More on war

Trouble discussed briefly in a recent post on the The Mornith War has me thinking about an unfinished poem of mine from around 2004. I looked at it again this morning for the first time in years, wondered why I never thought of it while writing Mornith, and decided to share some (maybe a quarter of it) with you. Except for one section (the last one included here), none of it was published. (“The passages of the day” appeared in Underutilized Species, a 2005 mini-anthology out of Gloucester edited by James Cook). There is a conceit here that begins with the title, “Bomb”, and continues through a series of metaphorical shell fragments.


from Bomb   

Improvements on the bazooka have been made     they don’t call it bazooka     now.
Take my money     I don’t care     where the word is from
it lights on your shoulder like a long

Listen, no one’s talking to you
there is neither talk nor music
sweet or not

as music fails     talking to you
and love and power division appearing
Probably bazooka was the name of some inventor and music lover.

Probably the word came forth robed in glory
out of ocean or moon     to the sound of strings.
But I’ve had it with bazooka,

I don’t want to know.


A soldier bends
retching over
ruined flesh on
pavement showered

another comes
and pausing rests
a hand on his
stricken shoulder


and on tv
the corpse garden
tenderly tend



summer 1968,
summer 2004


               always more
responsibility to live,
strength in death’s pull


Life is borne in the blood
And how can I be right
continuing to live
but never bear the sight


The passages of the day
are dim with the same inner light
as me and the zombies of May;
too stiff to climb to the pink

brightness of brain, lobes of phlox
in the brow of Blackberry Rock,
blossoms with the sun conspiring
freely in a natural life

and death. Leaves are unlucky:
all over town, children of the worm
riddling ruin the green young cups
from which the trees sip the light

that sustains. The way summer
ascends, in spite of its wounds, one
does not want sarcasm, prickery.
Anything broken. Desperately

obeyed law: every breath taken
a fragment of a life
broken. But when you breathe out,
that is life reuniting with the whole.

The whole, which is death?
Do the guests misidentify the host?
Beware the one who claims to know.
But how can we be guests in that,

our new home. When the dimple in the rock
west of Blackberry dries up.
If the tan young toads that snuggle
occult in the long grass

escape the blade when it mows, the wheels
when they roll. Questions; compasses.
Strangers stopping to rest and ask
the policeman in the sky for directions.

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1 Response to More on war

  1. James says:

    Rereading your poem brings me back to a very particular time and place.
    The horrors of war & joys of new life in my waking mind & dreams.
    I feel some distance between that time and now but your poem collapses that distance.
    Thank you.

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