Of all the poetry postcards, #41 had the greatest emotional effect on me. The postcard led me to uncover a secret, one that I found profoundly disturbing.
|"Beautiful Residences along Kingston Pike, Knoxville, Tenn."|
But before I explain, poet Dan Kagan has been recommending the website Post Secret for all you postcard fans. Maybe you'll find inspiration in one of the secrets written on the back of a postcard and shared on the site.
This used postcard came to me from children’s author and poet Irene Latham, who blogs at Live Your Poem.
|Cancelled January 17, 1944, in Anniston, Alabama.|
It reads: "Greetings from Fort McClellan. This is a really beautiful camp. I found George in excellent health. Tell you more when I get home. Love, Louise."
After reading the message, I thought my best source of inspiration would be research on Fort McClellan. I would never learn who George was, but I could invent a soldier, maybe just graduated from boot camp in 1944. That invented story might make a good poem.
There wasn’t much information on Wikipedia, so I went to the next recommended site. The blog title was "If You Went Through Ft. McClellan, Alabama... I want to hear from you."
I read the post and over 100 comments, most of them from McClellan vets. What I learned on this site stunned me.
|Fort McClellan photo http://www.mcclellan.army.mil/Info.asp|
Rather than write about Fort McClellan’s history, I wove together a found poem. It is constructed from the postcard greeting and portions of a few comments from Susan Katz Keating's blog post.
The poem was published last month by the current events poetry journal New Verse News. I’ll post the opening stanzas, then the link to the full poem.
Greetings from Fort McClellan, 1944-1995
This is a really beautiful camp.
I found George in excellent health.
I found George in excellent health.
I was stationed at Fort McClellan.
I have developed a symptom of passing out.
Doctors called it "Syncope."
None of them could figure out
what caused it.
Hi my name is: _____
I went through Basic training
in Echo 1 company. We had to go through
that building they called the Gas Chamber.
Does anybody know what type of gas
or chemical was in there?
I want to hear from you.
We were exposed to toxic substances,
big time. The McClellan Cocktail:
depleted Uranium, Sarin gas, mustard gas
Read the rest at New Verse News. Thanks to NVN editor James Penha for finding the perfect postcard to accompany my poem.
The McClellan vets have been trying for years to have their health issues recognized. The neighboring town of Anniston, Alabama was a Monsanto factory site. Monsanto manufactured PCBs in Anniston. It is documented that the company dumped chemicals, affecting the water and ground in Anniston. Because of their health problems related to the spills, the citizens of Anniston sued Monsanto and won a settlement.
60 Minutes called Anniston "America's Most Toxic Town."
However, the settlement does not cover veterans who lived at Fort McClellan, drinking and bathing in that same water, training on that ground, to say nothing of the chemical exposure that reportedly took place there.
McClellan closed in 1999.
A new bill to create a McClellan registry was introduced to the House of Representatives in January. It is titled "H.R. 411: Fort McClellan Health Registry Act." Passing the bill is a first step in helping the McClellan vets.
I encourage you to sign a petition, supporting the bill, at Change.Org.
The bill has been given only a 3% chance of passing. Opponents claim that these are "welfare vets" whose claims are unrelated to Monsanto, Anniston and Fort McClellan.
For more information:
"Poisoned Patriots of Ft. McClellan" at Law Enforcement Today
"Fort McClellan, Monsanto, PCBs & Me" at Daily Kos.
An article about an earlier version of H.R. 411, at UPI.