Fred’s great chocolate pie
sat on the table at noon–
while outside the Spring sun dazzled, leapt,
and the Germans marched into Austria.
On the radio came shouts, in a hoarse, hysterical voice,
the future jangled their wits like a telephone.
Our appointed war was waiting for us outside, cocking its thumb.
“Arma virumque cano,” says Virgil,
Dr. Cutt snakes out the words with a dry, ironic, bite,
saying, “This is the war
your generation is set up to perish for,
because my own was an idiot,
and savors itself with the gruel of madness.
The legend says
if you must plant hatred, stay on guard
and lop the heads off the warriors
springing from the ground.
Do it again and again!
But this time, for a change, stay home.”
It was certainly not for lack of battlegrounds.
We’ve plenty of those at hand.
Not ten miles away, at Stones River,
Generals Rosecrans and Bragg
waltzed one another a half turn
about the Murfreesboro Pike.
You can picnic among the twenty five thousand dead.
At Spring Hill, Patrick Cleburne, “bravest of the brave”
let Schofield’s Yankees slip through.
And the next day, under the scatter-shot of John Hood’s rage
he charged himself to death with five other rebel generals.
They lay in a row on the Carlton House porch
Down the Nashville Pike came
General Thomas racketing through,
flogging his horse,
yelling across the clatter
‘Didn’t we drive ’em though? Didn’t we drive ’em!”
And Forrest’s horse lagged to guard the retreat.
Grandpa lived in the saddle for days
near the Surgeon’s wagon taking out his surgical kit
to patch the few come out alive,
subsiding into Alabama.
That, was our war.
What did we know about motorized guns on wheels,
or hawks-foot bombers diving out of the sun?
© Andrew Glaze 2015, from Overheard In A Drugstore
WW2 Air pilot song:
“I wanted wings, ‘til I got the god damn things,
now I don’t want them anymore.
They say air combats called romance, but it makes me wet my pants,
I’m not a fighter I have learned.
For I’d rather be a bellhop
than a flyer on a flattop
with my hand around a bottle
not around a goddamned throttle,
Buster, I wanted wings ‘til I go the god damn things,
now I don’t want them anymore.”
Despite being a non-flying Communications Officer with the Army Air Corps, my father had this catchy WW2 song embedded in his brain for the rest of his life. The version above is the one he occasionally sang when I was growing up.
During the war, he was assigned to the air base on Anglesey Island, a rural island off the coast of North Wales in the UK. Far from the battles in Europe, he found life there quite boring, and wished he were closer to the action. Only later did he realize how lucky he’d been. My father was not fond of his military experience, and resisted taking advantage of any of the benefits offered to Veterans. Ironically, 60+ years after his island experience, Prince William and Kate Middleton moved to Anglesey as newlyweds when William began work at the same air base as a Search and Rescue Helicopter Pilot for the Royal Air Force. I think the slow pace was exactly the break from royal life that they’d both hoped for and they stayed for 3 cherished years.
In case you haven’t figured it out, this poem is written from the perspective of my father in his late teens when he was a High School student at The Webb School in Tennessee. A prep-boarding school for boys that was 53 miles South of Nashville, my father loved his time there because, “they encouraged independence and had an honor system, which was unlike any other school at that time”. His teacher, Dr. Cutt, clearly made a positive impression. Recently, I came across an on-line memo about the history of the Webb School Language Department. It said, “Dr. Cutt, taught 4th Latin – Virgil, 6 or 8 students.” It also states that he taught Greek. Somehow, even in his wildest dreams. I doubt that Dr. Cutt ever expected to be immortalized, quoting Virgil, in a future poem by one of his students. And yet here he is doing exactly that. The advice to “stay home this time”, is probably accurate . My father had a habit of stockpiling verbal nuggets in his brain for future use.
Career-wise, Latin proved to be useful, both for my father’s writing, and to accomplish his translations of Spanish poets like Pablo Neruda. However, on the family side, there was one aspect of his Latin training that drove my brother and I crazy. We had the same problem with our mother, because she also studied Latin in High School. It started when we became old enough to enjoy playing the game “Dictionary”. In order to do so, one person has to select a word nobody else knows the meaning of, while everyone else invents a definition to fool the other players. Our problem was that 95% of the time, our parents used Latin derivations to figure out the words we suggested and it usually took 10 minutes to find an unfamiliar option. My brother eventually solved the problem with a book titled Obscure, Unusual and Preposterous Words, and even that wasn’t 100% perfect. It’s worth noting that, when playing Dictionary, my brother’s goal was never to make up realistic sounding meanings for the dictionary words and score points. He inherited our father’s sense of the ridiculous and just wanted to make everybody laugh. I still remember an afternoon when the two of us played Dictionary with friends, and my brother’s definition of Polyarchy was, “The arc formed by a parrot when thrown from a bridge in Mandarin China.”
His time at boarding school seems to have given our father a keen understanding of where major battles took place in the area. His parents were from Elkton and Pulaski, which are slightly to the West of Nashville. At the time of the Civil War, it’s hard to know if the Glaze family agreed with the rebel cause or not, but given their geographic location and the fact that skirmishes were taking place all around them, abstaining wasn’t much of an option. At the time the war broke out, my father’s grandfather had completed exactly one year of apprenticeship with a local doctor, and one course of lectures at the University of Nashville Medical School. When the Confederate Military Medical Unit called, the battlefield became his on-the-fly arena of higher education. He genuinely was a doctor on horseback. Given a choice between fighting at the front and tending to the wounded in the back, it was certainly the safer position to be in. Five years after the war ended, in 1874, he finally returned to Medical School in Nashville and officially graduated a year later. He set up a private practice in Elkton, married, and started a family. When his first wife died he married the local school teacher. Among the family there are two genetic traits we all hope to avoid. One is large ears that poke out on either side (“Grannie Glaze ears”) and the other is a beak nose (“Grannie Glaze nose”). I once asked, “Okay, so if this lady had huge ears and a beak nose, how on earth did she manage to attract a husband, much less a Doctor?” My father’s reply was logical, “He was a widower and a working doctor with several children. He was educated and more sophisticated than most locals; she was an educated school teacher and possibly one of the few single women in Elkton.” They proceeded to have additional children. He was actually the original Andrew L. Glaze, although his middle name was “Lewis”. Family rumor has it that when his school teacher wife had their first son, she was a bit of a culture snob, and so his son and grandson (my father) were named “Andrew Louis Glaze”.
By the way, if you’ve never heard of the University of Nashville Medical School, it’s because it became the origin of Vanderbilt Medical School. My father’s father later studied medicine there. He went the more conventional route, and, lacking the necessity of becoming a battlefield surgeon, chose Dermatology.
Andrew Louis Glaze Jr. (the poet and writer) at age 18 in 1938. The photo was taken on a break from Webb School, on a visit home in Birmingham, Alabama.
Photo is property of the Andrew L. Glaze Estate.
My father’s beloved teacher, Dr. Thomas Cutt, who was the Latin and Greek teacher at Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. I am guessing the lady on the left was his wife. It looks like it must’ve been a hot weekend summer day, and everybody was going casual.
Photo by Andrew L. Glaze, property of the Andrew L. Glaze Estate.
Andrew L. Glaze as an Army Air Corps Communications Officer. 1942.
Photo is property of the Andrew L. Glaze Estate.