By Mark Trechock
Turning back and forth
from page one to page eight,
where the world news collides
with the hardware ads,
the breakfast dishes not yet cleared,
my father said students at the U of M
held a rally to protest Reagan’s
support of the contras’ rape and murder
of Nicaraguan civilians. He shook
the Tribune as if rifling through
a toolbox looking for the right size wrench,
then said, without looking up,
someone there burned a flag.
I didn’t know what to say. I waited,
remembered joining crowds years ago,
demanding a Board of Directors divest
munitions stock, standing outside
the Post Office with an unclear strategy
to prevent delivery of induction notices.
I thought of my daughter at nine,
facing her shadow on the names
chiseled in igneous rock, the memorial
to those who neither prevailed
nor admitted losing, but died in Vietnam.
As we turned to leave she asked who won.
I remembered my mother telling me how
the Tribune reported the Japanese
torpedoed and sank my father’s ship
with no survivors, near some island
whose name she couldn’t pronounce,
a widow, for three days, weeping without relief,
until she found out the War Department
had named the wrong ship, yet still
unable to sleep, she knew her grief
would only fall to others.
My father, never lifting his eyes
from the newspaper, said he wished
they hadn’t burned the flag.
We shared a silence begging for
relief, and I believe a longing
for the time when honor might again
be proud resolve to right a wrong.
The house was noiseless but
for a ticking clock. My father put down
the paper and looked me in the eye.
But they’re right about Nicaragua, he said.
Reflection on the Repeal of Country of Origin Labeling
By Mark Trechock
Now that I am forbidden by an act of Congress,
signed by the President of the United States,
to know what country my chicken dinner comes from,
I must consider the law of caveat emptor,
and return to the village of San Pedro
on the shore of Lake Atitlan,
where once I bought a gray woolen jacket
adorned with two blue renderings of the quetzal,
which marked me as a friend
of both Guatemala and free enterprise.
To assert my rights outside the reach
of Tyson and other food conglomerates,
not to mention the laws of my own country,
which no longer recognizes international boundaries,
much less customs, proclivities, or taste,
I will return to the open-air restaurant
where years ago I ordered the pollo a la plancha
and sliced it with a knife as I looked outside
at the children playing in the yard,
chasing the chickens, imitating
the cackling as they ran
past the chopping block
and the sharpened axe.
Mark Trechock was, from 1993 to 2012, the director of Dakota Resource Council, a community organizing effort whose work was largely focused on agricultural and coal and oil extraction policies. He wrote poetry for publication from 1974 to 1995, took a hiatus, and started writing again last year. His poems have appeared in Limestone, Off the Coast, Canary, Wilderness House Literary Review and Raven Chronicles.