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Poem Mysteriously Disappears, Then Reappears, at Waitsfield War Memorial 

Published July 5, 2011 at 11:12 a.m.

Here's a weird little tale for Independence Day week, courtesy of a Seven Days reader, about a poem left at an Afghanistan war memorial in Waitsfield that went missing numerous times only to reappear days or weeks later.

Martin McGowan says he wrote a poem and left it by the memorial in September 2010, near the sign that lists the number of American military killed in Afghanistan (1544 as of yesterday). Behind that sign, along Route 100, is a field full of little white flags — one for each military member killed in combat. There's an identical memorial to the Iraq war adjacent to it.

The poem, "george's little solar army," is a riff on the Vietnam-era protest song "Ohio" by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was inspired, McGowan says, by an ongoing local dust-up over the solar trackers installed at American Flatbread in Waitsfield by owner George Schenk. But like all good protest/beatnik/stick-it-to-the-man poetry, that's just a launching off point. McGowan's poem covers a lot of ground — Lehman Brothers, Enron, Kissinger, the Gulf of Tonkin incident. (Full poem text below).

Shortly after he left it there, McGowan, 50, says the poem disappeared. Then just as mysteriously, the poem reappeared by the sign post. In fact, that disappearing/reappearing routine has repeated itself four or five times in the year since McGowan left the poem there, he says. This spring it went missing for a week before someone placed it back under a rock at the sign post.

"It's got this secret life of its own," McGowan says of the poem.

At first, McGowan — the author of two books, including a collection of poems entitled Shattered — figured someone snatched the poem because he or she found it offensive. But each time it returned, he says he wondered if the opposite was true: were they taking it to photocopy the poem because they liked it?

McGowan says he believes the war in Afghanistan is "unjustified" but adds that he placed the poem there to provoke thought about our national priorities and not purely to make an anti-war statement.

Asked by email about the meandering poem, the memorial's creator, Russ Bennett, writes that people leave things there and occasionally they are removed. On the memorial generally, Bennett says it's meant to be a "non editorialized graphic memorial reminder of the sacrifices of life made by our American military engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The memorial does not take a stand about the pros and cons of war any more than Arlington National Cemetery does about all of those sacrifices," Bennett says, before adding, "Proud and unbelievably fortunate to be an American."

Here's the poem. (Note: Misspelled words came that way in the poem).

george's little solar army

a dozen tin soldiers
and Nixon coming
bow their heads
            in unison
to the sun
            not daffodils
to remind every-anybody
            of war.

though down the road,
            a piece
            along scenic route 100
            4,679 white flags
            wave for soldiers today NOW

dead in combat: iraq,
            (forget your casualty insurance, man—
            a girl from our town had her legs blown off)
            protecting freedom.

some say it's ugly
to see these twelve tin soldiers
            bow their heads to the
            Goddess of light, sun---

and you know, there are
            several more army sentinals
            down the road
            a piece, near Yestermorrow
            (and the field of dreams,
            with the little white flags of death)
            whose silicon breast feeds the grid-iron

oil. oh-ee-oh, o-hi-oh, o-ee-el.

'tin soldiers
and Nixon coming
finally, we are on our own
this summer
i hear the drumming'
fo-u-r dead in....
            o-hi-oh. o-ee-o. o-ee-el.

all those dead americansoldiers
            our freedom
            to consume oil
            at any cost to date
            180 billion dollars
            and not counting, anymore

later, AEG, Lehman, Enron
(just to name a few names)
of my money, yeah
its pretty ugly
electronic voting man rove gore
            pigs fuckin' pork barrel

            i saw a photo
            of an iraqui child
            with their legs
            blown off
            i heard
            scream with delight
            during the bay of tonkin,


yeah, baby dead baby
it's gettin' ugly.

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About The Author

Andy Bromage

Andy Bromage

Andy Bromage was a Seven Days staff writer from 2009-2012, and the news editor from 2012-2013.

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