Poetry: Selections from Nolo Segundo

The Face Of The Buddha

They haunt me still.
The little children laughing,
Always laughing.

The women voluptuous,
Their movement an invitation.

Even the traffic policeman,
Crisp, clean in uniform,
Moving with ballerina grace
As hordes of cyclos and mopeds
And the occasional automobile
Pirouette endlessly about him,
Impatient bees made quiescent
By surreal beauty of white-gloved arms
Cutting through thick tropical air.

Everywhere was grace, gentleness—
Temples incandescent at dawn,
With ant trails of orange-robed monks
Cradling their pot-belly begging bowls.
The patient women standing by the road
To lump rice into the begging bowls,
The monks always staring blankly ahead
Until the women bowed low in reverence,
Grateful their gift of life was taken.

And how wondrous it was,
An accident in the street, yet no anger, no bile—
Forgiveness, felt before thought,
Thought before uttered.

How could such a people murder,
No not murder—slaughter!
Their mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles,
Teachers, priests, friends and children too.
Change temples of peace
Into charnel houses?
Schools of knowledge
Into abattoirs?

They photographed every butchered lamb,
Like the devil’s children on holiday,
And decorated the classroom walls,
A show-and-tell of horror and despair.
Why? Why?
Why such pain on such gentle people?
Why did God hide His face
While the world turned its back?

Thirty, forty, fifty years and still—
Still they haunt me.


Now the happy soldiers
Go to fight again the battle,
Marching bravely forty abreast
With heavy muskets shouldered,
Yelling their cries of pain and glory
As they face the cold cannon
Barking like a pack of mad dogs.
Down they go in ones and twos,
And sometimes in little bunches,
Collapsing together as though
Put to sleep by the fairy dust
Of long forgotten dreams.
Both sides feel the urge
To kill, to step the victor
O’er their brothers’ bones.
Grown men playing—yes
Even perhaps a bit silly—but
Maybe, just maybe,
Some of them are unaware
Of their own anguished deaths
There on that sweating day
Not really so very long ago.
At seventeen I went to that town
To talk of my education and
In the warm afternoon
I meandered mindlessly
Amidst the boulders named
Fearfully for Satan’s lair.
There suddenly, terribly,
While walking between two
Of the giant stones, my body
Shuddered, an awful shaking
That shook me to the core
Of my soul, but then I did not yet
Know we never die only once.
I Have Been To Places Of Great Death

I have been to places of great death:
Walking the battlefield of Gettysburg,
As a lusty young man of no firm belief
Who stepped between the great rocks
Of Devil’s Den and felt his soul shudder
as though he had been a soldier there,
and died in fear a long, long time ago.
I taught my tongue to the gentle Khmers
As civil war raged and the killing fields
Were being sown—I left before the
Heartless murdering began, the killing
Of over a million: teachers and students,
Doctors and farmers, the old, the young,
Each with a photo taken before dying,
Their pictures taped to classroom walls.
And when I visited Hiroshima, now myself
Chastened by death’s touch, and knowing
My soul real, knowing of meaning absolute
And of unseen forces that work good or ill,
As I stood at the first ground zero, I once
Again shuddered to feel the pull of madness
(though I knew not if it was my own or some
Remains of that evil which brought the fire
And brimstone of a world wide war….)
But by then I knew I could pray, and so
Opened my desperate heart and sought
His mercy—and then I saw a sort of angel,
Who took me from that place of insanity,
Healing me while we wandered by the
Beauty of the Inland Sea as my storm
Calmed and left me, never to return….  
I have been to places of great death, and
I have felt death’s cold, careless hands.
But I know now what death itself fears:
The Light, the light eternal which carries
Souls beyond time itself, like the winds
Of a Love exceeding all understanding.

Nolo Segundo, pen name of L.J. Carber, 75, became a published poet in his 8th decade in over 80 literary journals in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Romania, and India. A trade publisher has released two book length collections: The Enormity of Existence [2020] and Of Ether and Earth [2022]. Nominated earlier this year for the Pushcart Prize 2022, he's a retired teacher [America, Japan, Taiwan, Cambodia] who's been married 42 years to a smart and beautiful Taiwanese woman.