Friday, May 30, 2008

That Night

Malcolm was a young fighter who I trained in the "South Side" barrio of Tracy, California. He was a tough kid. His mother moved her family to Tracy in order to put her children in a more healthy environment than the one they experienced in Oakland in the early 1980. The first time I saw Malcolm fight, this was before I coached for the Tracy Boxing Club, I knew he had the making of a fine fighter. Without much skill he stood toe to toe throwing punches with an older and more experienced fighter. Malcolm had "heart." When we finally got together, Malcolm developed into an outstanding boxer. He had over a hundred amateur fights and for a time he was ranked eighth as a welterweight in the US. His pro career spanned sixteen fights. He was sixteen when I first began working with him. We are still friends.

That Night

It wasn’t the Gloves.*
It was two days before
You fought, just you and
I in that cold, rundown
Gym on Sixth Street.
I was tired of catching
Punches on the pads**, so
I sat down and put you on
The bag. At that point
I knew you ready.
Your dark, glistening,
Fully muscled back
Was a work of art.
Your body moved with
The grace of a ballet
Dancer. I called for the
Punches and you responded—
You were in full control.
I just sat back and admired.

The Gloves, the noise, the
Lights, the excitement, the
Money in the rings, your two
Amazing wins and your
One loss in the finals
That broke my heart,
Those were for the
Crowd and the cameras
And the papers and the others.
That Night,
Two days before you fought
While we worked in that
Cold, run down gym
On Sixth Street was just
For me and you.

*The Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament
**Hand held punching pads

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Posting Again

A friend told me yesterday that it has been twelve or thirteen days since my last post. I did not realize that it has been that long. I finished my spiritual memoir class earlier in the month and looked around the house realizing all that I have let go. So I've been cleaning up the house, repairing my vehicle, continuing to train boxers, and backpacking. On Monday I returned from a five day backpacking trip. It was a good trip. I walked thirteen miles into Henry Coe State Park last Friday reaching Kingbird Pond around 9:30 pm . I stayed there for a day doing some fishing. The fish I caught were mostly small except for one--an eighteen or nineteen inch large mouth bass, the largest large mouth I have ever caught. I left Kingbird walking four more miles to Jackrabbit lake. I caught quite a few fish there.

I'm drawn to the backcountry by the fishing and the physical challenge; however, while there I appreciate the quiet and peaceful setting. The park consists of rolling hills with oak forests, chaparral, manzenita, and other dry country vegetation. Some of the steep protected canyons are lush with green flowering trees. This time of the year the grasses that cover the hills are dry, although there are a few wild flowers. The golden poppies are obvious and beautiful in this dry terrain. About two-thirds of trails and roads that I covered are steep, some reaching fifteen to twenty percent or more. Some of roads and trails, especially along dry Orestimba Creek, are comfortable and flat. The steep trails present some challenging hiking that equate in difficulty t0 those in Sierra Nevadas. Most of the park is semi-desolate. I love the place. Although I am active while hiking and fishing the desolate terrain and the quiet and peaceful setting draws me into relaxation, meditation, and prayer. I try to make walking a meditative process by staying in the present. Sometimes I spend hours in quiet recognizing God's presence in and around me and praying for people that I know. Although I was tired when I returned home, the last day I hiked eighteen or nineteen mile back to my car, I feel refreshed by the whole experience.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

No Great Warrior

This is the most concise statement that I have made concerning my experience in war and the repercussions of war.

No Great Warrior

I have felt but little rage.
I experienced little of the
manic combat
that breed such feelings.
I was merely a confused kid,
an inept, yet sometimes
competent, infantry soldier
who did not shrink from the
close proximity to death.

I felt afraid, exhausted, numb,
occasionally exhilarated.
I attempted to kill. I witnessed death.
I felt the scourge of war.
I knew love in the midst of chaos.

When I arrived home
and for many years after
I hurt.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

For My Son

My son, David, is going to be thirty next week. I wrote this poem for him about ten years ago. I don’t know if he will appreciate that I post “David.” However, I am posting it because I like what I wrote. And I am posting it because I love my son.


I remember that little boy
Who asked me: “Daddy when
Am I gonna get hair under my
arms?” “When are my muscles
Gonna get big?” “I’m too skinny.
Daddy, do I have cancer?”
I would try to reassure you, but
The questions soon returned.

Now I look, proudly, at you
A little thinner than Michelangelo’s
David, yet your Sculptor’s
Art is true—with your almost
Perfectly economical athlete’s
Body: Tall with wide finely
Muscled shoulders, defined
And well proportioned chest,
Biceps like large solid stones,
Stomach, flat and slightly cut,
And legs like strong young
Tree trunks.
And you still complain!
Be satisfied!

Not only does your body
Reflect your namesake,
So too does your
Strong and
Sensitive and
Caring Spirit.

Robert Jost

Sunday, May 11, 2008

For Kay

Kay is the facilitator of our meditation group at the Oakland, California VA psychiatric clinic.
She is a gifted and healing person.

For Kay

I saw in your profile not
merely a clinician,
but a person,
a woman in
our group where
the Spirit is present.

My first glance mesmerized me.
Reticent to stare,
I gazed quickly at you
and away.
Then I returned that gaze
to the radiance of
your person.

Your head
in the subdued
light of our spiritual room and
in the saddness of that day
you listened—
intensely listened—
as Theo spoke of Kevin
and Kevin’s death.

Your gaze did not waver
as your hand,
or just your fingers, rested
lightly on your cheek.
Your hair gently
allowing view of only the profile—
the front of
your face—
A profile in transparency emitting

My glances grew longer, my
mesmerization increased,
your spirit
in the midst of us, your presence is

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Distant Land

Nancy Griffith’s song, “Heart of Indochine” (2005) was one inspiration for this poem. She sings of her experiences in Vietnam, of the Saigon River, and of souls. My other inspirations are fellow combat veterans with whom I regularly interact.

Distant Land

She sings of war dead bodies,
In years past,
“Washed ashore” from
A distant river.
She sings of “those souls
That floated free,”
Released now,
In a “river of peace”—
The Saigon River.

Living soldiers,
Souls, washed back
Onto these shores between
The early 1960s and 1975
at Travis*, and
when there was fog there,
in Oakland or San Francisco**
Not peaceful shores.

To these troubled
Souls peace remains
A distant dream.
A distant war,
A distant time

Where do we find
Peace in this distant land?

Pray for peace on
These remote shores.

Hoa Binh***

*Travis Air Force Base in California where solidiers returned to the United States.
**Oakland or San Francisco Airports
*** “Peace” in Vietnamese