Stephanie Barbé Hammer

Port Chicago, California



You’d hardly know

                                                    spit was here would you?

This place, this port

                                                    stationed along the road

Off the 680, I think it’s the 4

                                                     —That’s where the memorial park is.

We think of battles

                                                     and bombs in WW2,

Not of accidents.

                                                     We don’t think of black

Soldiers in the segregated

                                                     navy stocking the

war machine

                                                     with tragic results.

They loaded the ships with

                                                     bomb boxes—the explosion was seen

for miles.  The force

                                                     broke windows in Frisco –

We don’t think of these things,

                                                     unless “we” aren’t white.

And then perhaps we know

                                                     some of this story.

But even then

                                                     perhaps not –

these things being forgotten


But we being primarily

                                                     positioned in privilege

Barrel up this road to

                                                     procure fine wines in Napa—

we did not know that

                                                     Port Chicago was here

til now.  We did

                                                     not suspect:

That the worst accident of the war

                                                     happened here

That some soldiers

                                                     who survived the explosions

were sent to perform identical duties –

                                                     without training.

That they refused to embark on

                                                     further labor of this kind,

That they were court-martialed

                                                     Jailed. Thorough Good

Marshall argued the case,

                                                     and got the men out of jail

but the court martial stood.

                                                     As we cruise up

to taste chardonnay,

                                                     merlots, and syrahs

Past this park, now a memorial,

                                                     at last a remembering place,

where 320 men died,

                                                     I think we ought to


                                                     Don’t you?