Friday, November 11, 2011


It's almost 11:11 of 11-11-11
But this isn't about numbers…
A simple row of ones.
Or maybe it is.

It's about the number 1
Already being too many.

It's about forcing
Sweet innocent children
To become trained killers.
It's about sending them out
To kill and be killed.

The number 1 Is already too many.

I met Arthur Charles VanTowsey
In Sydney. He was already 60.
He told of his youth in Auckland.
House filled with musicians
And singers from afar...
Guests of his
Pianist and organist father Arthur Cyril
And his
Opera singer mother Mamie.
There was always noise
In that home...
Noise of rehearsals,
Noise of friendships,
Noise of children.

In his early work
Van delivered telegrams
First on his push bike
And later on a motorbike.
He carried little tree seedlings
And planted them along is routes.
Go to Auckland and look for them.

It was a time and place
Of quiet confidence 
That each person
Could (and would)
Make a difference
For the benefit of all.

Van and his mates
Felt the distant sting
Of England's raging
Push against the Nazis.
They tried to understand
Why the US was not part.

But knowing their part,
This band of friends
Rushed to join the fight.

They trained together.
They became defenders
Of the just
And killers
Of the unjust.
They eagerly awaited
Their time to get
Over there.
Units trained and were sent out.
Units trained and were sent out.
Units trained and were sent out.
And Van noticed that
Training periods were being
Shortened and each battalion
Was sent out sooner and sooner
Than the one before,
Each training always less.

Van wrote to the prime minister
Protesting that the jewels of
New Zealand's future
Were being sent to certain
The prime minister
Did not respond.

Van and his mates
Were sent to England,
Then onward to Egypt,
And finally to Greece.
They fought.
They died.
In the midst of one battle
Van watched as his best friend
Pushed a trolley of supplies:
A sudden blast
Blew off his head.
His hands remained on the trolley
And his body continued
To walk forward headless...
Before finally collapsing.
At the end of that day
Arthur Charles VanTowsey lived,
Wounded but alive,
One of only five left
Of the original 21st Battalion
Out of Wellington.
The last of the band.
The last of the hope.

I remember Van's tears
Each Remembrance Day
I spent with him in Oz.

It wasn't abstract for him.
The number 1
Already too many.

Bette Forester
about 10:15 am 11 Nov 11

Sunday, October 2, 2011

As I Relinquish...

As I relinquish myself to this night's sleep,
My rabbit ears bring me TVO images
Of Rushdie speaking of his books.
And of his drive to write them.
He says, after all, the human is
The only animal that is Storyteller.

I muse on this in dreams and awake
To read Gaiman's American Gods,
A story of humans and their gods
And their mutual need to believe
In each other...
In each others' story...
To be associated with story...
To be Story.
All the while L. Cohen
Sings via iTunes and
Brings tears...
Hallelujah! in the Tower of Song.

I pause and remember
Tiff's Not Wanted on the Voyage:
The old god who invokes
Noah's participation
In extending His story.
How in the stage version
Noah's family search each other's
Faces for understanding...
Then nod in confused acceptance
Of Noah's story.

Leonard says the Light is coming
From a crack in the wall.
Of course his story's about democracy
Coming to the USA...
Now a national story of debt
That grips us all in it's spiritual despair.

I can hear it about other cracks in other walls.
The Light is always the same.

It is the Light of Recognition
Of human spirit... it is the Light of Knowing
Our part.... it is the Light of Acceptance
Of life... and its cycle with death.

Leonard, as well as Salman, Neil, Timothy et al
Shine Light on snippets of my own story.
That Light exposes myself to myself.
I guess we each choose storytellers to call our own.
Some write, some sing, some tap dance,
Some seek directly the hearts of others.
After all, we need each other to sense...
To discover...
To find The Story...

Bette Forester
30 July 11