Taeo Skypes Jaime Yosha of Fairfax, California. They play their version of Boggle: Taeo’s Bananagrams versus Jamie’s Scrabble tiles. N-S-T-O-R-A-H. They take turns forming words:
The highlight of every online visit is my son’s out-of-the-swimming pool version of the Funky Monkey: he bounds from one end of the couch to the other, his back facing the camera, a foot lifted in the air, head turned slightly revealing a stretched smile, eyes beaming.
He laughs: Funky Monkey–Funky Monkey–Funky Monkey.
He has adorable feet. He’s the smallest boy in his kindergarten class, turning 5-years-old and still wears a size 3. I’m worried he will be slowed down. Despite the concern of maturity, promoting him to the second grade is an option. Yes, he is that smart and intuitive.
It’s fifteen minutes after his bath, and leaping cozy in pajamas, his favorite Wednesday dinner of Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken baking. The timer winds down from its twenty-minute start. It is enough to remind me that a poetry manuscript reading fee is worth four or five Wednesday dinners—to keep a tradition alive for a month. For a month of Wednesdays can we go hungry for publication? My poetry manuscript is in the hands of three presses. At least they did not charge a reading fee. However, should I receive rejections, I must consider submitting to presses that do charge.
He deserves better and I know deep down he understands the struggle. His hunger for poetry is equal to anything glazed. He’s a scrapper, described Peter Pan’s Principal during the summer Academy. I agree. He should be with his intellectual equals, nonetheless, rather than spend kindergarten and first grade proving himself to his peers. Can public school cultivate and sustain his interests in my absence? I doubt it. Who would take him to poetry readings, let alone read Pablo Neruda or Carl Sandburg to him at bedtime? Who will steer him through Robert Hass’ Sun Under Wood? Or explain the heroism of Ogden Nash’s “Adventures of Isabel”? He may be the only boy his age that has not seen any of the Star Wars movies. He has heard of Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader. I’m not sure if he knows the connection. He thinks it is common knowledge amongst boys to know these characters. If he knew their origins, he would understand why his cousins continue to kill each other with light sabers. He’s quick to point out swordplay as inappropriate behavior. Of course he will be awkward when he refuses to simulate violence. The parents of his friends are stunned that he would be so adamant. The only toy gun he owns came with last Christmas’ battloid. As soon as he unwrapped the neighbor’s armored thug, I quickly translated the Japanese on the box. The robot is a fire fighter. It has thick metal plates for protection when entering infernos, putting out forest fires with a water cannon. It can egress without a scratch. It saves lives. My son was impressed. He should not have war toys for the very reason why I grew up with war toys. My father was in the Navy. My stepfather was in the Navy. My uncles were in each of the Services. Cousins served in the First Gulf War. War toys gave scope; explained why deployments were eight months long and explained what would happen should Containment fail. War toys reasoned why my father was a father four months out of the year. Taeo does not know anyone in the military. Keeping it that way may change.
Soon he will be at an age when I was exploring matches and kitchen explosives. Living on base permitted boy’s early training.
Skype is that forum my fathers did not have. How awful for them. Is it really awful that I prepare him for our future virtual father-son relationship in this manner?
We will begin dinner with Alex Trebek and finish with Pat Sajak. Afterwards we will do a Jumble from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Datebook. I will pick out the letters in the order he thinks they should be. I will agree or disagree until he gets it right. He will write the answers in the boxes—funny how kindergarten is counterintuitive. He writes perfectly small but school has him doing large sloppy letters.
But before I eat, Taeo will ask what am I doing on the floor. He asks this each time when I do push-ups at home.
Because I can get paid for doing push-ups.
60 push-ups before dinner.
60 push-ups before breakfast.
60 push-ups before lunch.
60 push-ups when I wake up in the morning.
60 push-ups before I go to bed.
60 push-ups before I shower.
60 push-ups after I’ve toweled.
Often, after resting a few minutes, I will drop a follow-up 40 for a total of 100. If only I had the muscle mass to prove my activity. In order to graduate U.S. Army Basic Combat Training or the Warrior Transition Course, men, at my age (36), need to complete 26 push-ups in two minutes. I can do twice as much in less time. I want to get my body into better shape than it was when I was 21-years old in the Navy. Officer Candidate School will require an age-waiver and a board review. I doubt earning a commission. My goal is 70 push-ups within two minutes. I can put push-ups in a resume. Push-ups lead to promotions. My son doing push-ups is empathy. He joins in once in awhile. He thinks it is fun. Empathy is the opposite of war toy’s appealing sympathetic magic.
Every push-up is a step closer to securing distance between father and son. When my ear is that close to the floor, I hear the rumbles of bombs. I am as desperate as it sounds. I hear the Ukrainian conversations of our neighbor living below us. I hear my son counting off each piece of Orange chicken he eats. I hear the explosions from close air support. I imagine the collateral damage.
It just happens that the money the U.S. taxpayers paid for the suspected Hellfire missile used in a suspected U.S. drone attack on a suspected Taliban camp in a suspected remote border region killing four suspected militants and perhaps wounding several suspected civilians could have paid off my suspicious Federal student loan. Put in another way, my education costs the lives of many people on the ground. To think how scholarships were diverted to support the suspect war with terror.
Can you see why victory in the war on poverty still eludes? More than 6,000 of these missiles have been suspiciously used since 2001—and that’s just in combat—all promptly replaced by newer and more expensive versions. Imagine the number used in training—in order to make room for newer and more expensive versions. Imagine the use. Is it too late to halt the stockpiling? Think of the stockpiles south of the Korean DMZ and imagine their use, or the stockpiles in case of an Iran contingency and imagine their use, or the stockpiles to send China a message and imagine their use, or the stockpiles to remind Russia of the fall of the Soviet Union and imagine their use. Hey pilots you are armed with the education of many college students who rely on Federal financial aid. Now imagine, a college student armed with an education and imagine him using it, to end war. Yes, I want to tell the San Angelo, TX Student Loan call center that they can collect my payment when the next Hellfire rolls off the Lockheed Martin assembly line. Otherwise wait until the war ends!
Unfortunately I cannot wait long.
If my education is the value of a missile, shouldn’t it be as lethal? Purposeful? UC’s raising tuition by 30% is an act that benefit’s the war. A solution: UC should sell Hellfire’s to the Pentagon. But the world does not spin this way. The massive Faculty-Staff-Student Walkout and demonstration should continue their protest at every weapons plant. Demand a refund.
Instead, my education is as expendable as a missile. It’s replaceable. It’s fabricated. I have a Master in Fine Arts in Poetry. Poets are replaceable. We are fabricated. However, missiles do not eat, or pay rent, or pay child support, or buy there father-son dinners at Trader Joe’s, or have an emotional attachment to words that do not get the attention from presses or human resource managers. A poet will metaphorize a missile as I have.
Ode to a Hellfire going boom in the desert?
Ballad of the Multiple Re-entry Vehicle?
Ghazal of the JDAM?
A missile can care less if it is a poet’s muse.
When the Air Force sorties $143 million per F-22 Raptor, and the cost does not include fuel or maintenance amongst other things, I should not expect Education receiving a priority. Mr. President, fully armed, the jet wields an arsenal that can pay the education of fifteen students for a year. Ground the plane, and those fifteen students will graduate. No, I am not opposed to this weapons platform because I could not be a pilot myself. I am opposed to this weapon and its strap-ons because I cannot finance my education. Couldn’t you let China have its own copy for the price of nation-wide student loan bailout? I am a military brat and I love my war porn. Posters of Phantoms and Hornets taped to bedroom wall. The Carl Vinson leading a task force. Top Gun inspiring flight school. A lady Green Beret wearing only bandoliers.
War porn does not justify the cost of procurement. If only Congress listened to a poet—alas, when he’s a veteran of a foreign war:
In the late hours the watchman’s vigilance narrows searchlights and listening posts. Dry land warbrides and soldiers accuse the flock thereupon battlements broadsides spill. She leads me to the armarium and teaches mOthers tongue. Are you the virgin in the grotto spinning my web? There are times I must navigate the archipelago and shepherd crows emerge nascent epileptic hound garrisons map censors expose silent klaxons strike new mouths. I feared airbursts atmospheres quilted moth holes and dug bunkers beneath debris bed clamors to find my way. Cavort with truants in the coffeehouses and crÃ¨ches the diners and nightclubs these camerata and lunatics these cabalists and ecoterrorists these poet schools of the insincere anthologies collect aftermaths of why are they horrified reveille collapse every war births a penitent child. Insh’allah. Insh’allah. Insh’allah.