Bob Cable Pinch Hits for Joe
What follows are email notes from Veterans For Peace member, Bob Cable, that describe his mission to read poems by Joe Labriola at a pre-Veterans Day (Nov. 9) OccuPoetry event at Occupy Boston, Dewey Square, Boston. Both notes are to Susie Davidson, a journalist, author, poet, and filmmaker who is an advocate for World War II veterans and the Holocaust survivor community.
Bob's initial note to Susie Davidson
Dear Ms. Davidson,
Pat Scanlon, Coordinator of the Smedley D. Butler Brigade of Veterans for Peace (VFP), has forwarded your invitation to participate in poetry readings at Occupy Boston on November 9th. Thank you very, very much for arranging them and specifically for inviting VFP to participate.
I am an associate member (Peace Corps, not war corps veteran) of the Smedley D. Butler Brigade and also a lover of poetry. I was in the line of Smedleys that stood in solidarity with Occupy Boston in the Rose Kennedy Greenway in the early hours of October 11th when Boston Police assaulted us all and arrested some of us. That occasion of my first physical contact with a policeman (a 30-something, +250 lb. fellow) in 71 years resulted in my instant knockdown, out of further action that evening, and ten days of missed work as I recuperate from the fall. I'm still moving painfully at a snail pace and have not, alas, returned to Occupy Boston since then.
However, I certainly hope to attend the November 9th poetry reading where I would like to read one or two short poems (below) on behalf of USMC Viet Nam veteran Joe Labriola, whom I have visited at the Souza/Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, MA. I am certain that Joe would be staying with Occupy Boston if he were not "otherwise engaged." He is, I believe, believe, unjustly imprisoned for a murder he did not commit and, while in prison, has abused for his criticisms of prison "life" and defense of prisoners rights. Please visit www.freejoelab.com for more information.
Joe has published a small book of 38 poems, Prisms of War, divided into three sections on the topics of war, prison, and love. Following are two of them that I would like to read on Joe's behalf at Occupy Boston on Nov. 9th. The U.S. Marine Corps taught Joe to make war, but war taught him to love instead. I am sure the Nov. 9th audience will resonate with his transformation.
19 YEARS OLD
It was two days I figure
before I knew for sure
those were your bone fragments
stuck in my matted hair
mixed with sweat and blood.
Streaks cleaned my cheeks of mud,
straight lines off my stubbled chin,
as salt burned in my eyes.
I still believed in God
and said a silent prayer
mixed in with a lot of why's.
Your destiny was to die in Viet Nam
while mine was to never come home.
CLOSE AS I AM
If I had a tail
it would drum the floor
as I saw you approach
each anfont-weight:normal; line-height:1.3d every day.
I'd lick your hand
and nuzzle your lap,
letting you stroke my head.
I'd cry and whimper
like a frozen animal
saved by your warmth.
I'd sleep on your feet
protecting you from everyone
I'd love you
with the fiercest loyalty
and be almost as close
as I am now
to your heart.
Please let me know if you can fit me in to read these contributions from Joe Labriola on November 9th. Thank you again for this great opportunity for all the People.
Follow-up note providing some personal biographical details
Perhaps a fifth of Veterns for Peace members are, like me, Associate Members who did not serve in the armed forces but who appreciate and support those who did and nevertheless came to "see the light" and advocate for peace instead of war.
I joined the U.S. Peace Corps right out of Harvard College in 1962, serving as a Volunteer teacher in the mountain village of Huarochiri, Peru and in the Lima barriada of Pampa de Comas until August 1964. In view of my draft obligation at the time, I had also applied for the U.S. Air Force and was accepted for an officer's commission; but when they slated me to work as a recruiter, I joined the Peace Corps instead. (I was always opposed to the Viet Nam war!)
Ex-Marine Joe Labriola is an outstanding example of how our government induces vulnerable young men and women into the Military-Industrial juggernaut, reverses their earlier training in decent human behavior, puts them in a kill-or-be-killed situation, and neglects them when they return from their "service" with physical, mental, spiritual and/or social wounds. He is also an example of how frequently they fail to readjust to civilian life at home after the insanity of their experience overseas and, moreover, an example of a man unjustly accused, convicted, and abused for decades in the Prison-Industrial Complex. Finally, he is an example of man at peace with himself after long years of self education, penitential thought, and advocacy in prison for his own and other prisoners' rights. I am quite sure that Joe would be a member of Veterans for Peace and would be supporting Occupy Boston if he were not imprisoned in Shirley, Massachusetts. I would be honored to read two of his poems which illustrate, first, his trauma and, then, his healing.
P.S. I am originally from South Dakota, but I have lived in Somerville, MA since 1986.