His Crusade                                                     

Cut from that plum job and running, like anyone, for anything

To hold body and soul together, you look more

Like us now--scared but still peevish, defeated, but still possessing

A hint of hauteur, the last remnant of the visage

Of a commanding breed: sleek, well-tailored, insouciant,

And without memory of defeat. You cling to your decades

(Or was it centuries?) of hegemony like armor,

The old decorated breastplates and dull mail leggings

That brought fear to those you defended

As well as those you conquered.

We’ve sailed back to those once-pristine islands

You rewarded to your paladins, found streets thick

With stick-thin dogs and children worse, like ghosts,

Their mothers dead from the first wave of raiders,

Their fathers dead, in retreat, or treating with the enemy:

Quisling, marked, repulsive.  

After Szymanowski’s Op. 2 Nocturne and Tarantella

This all must begin with a man

hunched over it—in trench coat,

in an unpromising, short brimmed hat,

looking in on a sleeping child.

It had to seem suspicious, no one would think it

anything but suspicious, but we knew

it was the old country countryman

at long last met with his estranged and stolen


          From far away, from that country

he’d thought he left forever

so long ago, he tracked the man

who stole his wife and stole his child.

He walked the streets of his old homeland

again, and was crowded and narrowed by

turrets and bayed windows and

felt again he was shinnying through

a tunnel, desperate again to escape.

He looked and looked but found only

the lost addresses again, and had to

make it all the way back home

and speak to his mother, again

seeking some way to find the child in the America

he left.  The corner store was rich from his remittances,

the dowdy square alive and flower-freshened

from the happy efforts his  townsmen made,

but the broad wound of his lost love and daughter

could only be healed from here—he knew,

by a mystery neither he nor I can speak,

that he here would find some key.

What shade did he know to find here, what talent,

forgotten or buried, would emerge

before his eyes? 

The simple motions of the village revealed no mysteries,

and his fellows there, first envious, were now

amused at the once-legendary remitter,

and laughed behind his back and made

jokes at his expense to their wives

and older children.

He sat in tavern brighter with neon

than any he’d remembered there, and

when the nocturne broke into the tarantella,

something broke through his mind’s

stern inner gaze.  Two school friends

sat with him, one on each side, seeming

friendly, looking askance, and as the

long-faced woman with her long full hair

began the violin tarantella, he remembered

exactly the look of the man who had stood

by the house so many days, exactly the look

of the automobile he drove, his thin face,

his knobby hands, his breath redolent of Kreteks

as he walked by and into the building. 

It was not the nocturne but the tarentella

the completed the story, that brought him

back to America, that caught and devoured him,

then put him back at his daughter’s side.

fred von drasek nerve_bios_3.html