as scuttlebutt
among the chaplains and officers.

Being a professional, he immediately recovers.
The rhythm is picked up where it was left off,
The vacuous platitudes resume without another hitch -
"But we liked the boy a lot. /And we send you all our heart / Mrs Owen."

Those last lines should be read very rapidly, as if they were the first words
spoken immediately after waking up from a reverie.


Or that anyway was what I had in mind by that poem
to Wilfred Owen's mother.


~~~~~~~~

And now for some good rhymed couplets ....

Chaplain of the War - Phil Ochs

God bless the men who've learned to put their lives upon the line,
and God bless the men who've learned to sip the sacrificial wine,
God bless the men who'll murder in the service of the Lord;
Blessings from the Chaplain of the War.

Give thanks to the parents who taught them as a boy they must obey
Give thanks to the church who taught them how to pose and how to pray
Give thanks to the schools who taught them well what they are fighting for
Blessings from the Chaplain of the War.

I know it will be hard, your finger on the trigger might refrain
But someone's dealt the cards and the Bible says you're clearly not to blame
Just think about the past, all the Christian guns who've carried on before
with the Blessings of the Chaplain of the War.

The enemy is godless, the holy way is one they never knew
Forgive them as you kill them, believe me, they know not what they do
And the prisoners you take, you can try to lead them to the Christian shore
now Blessings from the Chaplain of the War.

Now you may find it strange that a man of peace is asking you to fight
But the church is known to change, embracing half the wrongs it hopes to right
I can't describe the times, I've wrestled with my conscience to the core
now Blessings from the Chaplain of the War.

If the worst comes to be and you crumble in the misty cloud of pain
I'll fall down to my knees and beg for every mercy on your name
And your soul will be safe for heaven knows the burdens that you bore
with the Blessings from the Chaplain of the War.

When you go for broke and the taking of a life may leave you lost
Rising from the smoke is the all-inspiring vision of the cross
Sending you the strength to show you that you can struggle more
with the blessings from the Chaplain of the War.

The commandments are torn we'll teach them when the victory fire glows
Now my collar is worn just above my military clothes
The religion of the flag, the servant of the savior and the sword
Now Blessings from the Chaplain of the War.

1966
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Re: Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby imaginary friend » Tue May 12, 2009 7:03 am

Greg,

The explanation you gave re. your poem (espec. the 'cleaner bed'/body bag clarification) brought to mind the words of a chaplain in Jeanette Winterson's novel 'The Passion': The words occured within a segment of the book set during the Napoleonic Wars, and were spoken by a down-to-earth chaplain/priest, who, when asked why he had chosen to become a priest, remarked: 'If one has to work under someone, then an absentee boss is best.'

I apologize if I misunderstood and thought that Jack's 'cleaner bed' vs 'clean her bed' was humour.
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Re: Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby ~greg » Tue May 12, 2009 12:40 pm

i.f wrote:I apologize if I misunderstood and thought that Jack's 'cleaner bed' vs 'clean her bed' was humour.
No. no. It really was funny. :)
And the joke really is on me!

And I really do have to apologize to Jack for so quickly
assuming he was being sarcastic.


I didn't realize this until just now
- but yes: I meant to write "I'm just going to a cleaner bed"
- and not" "I'm just going to cleaner bed".

Obviously!
~~

I read Jack's whole post. I didn't skim it.
But apparently I didn't see it very clearly either.

I didn't realize he was simply pointing out a mistake.
I just assumed he was being creative with it, as he had been with "desination ... etc".

This poem - I hadn't thought about it for decades.
So when I recalled it off the top of my head
I just assumed that I wrote it all down correctly.
I didn't notice the mistakes I was making in writting it down.

The joke is on me. I pulled an Anunitu!

So maybe Anunitu just honestly didn't see the mistake he made.
(Maybe.)

~~

I didn't present or expect this poem to be thought of as "Poetry and Music by the Forum members"
It's not that I mind it being here, but if I had wanted to present it this way
I would certainly have tidied it up. And maybe added the rest of it.
(There was more to it. But I don't know if I can, or want to recall it.)
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Re: Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby lazariuk » Tue May 12, 2009 6:57 pm

~greg wrote:Jack

I am sorry about the loss of your friend.
Thanks for saying that Greg and it also showed me that I allowed for a misunderstanding. My friend died many many years ago and it is not dealing with grief that I am concerned about.

jack
Everything being said to you is true; Imagine of what it is true.
lazariuk
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Re: Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby lazariuk » Tue May 12, 2009 7:06 pm

~greg wrote:
i.f wrote:I apologize if I misunderstood and thought that Jack's 'cleaner bed' vs 'clean her bed' was humour.
No. no. It really was funny. :)
And the joke really is on me!

And I really do have to apologize to Jack for so quickly
assuming he was being sarcastic.
Oh I think the joke is on me. I really did let my confusion stay so long instead of just asking you if that was what you had intended to write. I assumed you had copy and pasted it and that it had already passed the check for possible mistakes.

Jack
Everything being said to you is true; Imagine of what it is true.
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Re: Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby Geoffrey » Wed May 13, 2009 8:29 am

lazariuk asked:
>Would anyone at that point ask the dying man to clarify his words?


The scriptures teach us that it is unwise to ask questions, because the more we know the more sad we become. In other words: 'Ignorance is bliss'. Why then do we have schools and universities? - you may ask. I just told you; it's best not to ask.
-------------------
"I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly. I perceived also that this is vexation of the spirit. For with much wisdom comes much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow . . . For God shall bring every work into judgment, every secret thing - whether it be good or whether it be evil."
[Ecclesiastes 1, 17-18 & 12, 14]
lazariuk
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Re: Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby lazariuk » Wed May 13, 2009 4:24 pm

Geoffrey wrote: you may ask. I just told you; it's best not to ask.

[Ecclesiastes 1, 17-18 & 12, 14]
Thanks Geoffrey for bringing me back to my own question. I wrote it thinking that I knew the answer but when I took a second look it changed.

That was a good hook your Ecclesiastes guy began his book with. It makes me ask the question "why does seeking wisdom lead to vexation?" Yesterday I found myself feeling distressed by something that someone said and I thought "Oh goody. I get to examine something that distresses me"

So to answer my own question, I would say that maybe I would ask a dying man to clarify what he had said if I thought that what he was saying was causing him some distress.

Jack
Last edited by lazariuk on Wed May 13, 2009 4:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Everything being said to you is true; Imagine of what it is true.
Harry S
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Re: Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby Harry S » Wed May 13, 2009 4:33 pm

lazariuk wrote:
Geoffrey wrote: So to answer my own question, I would say that maybe I would ask a dying man to clarify what he had said if I thought that what he was saying was causing him some distress.

Jack
but what if you drove him away, like you did to anunitu?
lazariuk
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Re: Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby lazariuk » Wed May 13, 2009 4:45 pm

Harry S wrote:
lazariuk wrote:
Geoffrey wrote: So to answer my own question, I would say that maybe I would ask a dying man to clarify what he had said if I thought that what he was saying was causing him some distress.

Jack
but what if you drove him away, like you did to anunitu?
Well since this seems to be causing you distress I will ask you if you really think it is true that I drove Anunitu away. Do you have any way of knowing if that is true? How do you know if he is gone? Maybe he is just sitting back relaxed silently looking to see what unfolds.

Jack
Everything being said to you is true; Imagine of what it is true.
Harry S
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Re: Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby Harry S » Wed May 13, 2009 5:15 pm

lazariuk wrote:
Harry S wrote: So to answer my own question, I would say that maybe I would ask a dying man to clarify what he had said if I thought that what he was saying was causing him some distress.

Jack

but what if you drove him away, like you did to anunitu?

Well since this seems to be causing you distress I will ask you if you really think it is true that I drove Anunitu away. Do you have any way of knowing if that is true? How do you know if he is gone? Maybe he is just sitting back relaxed silently looking to see what unfolds.

Jack
[/quote]

it causes me lots of distress, I think it is very likely you drove anunitu away, maybe this, maybe anything but that's what it looks like to me and you just dont care.
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Re: Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby lazariuk » Wed May 13, 2009 5:55 pm

Harry S wrote:
it causes me lots of distress, I think it is very likely you drove anunitu away, maybe this, maybe anything but that's what it looks like to me and you just dont care.
So Harry what is it that you miss about him? What is it that you were getting from him that you miss? Maybe you can get it from me. You will never know until you try.

Jack
Everything being said to you is true; Imagine of what it is true.
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Re: Mrs Owen ---- by Greg

Postby Harry S » Wed May 13, 2009 7:32 pm

lazariuk wrote:
Harry S wrote:
it causes me lots of distress, I think it is very likely you drove anunitu away, maybe this, maybe anything but that's what it looks like to me and you just dont care.
So Harry what is it that you miss about him? What is it that you were getting from him that you miss? Maybe you can get it from me. You will never know until you try.

Jack
Lazariuk, there a poster called "Geoffrey" on another thread who needs urgent help. He investigates posters on this forum!!! He needs you more than I do, good luck!

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