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Passions in Poetry

Freedom (per Brad's request)

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Member Rara Avis
since 05-19-99
Posts 9708
Michigan, US

0 posted 10-31-1999 10:39 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to Submit your Poem to Passions   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

I was fifteen when Grandfather died,
his twisted body vanquished by too many years,
his mind confused by too many diluted memories,
his spirit still as strong and indomitable
as the day he first killed another man
to protect the life he loved.

It was hard for me to see the war hero he had been
within the wasted remnants of a wispy old man,
his flesh sunken between fragile bones,
his smooth, soft skin bleached paler
than the sheets that wrapped him
like a premature burial shroud.

It was hard to see the war hero he had been
until Grandfather opened his rheumy eyes,
the blue as pale as a winter sky,
as hard and cold as tempered steel.
When he opened his eyes and looked into your soul,
only then could you see it. Then you would know.

Those eyes were a pool of profound strength,
with unwept tears of pain and death floating
just below their placid, unbroken surface,
like ocean debris trapped within swift currents
and forever forbidden to emerge,
forbidden to pollute the sea that was his life.

But, still, the soiled debris was a part of him.
Grandfather survived the German occupation of his land,
fought life and death struggles in an Underground
that would not, could not accept the domination of others.
And when it was over, when he had outlived the death,
he had moved to a new land, a land of new-found friends.

In America, Grandfather built a new life,
while never forgetting the lessons of the old.
His melodious French was replaced with broken English,
the rifles with shovels, the knives with hammers.
But nothing ever supplanted his implacable courage,
nothing ever usurped his enduring strength.

Grandfather was a warrior, but he was also a teacher.
I listened to his words, saw his examples,
learned from the stories and histories he shared.
He showed me that courage and strength aren't independent qualities,
but rather are the inevitable results of abiding love.
"What you truly love," he would say, "can never be surrendered."

And Grandfather, more than most, loved Freedom.
I have since learned there are many who say it,
but few who really feel it.
And fewer still who understand it.
Grandfather once told me he never fought for Freedom.
He said, instead, he fought against domination.

We were sitting in the old wooden swing,
its paint as wrinkled and weathered
as the skin of my grandfather's aged face,
the sound of the river flowing through his yard
a backdrop for a classroom
with neither desks nor chalk boards.

"A man can never take away your Freedom," he told me.
"They can only take power and make you pay a higher price
when you choose to exercise it.
Hitler wanted to make that price a man's death.
There is always a price to be paid for Freedom,
but when the price becomes too high, a man must fight."

I remember he paused then, his irregular breath
like a clipped whistle as it wheezed past swollen nostrils.
I was used to his long lulls, a habit so many found irritating.
Grandfather was giving me time, I knew,
to ponder, to absorb, to believe.
And I knew, too, in knowing him, there would be more.

When he finally continued,
Grandfather's voice was almost a whisper.
"It works both ways," he said, leaning closer,
his minty breath an envelope around my face.
"A man can never take away your freedom,
and a man never grant it either."

Grandfather's voice had many tones within it,
and I had learned them all through the years.
"The laws of this country are good ones, mostly,"
he said in a reverent tone, an awed tone
that spoke of important lessons
to be learned.

"But you must always remember that its Constitution,
and all the laws Congress has passed since then,
don't give you one bit more Freedom
than you already have.
Laws are made by men. Laws change.
Your Freedom is part of you. It's forever."

I remember nodding my understanding,
and I remember Grandfather's hand falling to my shoulder.
He squeezed briefly, and I can only assume he was pleased.
It would be another two years
before he would lay in a death bed of virgin white,
and another two decades before I would really understand his words.

The Freedoms written within our laws are always conditional.
Freedom of the Press is amended by libel statutes,
and Search and Seizure laws are cast aside for Probable Cause.
All the laws, all the guarantees,
exist only at the whim of the courts and Due Process.
Grandfather understood.

Any government based on unconditional Freedom
would necessarily be a government of unconditional anarchy.
Our laws don't grant people Freedom.
Our laws only set the price that must be paid
when a citizen chooses to exercise our Freedom.
But the Freedom comes from within.

Grandfather was not a religious man, but he was a Godly man.
And I think he knew.
Our Creator gave us not only our existence,
but he granted us Free Will,
that we might choose between good and evil.
And that power of choice is what Freedom is really all about.

There will always be a price to pay for Freedom.
The price is set by the hand of man, by the laws we make.
When we are wise and good, the price is one we can bear.
And when we are neither wise nor good,
there will always be men like Grandfather,
with the courage and strength to fight for what they love.
© Copyright 1999 Ron Carnell - All Rights Reserved
Member Patricius
since 07-05-99
Posts 11105
Glen Hope, PA USA

1 posted 11-01-1999 08:45 AM       View Profile for hoot_owl_rn   Email hoot_owl_rn   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit hoot_owl_rn's Home Page   View IP for hoot_owl_rn

I can't say anything but good about this one Ron. It is an excellent piece of poetry, finely crafted and detailed to perfection. The flow is smooth and it all comes together to form a fine piece of art. I am humbled in it's presence. *Applauds your work*
Senior Member
since 09-02-99
Posts 1168

2 posted 11-01-1999 06:23 PM       View Profile for Iloveit   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Iloveit

"A man can never take away your Freedom," he told me.
"They can only take power and make you pay a higher price
when you choose to exercise it.

wow, this is incredible, and yes its been a rough couple of days for me, and this made me sit here and cry, but I needed to read it today...wonderful poem.....

and yes brad can see why you asked him to post it, this is an excellent piece of writing......sigh
Senior Member
since 09-11-99
Posts 511
Washington D.C.

3 posted 11-02-1999 07:34 PM       View Profile for jenni   Email jenni   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jenni


i, for one, was very disappointed with this piece. the first four verses are fantastic, especially the first. but what begins so promising soon descends to empty lecturing. grandfather starts out as a fascinating man, with his frail body and killer's eyes, but he soon turns into a rather dull teacher, spouting Deep Thoughts. his experiences in the war are undoubtedly the defining moments of his life, what make him interesting and worth listening to, but these are only hinted at in the vaguest way, and he sums up the war not in any emotional or personal terms but with the rather intellectual and impersonal "hitler wanted to make [the price of Freedom] a man's death." geez. his transformation from french resistance fighter to american constitutional theorist is never developed. when he says "The laws of this country are good ones, mostly," i was actually thinking, who cares? my grandfather fought in the war, too, but i've sat through enough of HIS pontificating to know that war experiences do not a philosopher make, lol. why should anyone not related to the grandfather in this poem care about what he has to say? simply telling us he was a resistance fighter, and that he now is old (and, therefore, Wise), is not enough, in my opinion.

and the poem doesn't end with grandfather's musings on Freedom and the American Way. no, the "speaker" of the poem, the grandson, subjects us to another 4 stanzas of lecturing and empty moralizing. who is this person, the speaker of the poem? we know he is at least 35 years old, that he loved his grandfather, that he listened and learned from said grandfather on numerous occasions, and that it took him two decades after grandfather's death to "really understand" grandfather's words. but to what does he owe this understanding? why after 20 years does he finally, really understand those important lessons from long ago? the poem doesn't say. but that doesn't stop the speaker from lecturing at us about Free Will, and uttering further Deep Insights on the nature of Freedom.

ron, do not get me wrong. the poem is written beautifully. some of the images in the first stanzas are quite striking and wonderful. but the poem focuses too much on simply telling us things, lecturing AT the reader; it doesn't draw the reader in (THIS reader, at any rate). this is, as always, merely my most humble opinion. i would be interested to hear your thoughts on the above, and on what you were trying to achieve in the poem (and whether your grandfather really was a resistance fighter in the french underground; if true, that is so cool!). thanks for posting this provocative piece.

[This message has been edited by jenni (edited 11-02-1999).]
since 10-18-1999
Posts 231

4 posted 11-02-1999 07:44 PM       View Profile for Marq   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Marq

I enjoyed reading this! Majorly big effort!
I think it got just a little bit preachy at the end otherwise I might rate it as one of the best poems I've ever read!
Member Elite
since 09-18-99
Posts 2641
Whole Sort Of Genl Mish Mash

5 posted 11-02-1999 09:04 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

I could not help but to be moved emotionally by the first stanzas of your poem. My father served aboard a destroyer in the South Pacific in WWII and my grandfather was a medic who took part in the Normandy invasion. You did a fine job of illustrating the effects difficult times have on the survivors of those times.

But I must agree with Jenni in regards to the following stanzas. There is atleast a hint at moralizing and there are some inaccuracies present as well. "Freedom of the Press is amended by libel statutes", for example. Common law slander and libel predate the Constitution. Slander and libel were never intended by the Founding Fathers to be protected speech, as the Federalist Papers make very clear.

Where you show yourself to be a remarkable poet, Ron, you reveal yourself to be a vulnerable historian and philosopher (and in the last few stanzas, a vulnerable theologian as well). My suggestion would be to stick with what works ... the narrative about your grandfather ... and edit out the lecture on free will, at least until you spend some more time in the books. I'd be happy to suggest a few if you are interested.

Again, excellent job on the beginning. Our parents who survived the Second World War are a remarkable generation, without a doubt.


"Don't confuse me with the facts, I've already made up my mind."

Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea

6 posted 11-03-1999 02:10 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I don't have time right now to do this one in depth and some people have already touched on the problems I see. I just want to say that I think it is a great poem and one of the few that actually tries to mix philosophy and personal events. Most poems, believe it or not, stay in the abstraction and philosophical stage and don't go for the jugular -- this one does. The trick, I think, is to get away from the 'preachiness' of the last stanzas and show us the images of how we go about applying the insights of Grandfather.

More later,
Member Elite
since 03-16-2007
Posts 2907
Los Angeles California

7 posted 06-18-2007 01:50 PM       View Profile for Drauntz   Email Drauntz   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Drauntz

very good. very good. The teaching is so good, profound and truth, full of wisdom.

very beautiful a piece. enjoyed so much.
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Member Laureate
since 03-07-2001
Posts 19652
British Columbia, Canada

8 posted 09-11-2011 01:24 PM       View Profile for Mysteria   Email Mysteria   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Mysteria

Another that I missed in coming to these forums late, and not dusting the shelves in the archives.  What a loss this would have been to have not been found.

I think of you all today, and what price is paid for freedom, and liberty for all.
serenity blaze
Member Empyrean
since 02-02-2000
Posts 28839

9 posted 09-11-2011 04:54 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

"A man can never take away your Freedom," he told me.
"They can only take power and make you pay a higher price
when you choose to exercise it."

ty, Ron.
Member Empyrean
since 06-05-99
Posts 26302
Ft. Lauderdale, Fl USA

10 posted 09-11-2011 08:47 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

This is why you will always be THE MAN, Ron.
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