Poems by Joel Poudrier

The following are a selection of poems written by Joel Poudrier, USMC, during tours of duty.

Americans in Spain

Soldiers of the nation
let the day wash by
like a swirl of white the water feels
in the glassy pressure the waves reveal.
The picture fades like a paper drifts
into a view we can't resist.


In a clash of living
we let the stone walls fall,
never listening to the nature cry
that a brotherhood should never die.
And when it rains, is the water clear
or does it sadly disappear?


All the beauty
in a Spanish countryside
makes the silence seem
like an eternity.
When will they listen
to the words that never have to be
spoken to be understood?
It's a miracle
we've come to last this long,
grown to be this strong.
And when the Spanish night conceals the fields
are they still as close
or do the lights seem like
a dream we've lost?


Passing courtyards
we can see the ancient style
but is the style we see the fingertip
of a classic hand, or just a trip
to the places where the sights begin
and the wine is sweeter
than her Spanish eyes?


In the morning
when we awake from the night before
do we watch the sea spread
on the Spanish shore?


Or does it wash away
and the walls fall down
on our floating heads
as the sun envelopes the yellow fields
where sunflowers sway
and farmers pray for the rains to come?
                -8 July 1989

“We placed paper beanies”

We placed paper beanies
on our dirty heads
in respect for their synagogue.
The old, sunken Jew
smiled unevenly as we took them
one by one
our cameras in the other hand.
Some laughed quietly beneath the breaths
they took in this holy place
where Mary began
her eternal rest.
Some stared at the intricate red
and golden veil of the Torah.
I looked back
at the steady age
of the old Jew.
He smiled a little younger
then I realized
that we were all
completely silent.
                -17 July 1989
                Haifa, Israel

As a Marine Waiting to Leave Israel

Haifa sits like a distant Christmas tree.
The hills are like hands of never-ending strength.
The roads are like scars on creased skin.
The rocks are shattered glass.
The buildings are like strong, confident eyes.
                The past few days were spent
                firing rounds at stones,
                                and chipped, concrete buildings.


In the water the ship doesn't move.
The waves pass into the sea.
The soldier reads a letter from home.


We have fought the land
and our enemies were never real.


Maybe this is the gift
below Haifa's sacred lights.
                -28 July 1989

One Night in Tel Aviv

                -to Cpl  Mark Slatton, USMC


Let's go out as friends
and drink until we're brothers
and float across the streets
like fish.
We'll swim into bars
mixing with the music
and wall to wall buzz
of ignorant laughter.


We'll sit high in cafés
along the shore as the sea melts in
and feel the breeze and watch
the crowds walk by and wish
they knew how pure
we want to be.


We'll laugh
  and unashamed we'll cry
    to release the pain
      only getting drunk can purge.


We'll reminisce as to why
we became soldiers
and the brotherhood will seem
so much closer with each drink.
Our deaths will seem so noble
now that we're high
and we'll talk softly
of how our friends will mourn us
and how the ones who never even knew us
will miss us when we're gone.


We'll make vows of everlasting faith
to each other, pledges of everlasting trust
with our fermented blood.


Then we'll swim back to the hotel
and slur our tired minds until our words
grow deep and distant.


We'll fight against the night,
too close to let it go.
                -30 July 1989
                Tel Aviv, Israel

A Tour of the Holy Land

Your reflection in the mirror
looks so much purer
than the you that I touch.
I see myself behind you
with my deep eyes
contemplating the abstraction
of sweet music that I heard on Mt. Zion,
a hum that spread
like morning sunlight in the replica
of the room where Jesus
had his last supper.
I stood on a crumbling ledge
trying to take a picture of their circle
and ancient columns
while the Jews sang meditatively
in an aura of forgiveness.
I wanted to be inside their circle
but my flash made them blink
and I
slipped back to the floor.


Outside, the heat pressed me
and the walls of Old Jerusalem
were like one giant shadow.
I might have been swallowed
in the blending of its cracks
if it hadn't been for the Arab boy
                "Fordy pustcard, un dolla."


I handed him the money
then felt the weak texture of the postcards'
Some of the pictures were stripped away
or rubbed away
and I realized it was from the constant
sweat of the boy's hand.


Turning for the bus
I wished to hear
the Jewish song one more time,
to let it descent on me
like the cool air from the air conditioning vents.


Now in Tel Aviv,
rubbing the water from my hair,
ready to leave this hotel
and swim into the cafe lights along the shore
I see two people


and realize
there was Heaven in their circle of song
and purity
in the sweat of the boy's hand.
                -20 August, 1989

The Heart of Cairo

Below the road
on a level more constant
with the wounded tongue of the Nile
circled by falling walls
is the City
of the Dead.


Empty buildings
roofless, naked
asleep in their own disuse
crumbled side by side
seeming to splice in their hollowness.


Years ago, Egyptian families
spent weeks visiting,
living above the rot of loved ones
sunken in the chasm
of dry sand.


I wonder what the children dreamt?
Did they feel suspended
or pressed
above grandmother's solid eternity?


Did a wind sift a sickening smell
above their restlessness
and reveal images of themselves
in a Latin
sleep of death?
                1 September, 1989

Only One Wrist

                -Alexandria, Egypt
                29 August, 1989


Waiting in the mess line
I heard two marines talking,
                "She'd locked herself in a car,"
one said with a stuck smile,
                "and cut her wrist.
                 A crowd of Egyptians
                  were around her
                 trying to get inside."


"Did they get her out?" asked the other
with a deep vee in his brow,
like a vulture descending
on a swollen corpse.


                "I don't know.
                 There wasn't much blood though
                   and she only sliced
                  one wrist."


That's when I trailed off
clamping their voices behind the heat of my head
what did you do—
stand there in the crowd
watching her white face
into the City of the Dead?


I saw myself
ripping off my blue shirt
wrapping it around my fist
and shattering the car's side window.
The glass  would spray inside.
The sound would surge
like screams surge
in nightmares.


And she would look at me
silent, still
     with no gratitude


wishing I had stood in the crowd,
wishing I were dirty
 and poor
  and weak.
3 September, 1989

(sonnet) I Don’t Want to Drink Tonight in Lisbon

The rain is sweeping on this day
and there you stand, shaking a finger at me,
saying it isn't right, it's a sin.


Upon the rise sits the castle's gray body
overlooking the sea
(which holds no comfort for me).  You begin
madly walking the cobblestones to the broken gate
so you can swim through the bars
                before it's too late.


I'll turn-in and listen to my soiled friends
proclaim a false salvation; watch them dodge
reality with eyes that roll
                into my soul.


But first, I stand here alone, as the sky sends
another sting into my eyes, watching you
disappear into the madding crowd.
                16 October, 1989