Poetry

May 28, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

joey zanotti photo

 

By

Mark Kodama

 

 

 

The General’s Prologue

 

Why Courage Matters

 

 

It has often been said that courage

Is the first of all virtues.

For without courage

Other virtues are meaningless.

Did not Tacitus say

Where there is valor,

There is hope.

 

The great Mongol warrior said:

“The strength of a wall,

Is no greater than,

The courage of the defenders.”

Yes, courage matters.

 

Not the kind of flamboyant

Courage of Joan of Arc,

But the stoic kind of bravery

Of the anonymous.

That kind of humble courage

Saves nations.

 

The World today is fraught with danger,

Nuclear proliferation, weapons of mass destruction,

And terrorist organizations.

Is there any doubt

That we need courage more than ever

To preserve our freedom

And prosperity.

 

Who stopped Nazi Germany and Fascist Japan?

And Stalin and the Red Menace.

Who saved Europe and Asian nations

From foreign domination.

The words of politicians

Did not stop Hitler and Tojo.

It was the blood and steel

Of soldiers in a fight to the death.

Their courage won the day.

 

We honor these brave men

And their sacrifice,

So we can enjoy

The sweet fruits of freedom.

 

So bear all that life deals you,

With stoic forbearance

And always with courage.

 

 

 

 

 

The General’s Tale

 

The Battle of Marathon

 

What I would prefer is that you should fix your eyes every day on the greatness of Athens as she really is and you should fall in love with her.  When you realize her greatness, then reflect that what made her great was men with a spirit of adventure, men who knew their duty, men who were afraid to fall below a certain standard.

Pericles, son of Xanthippe

Funeral Oration

 

 

Persia was the greatest empire known to man,

Neighbors capitulated to their hunger for land,

Many nation states, kingdoms, and cities did fall,

Envoys of suppliant nations adorned their walls.

When Persian ambassadors demanded surrender,

O Men of Athens your freedom you would not render.

The Greeks thus taunted the Great King, heaven and hell,

When they tossed the Persian envoys into a well.

 

When the Great King’s Army landed at Marathon Plain,

Fighting their undefeated army seemed insane.

Pheidippedes ran to Sparta of the Peloponese

Bearing a plea for help from General Miltiades.

Meantime, the men of Athens readied for the fight,

To defend their democracy and their way of life.

The vaunted Spartans could not come to their rescue,

For their Laws prevented marching until full moon.

 

The Plataeans, their faithful friends, joined with Athens,

Sending to the battle every able bodied man.

O brave men of Athens, outnumbered ten to one,

Charged their waiting enemies on the run.

The Persians thought Greek attack mere suicide,

For no horses or archers were on the Greek side,

 

With a hollowed out center and reinforced flanks

O men of Athens you assaulted their ranks.

The Greek hoplite attack was furious and brave,

The enemy infantry lines began to break and wave.

Finally the Persians and their allies broke and fled,

Many of their comrades were slain and left for dead.

The Persians retreated to their long boats of pitch and wood,

Fighting men that remained were slaughtered where they stood.

 

Good Pheidippedes ran to Athens with good news,

So Persian surrender demands would be refused.

Pheidippedes died after singing his paean of victory,

Giving his glorious death deathless immortality.

Six Thousand Four Hundred Persians the Greeks did slay,

So that we may enjoy the freedoms we have today.

 

 

 

 

 

The Aged Philosopher

 

 

The aged Philosopher stands at the water’s edge,

With toes buried in the white sand,

Looking out at the great ocean of undiscovered truth.

Piles of books wrapped in newspaper are at hand.

Schooners and boats fill the bay,

As mariners and ship owners haggle over pay.

And beyond the harbor lies the sea

Its waters concealing life’s mysteries.

Art, science, literature crowd his mind

As he treasures each and every find.

Arms outstretched to the Divine

The Philosopher cries: “Time, time . . . I need more time!”

 

 

 

 

 

Girl in the Coffee Shop

 

 

Innocent face,

Not a hair out of place.

I order.

You dip your head down,

Ever so slightly.

You are shy.

 

Head in a book.

Heart in your hand.

You are an image,

In my head.

Eternal youth.

Girl in the coffee shop.

 

 

 

 

 

The Prince of Mexico City

 

 

Muses:

 

Sing the song of the conquistador Hernán Cortes

Who with a band of five hundred adventurers

Sailing in eleven Spanish caravels brought down

The great Mexican Empire.  No one could deny

It was a bloody affair – bodies piled upon bodies –

Like a stack of faggots – fuel for a great bonfire of

Death and destruction – carrion flesh for dogs and birds.

Let’s begin at the beginning with the great conquistador

Landing with his mercenaries on the white sands

Of the island of Cozumel, sacred

To the Mayan Moon Goddess Ixchel.

 

Said Cortes:

 

“Father in heaven, let us give thanks on this day

For safe passage from Cuba To Yucatan.  We, the soldiers

of the Cross, traversed the wine-dark sea to the turquoise waters

of Mexico to spread your word among the Heathen

And to covert infidels to believers. We pray in the name

of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  Amen. ”

 

What kind of man was Cortes?  What kind of man was he?

Hernán Cortés was the most remarkable of men,

The kind of man who appears once every thousand years:

Shrewd, courageous, and steely in resolve, Cortes was

Aa ruthless man of action, a fox or a lion, as circumstances

Demanded.  He was a Machiavellian hero, a man who

Lived by his own rules, a man who knew how to gain

And use power. He was a man you would never want

As an enemy and might not want as a friend.

 

On the Eighteenth of February, 1519,  Cortes and his men

Set sail from Cuba under Cortes’s black and gold banner,

With burning red cross, engulfed in white and blue flames.

The banner read: “Friends, follow the cross.

Under this sign, if we have faith, we will conquer.”

A series of tempests broke up the fleet

And forced the ships south to Cozumel.

Cortes stayed with a brigantine that lost its rudder.

He dove into the heaving waters, recovered the rudder,

And saved the floundering ship and its crew.

 

Cortes landed at Cozumel, finding a deserted village,

Its frightened people fleeing into the forest for refuge.

His men had looted the temple, seized food and,

Captured two Indian men.  Cortes freed the two men

And gave them gifts to induce their neighbors

To return to their homes. The natives of Cozumel

built great stone buildings, including a terraced pyramid,

Rising five stories high. When the villagers returned

To their homes, Cortes traded glass beads for gold trinkets,

Each side thinking they bettered the other. Cortes tried to

Get to the Indians to convert to Christianity. The Indians

Refused for their gods brought the sun and rain.

The Christian soldiers tumbled the stone idols down

The steps of the temple, breaking them apart.

The Spaniards replaced the idols with images

Of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus. Indian couriers

Traveled to the mainland to deliver messages

To castaways living there. After receiving no response,

Cortes weighed anchor, but returned for repairs

After one boat leaked water.

 

Upon his return to Cozumel, a half naked man

Furiously paddling sought Cortes, fell at his feet,

Touched the earth with his right hand in the Indian style,

Lifted his hand to his forehead. and introduced himself

In broken Spanish. As he spoke, tears welled and

Rolled down his sun burnt cheeks:

“I am the priest they called Jeronimo de Aguilar,

One of the only two survivors of a ship wreck

That left six years ago from the colony of Darien

In Panama.  We were sailing to Hispanola

When our ship hit a sandbar. The sixteen men

And two women aboard were forced to abandon ship

In an open boat. After many days at sea in which

Some died of thirst and exposure – the lucky ones –

We made landfall in Yucatan and were captured

By the local Indians who imprisoned us in wood cages –

Like domesticated animals awaiting slaughter.

The Indians priests, in their white cloaks and

Long hair matted with the dried blood of their victims,

Sacrified five men alive by holding them down

On their stone altars, ripping their beating hearts out

While they screamed. They were butchered like animals

By the Indians who cooked and ate them.

Miraculously, Gonzolo Guerrero and I broke through

Our wood cages and escaped into the forest and

Made our way to a rival tribe where we were enslaved.

Gonzolo became a warrior and now has a family.

I became an adviser to the cacique.”

 

Cortes told Aguilar to stand, embraced him and then threw

His own cloak over his shoulders. Aguilar – who now spoke Mayan –

Became chief translator of the expedition. Cortes now

Prepared to set sail again. When Cortes asked the local cacique

Where he could find more gold, the chief pointed

To the northwest and said “Mexica!”

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Kodama

Mark Kodama is a trial attorney and former newspaper reporter. He is currently working on Las Vegas Tales, a work of philosophy, sugar coated in meters and rhymes and told though stories. He lives in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area with his wife and two sons.

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