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G. C. Waldrep and Jennifer MacKenzie



In the spring of 2003, at the moment when the second Gulf War broke out, I was in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts, just north of San Francisco. The Marin Headlands had been a US military reservation for about a century before being turned over to the National Park Service in 1974. The fortifications had been designed to protect the Golden Gate from enemy attack. The landscape was, for me, a conundrum: spectacularly beautiful, yes, but the natural beauty punctuated everywhere by the architectural residue of a particular military history. It seemed impossible to contemplate the lush beauty of the place apart from the gun emplacements, bunkers, etc. that dotted the hills and beaches, or for that matter the military history without factoring in the beauty. San Francisco, with its protests and busyness, seemed a world away, Iraq even further. Beauty’s heritage of violence, or vice versa, seemed very near.

In those weeks I hiked more than I wrote. It seemed on some level essential to counteract the impotence I felt—in the face of the landscape, the conflict, everything—with some sort of physical motion, however limited, however personal.
In the end, I decided to walk out daily to each of the eight gun emplacements that had formerly constituted Forts Cronkhite and Barry and simply write: whatever I was thinking, whatever I saw: the vistas, the ruins, the graffiti, and of course Cain & Abel, whose story haunted me that spring and haunts the poems as well. The nine poems in The Batteries were drafted on-site between 10 April and 6 May 2003.

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