Friday, March 10, 2006

 

I have come across a perfectly wonderful book of antiwar poems. Or perhaps I’ve come across a perfectly wonderful book of love poems. It’s the same book, all too aptly named At War with the U.S. Sometimes the poems are manifestly antiwar texts:

I am no maker

what is left is ashes

of whatever fire, what ever
was consumed


To go on
is the act, what is left

is always changing
too


Cinders of a poem

cinders of a body
killed for ferocious love

Sometimes the poems are more purely love poems:

Her innocence

I feed off that

I am so greedy for her
life. It’s so hard

to come back, throw away
your life at the typewriter


Rather toss with her
on the living room rug

go back, read the old poems
while she’s asleep abed

while you are, separate historian

Sometimes they’re in between:

At war with the U.S.


I surrender

I embrace you

Now
get off my back


Stand
in the light
where I can see you

Or they come from an angle that is more complicated:

The white car
below my window
has a window
in which I see
my daughter’s
one year old head

She is off to her war called school

I wave
& my fingers look like hers
save that they hold
a pen
whose brand name
is half-erased
by the ancient sweat
of one thumb,
four fingers

And sometimes it’s the very banality of the consequence that makes it seem so very brutal:

Her first black eye
just when Nixon is getting his

Who hit her they ask on the street

The world came by & did it

& who runs this world
indeed indeed indeed indeed, a vortex
that may come around
& slug you with a 38th parallel
any day of the week


What’s this. Sunday

The swelling has just about
returned to normal

As this last poem suggests, however, this isn’t the Iraq debacle that’s being referenced here, but the war in Indochina a generation ago. This book was published 32 years ago, written by the great Canadian poet George Bowering, clearly enamored with so much of the U.S., its culture & poetics, and yet horrified all the same. The saddest thing is . . . it’s all still true:

Reader I just want you here right now

Later you may go where you will

I just want to get the counting over with

the exchange of prisoners

to detach a name from nature’s hodge podge

This is my moment, our moment





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