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David W. Parsley

When Samantha Left

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David W. Parsley

WHEN SAMANTHA LEFT

for Samantha Smith

child peace envoy

1972-1985

When Samantha left the blind rains

were falling somewhere,

the unhearing falcon

tangent to hurricane’s eye and lost.

A girl and her father fell from the sky.

It was an important failure, another

of many come from that bad world

the radios and televisions speak of,

somewhat different because she was small

and had helped us hope a little

when we thought it counted.

But whatever was said

as cameras panned the crash site

we knew she had stopped like a countdown

while we were preparing suppers or going off shift.

A stranger stillness than perplexity had taken her.

It came as a fire

not bred of conflicts frozen in another age

but of flawed machinery or pilotage.

The experts knew.

Stillness survives the fires. It holds

the shoreline of consciousness

and we drive around it for

as long as it takes to be sure

she and the others have stopped caring so much,

that we will never again look up

from footprints trailing the car’s open door

wondering if we have heard them speak

or caught ourselves regarding her

in an anchored dinghy

lost in the dark that wells from her eyes.

 


previously unpublished
© 2014 David W. Parsley
Parsley Poetry Collection

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dcmarti1

as a fire not bred of conflict.....

 

Very moving part. Great tribute. And who would not be moved:

 

the dark that wells from her eyes.

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Benjamin

A fascinating tribute that prompted me to read the letter to Yuri Andropov and his eventual reply. Children it seems have such an untainted clarity of vision. Geoff

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dr_con

Stunning. Deeply moving- a fantastic piece. Will re-read, many many time.

 

Thanks You!

 

Juris


Join the Voodoo rEvolution. Classes forming now: http://www.integralvoodoo.org/

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dedalus

that we will never again look up

from footprints trailing the car’s open door

wondering if we have heard them speak

or caught ourselves regarding her

in an anchored dinghy

lost in the dark that wells from her eyes.

 

 

This is a remarkable, very powerful conclusion!


Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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tonyv

I love how this is expressed in a distinctly Western, American voice:

... we knew she had stopped like a countdown
while we were preparing suppers or going off shift ...

 

I was young during the Cold War era, but I remember the climate of that time. Yes, "The experts knew," but it's also clear from the tone of the poem that everyone knew, "It was an important failure."

 

Tony

 

 

Samantha Smith


Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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David W. Parsley

 

as a fire not bred of conflict.....

 

Very moving part. Great tribute. And who would not be moved:

 

the dark that wells from her eyes.

 

Thanks, Marti, for this much appreciated response from clear back in 2014. Apologies for my delayed reply, but this was posted while I was recovering from a multi-month illness and just could not get back on line for a while after posting. Then the usual litany of things happened and here I am.

 

- Dave

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David W. Parsley

A fascinating tribute that prompted me to read the letter to Yuri Andropov and his eventual reply. Children it seems have such an untainted clarity of vision. Geoff

 

I recently offered this poem at a public poetry reading. I was surprised and dismayed to find that nobody present knew who Samantha Smith was. The 1980s were a long time ago and nobody likes remembering the Cold War. For the curious, there is a sufficient summary of Samantha's story here:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samantha_Smith

 

samanthasmith.jpg​.

 

 

It includes the text of Samantha's letter as well as Andropov's reply.

 

Thanks Geoff,

- Dave

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David W. Parsley

Stunning. Deeply moving- a fantastic piece. Will re-read, many many times.

 

Thank You!

 

Juris

Hi Doc, as always your appreciation is received with humble gratitude.

 

- Dave

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David W. Parsley

 

that we will never again look up

from footprints trailing the car’s open door

wondering if we have heard them speak

or caught ourselves regarding her

in an anchored dinghy

lost in the dark that wells from her eyes.

 

 

This is a remarkable, very powerful conclusion!

 

 

Hi Bren, this excerpt captures the most personal response to the tragedy. It contains several strains of the sense of helplessness felt by parents and the "village [required] to a raise a child." How do we encourage children to make their own choices and still protect them? How do we acknowledge the burgeoning wisdom that rejects the world we offer this hopeful generation? How do we collectively live with the consequence of failing them?

 

Thank You,

- Dave

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David W. Parsley

I love how this is expressed in a distinctly Western, American voice:

 

... we knew she had stopped like a countdown

while we were preparing suppers or going off shift ...

 

I was young during the Cold War era, but I remember the climate of that time. Yes, "The experts knew," but it's also clear from the tone of the poem that everyone knew, "It was an important failure."

 

Tony

 

 

Samantha Smith

 

Hi Tony, your insightful comments draw attention to one of the more important allusions in the poem, that of W.H. Auden's famous work, "Musee des Beaux Arts." Considering a Brueghel painting, "Landscape with The Fall of Icarus," he notes the lack of concern shown by those who might have witnessed the ill-fated end for the boy who flew too high, "how everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster." And further: "it was not an important failure." When this child fell from the sky (this time with her father, in contrast to the story of Icarus and Daedalus,) we all took notice.

 

icarus.jpg.

 

Thank You,

- Dave

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Tinker

Hi David, Glad this was ressurected. Strong, emotional and well crafted. Pretty much everything has been said above.

 

~~Tink


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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David W. Parsley

Thank you, Tinker, that means a lot. Originally this was the first section of a seven-part poem structured as a pastoral elegy. It was a highly allusive piece and built on a number of the references introduced in this "section." The larger piece has been lost (really) so the full justification for these allusions may not stand alone. I should take this moment to mention a few of those debts and ask for help on another (see below).

 

1. My first debt is to Dame Edith Sitwell, for her poem, Still Falls the Rain. The powerful symbol and language for senseless, mechanized warfare disturbingly prefigures the even more terrifying prospects that awoke anxieties for young Samantha Smith.

 

2. Next comes The Second Coming of William Butler Yeats. Perhaps the greatest poem of the twentieth century, it prophetically acknowledges with apocalyptic gravitis the climate of international uncertainty that would eventually unleash the forces that were World War I. The poem evokes the premonition of a precocious girl from Maine, sensing a crescendo of voices in her own time, that seemed nearing a similar apex of unimaginable widespread violence and ruin.

 

3. Do people still know about a piece that T.S. Eliot once called "that great and terrible poem of the atomic age," The Horses, by Edwin Muir? I guess it could be called a piece of science fiction, speaking as it does with a voice that has survived a (presumably) nuclear conflict, come from that "bad old world" that "gulped down her children." What heart-wrenching irony to have this doom brought upon the girl who wanted to prevent such an eventuality befalling everyone!

 

4. The whole poem's tone and some of the diction takes inspiration from Marc Hudson's little-known, Elegy for Martin Heidegger.

 

5. Finally there is the phrase "frozen in another age." The original composition of this requiem took place before 1990. In the intervening years, I have forgotten the source and reason for this allusion. Does anybody happen to know how I should direct my debt here? If so, please reply.

 

Thanks,

- Dave

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David W. Parsley

I figured it out. The reference (5 above) is to "Glimpse of the Ice," by W. S. Merwin, from his book, The Lice. The poem ends with the following lines:

 

" I wonder if death will be silent after all

or a cry frozen in another age"

 

And, of course, there is the dual reference to the Cold War. The appropriateness of the reference gave me a chill, as if somebody else had written it.

 

- Dave

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