"He put a basket in the yard and practiced very long and hard. Aloisyus wasn’t tall but crawled..."
Animals I Have Known
The morning sun back-lights a tree's red leaves
so that it explodes like a bomb,
but silently. We are waiting
for the war to begin. Is this a precursor,
or just a beautiful suburban tree?
I drive by it in a Ford that burns
an embarrassing amount of gas,
going to work so I can earn money
and pay taxes to send tanks
to the desert where the oil comes from
to feed my car so I can drive by
the glowing tree that may or may not be
Pacifism's such a bore,
I'm going to design a war
that even peaceniks won't abhor,
with pretty bombs and rosy gore,
songs that stir you to your core,
and moral stands you can't ignore.
There'll be no terror any more
when I've designed my happy war.
Some say turkeys are dumb birds
and get what they deserve.
As Major Kitchener showed us
long before Stormin' Norman,
with the right equipment
it's easy to kill Arabs.
Look at it from a moral viewpoint:
Sins must be punished,
especially those of others,
and most especially the eighth,
choosing the wrong side.
So the feathers flew,
and turkey blood too.
I'll put an American flag
on top of my turkey
and say my prayer of thanks
that I'm not one of those
who got roasted
on the sandy road to
On January 16,
whoever is running this ashram
turned up the,
I've been sweating ever since.
Then, some weird roshi
disguised as George Bush
appeared on my TV
and gave me an impossible koan
about a moral war.
When I fall asleep watching the news
a pretty newscaster wakes me up
by telling me about bombs,
and I remember the roshi's stick
bopping my shoulder.
General Schwarzkopf instructs me about
the paradoxes of desire and suffering,
and, as usual, I mostly think
about the pain in my knees
from sitting cross-legged,
while the pain of others
remains a televised abstraction.
I'm really tired of this war meditation,
when this retreat is over
I'm moving to another planet
where I won't have to do
all this Buddhist stuff.
The war is over, and I'm told
we good guys won,
so God must love us,
and maybe that is why
he made so much sand,
to soak up all the blood
so we wouldn't leave a mess.
I'm trying to figure out
how much the war cost
and how many gallons
of blood were spilled,
and how much per gallon that comes to.
Probably a lot, and blood
doesn't even burn.
I never studied geology, so have to ask:
If we pump enough blood into the sand,
does it come back up as oil?
"This is the part I didn't want to see."
Sgt. Kendall Sorensen.
After the fun, after the shooting spree,
this is the part we did not want to see,
Two groups of victims on a smoking plain,
one armed with tanks, the other armed with pain.
Reluctantly, the conquering hero sees
his own defeat in eyes of refugees,
while shattered children trapped in lives of fear
are asked to trust their fate to some emir
whose bathrooms are adorned with unearned gold
to symbolize new order wrought from old.
Revenge against revenge, it does not cease.
The desert storm has brought no rain of peace.
What is war, and whom shall we ask?
Clausewitz gave his bland definition,
nothing but the continuation
of politics by other means,
but he did not then bleed.
The survivors, some of whom did bleed,
and who saw horrors,
did not die,
so even they only know part of it.
Generals, soldiers, medics, politicians, journalists,
historians, women, children, looters
whoever survived does not know all of war.
Only those who lived their final seconds
immersed in it,
to the very end
was steeped in the cauldron,
grasped the whole truth,
and they aren't telling.
Published in Fellowship. September 2000
Rejoicing at having survived two years
since being diagnosed
with stage four ovarian cancer,
she welcomed her garden's gifts
of succulent tomatoes and squash,
and made further peace
with, what seemed like a century ago
in that same garden,
her son's suicide.
Then, driving to church,
on the radio she heard
that we'd begun bombing Afghanistan.
Sobbing, unable to see through her tears,
she pulled over and surrendered to new grief
at now losing
her love of the world
and the peace she hoped to die in.
Back in 1928 Erich Maria Remarque
confronted us with the image
of the beheaded soldier
with blood, like a fountain,
spouting from his neck.
That's the statue we need
in every park and square
to commemorate what we do so well:
run toward war,
Published in Fellowship. September 2000
On a hot, dry, smoggy day in Los Angeles,
a military jet roars over my house,
leaving a beautiful white vapor trail.
Nothing to fear.
I am looking at a newspaper photo of Bosnia.
Well-tended fields, pine trees,
lush green hills, a country house.
I imagine a cool stream, fresh air,
light breeze, and sheep
But a bomber has just
blown up an ammunition dump.
and black smoke billows into the blue sky.
What do the sheep do now?
What do I do?
Revision of version published in
The Nonviolent Activist. November 1995
There she lies at midday in the square
as if resting from her errands,
shopping bag in hand, wool gloves, sturdy shoes,
a rather new-looking green winter coat,
oblivious to the political turmoil,
the rhetoric, the need for ethnic cleansing,
liberated from cleaning, cooking, washing
by a 14-year-old sniper.
Published in The Nonviolent Activist. July 1998
Take my land, take
the brook where I caught my first fish,
the field my grandfather
cleared of rocks and stones with
a tired mule,
the dirt where my mother
I surrender. Take
I don't want it, you
need it, want it,
kill for it.
I'll abandon my post,
run away, hide.
I'll live on the road
in someone else's country.
I'll buy false papers
or manage with none at all.
I'll join the homeless masses,
the dispossessed, and
I'll be free, while you
are chained to your AK-47.
You'll have a country,
I'll have none.
My hands will be clean
while yours have women's
blood on them.
You'll be a prisoner
of all you have killed and conquered.
But I'll bear the shame
of being a coward.
You'll be the patriot,
the conquering hero.
My critics will say
I'm a fool, that no
child was saved by my submission.
Perhaps they are right.
I know nothing, only that
no cubic foot of land is worth
one slaughtered child.
Published in Fellowship. January 2003
Boyish Soviet soldiers believed
they were being sent to Afghanistan
to build hospitals and plant trees.
Instead, they filled hospitals and planted bodies.
The Americans had gotten to play
with their war toys in Vietnam.
Soviet generals wanted equal opportunities,
and Brezhnev, though no genius,
was smart enough to indulge them.
Betrayed by their countries, the bonds
between some Russian and American vets
are deeper than their bonds
with their countrymen,
and the rocks and dust of the mountains
have drunk the same blood
as the swamps and jungle.
Published in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology. Fall 1993
On the day the United States
504 Vietnamese also died.
The My Lai peasants
died their deaths in ditches,
while Charlie Company
of the 11th Light Infantry Brigade,
and their nation,
died a self-inflicted death
in the eyes of the world.
One soldier, Michael Bernhardt,
refused to join in the killing.
Three soldiers, Hugh Thompson,
Lawrence Colburn and Glenn Andreotta,
landed their helicopter and stopped the killing.
Ron Ridenhour collected reports
and got the story out.
Lt. William Calley took the rap;
sentenced to life at hard labor
on 22 counts of premeditated murder,
he served three years
under house arrest.
In retrospect, as McNamara wrote,
mistakes were made.
Like bodies falling into a ditch,
the decline of great nations.
Khomeini gave the children in his army
permission to enter heaven,
and they carried keys
to ensure their entry.
We ought to do the same for our children,
just in case the arms race
blows them up.
His children carried sticks
to detonate mines.
We could give ours
so they could help
Children should be heard
marching off to war,
and, after the carnage,
In Iran the young heroes
were treated to "martyrs" syrup",
probably just sugar water.
Ours comes in more flavors,
but either way
it's bad for children's teeth
"Nacht und Nebel" is what the Nazis called
the way they hid the camps,
and there are places now in Poland
where night and fog all day long
block the sun, and apples
grow very small on land
where signs warn the people
not to grow anything at all.
The Chernobyl cloud blew away
but the sun did not return,
at noon smoke from good old-fashioned
burning coal keeps me from seeing
the tops of the trees, and the corn
grows less than a foot high.
Mercedes with yellow fog lights
and Bach on their CD players
roar by, occasionally squashing
a stray dog or person,
and when I get to my Munich hotel
I am grateful for the clear TV reception,
the well-stocked refrigerator,
and the white rose on my pillow,
where perhaps I can rest my head
until this all blows over.
Waiting for War
Meditating on the War
What is War?
March 16, 1968
THE FIRST GULF WAR
Arms are instruments of ill omen.
When one is compelled to use them,
it is best to do so without relish.
There is no glory in victory.
To glorify despite this is to exult
in the killing of people.
When great numbers of people are killed,
one should weep.
One should weep over them with sorrow.
When victorious in war,
one should observe the rites of mourning.
"When will justice come to Athens?"
they asked Thucydides.
And he answered,
"Justice will not come to Athens
until those who are not injured
are as indignant as those who are."
THE FIRST GULF WAR
I was a young and sheltered American,
but I remember the newsreels:
Refugees on broken roads
trod east, or was it west?
How many of them
got to a safe place?
The nuclear menace
is not like a Messerschmitt.
It doesn't bomb and strafe
and then disappear
into an April cloud.
No baby carriages
no car radiators
are riddled with holes,
no one is dying
in a muddy ditch.
roads are wider,
cars are faster,
but our modern freeways
become more crowded,
like our minds.
escape neither east nor west
and April clouds do not hide
what we know.
I'm told that
does not empower.
Before the radioactive dust
stuffs us up,
let's try singing
a loud, inspirational song
with quavering voices.
Let's try acting,
if it hasn't been too long,
as if we had choices.
I wasn't there on 9/11
and didn't see the people jumping,
but I am reassured to hear
from Denise, age 5,
who was at school across the street,
that the jumpers floated down slowly, gently,
suspended from brightly colored parachutes.
Thus the world is not as horrible as I feared,
and soon the towers will be rebuilt
strong enough to last forever
so that when Denise grows up
planes will just bounce off theI never guessed that my friend Howard
would turn out to be a coward.
Both of us were raised to fight
whether we were wrong or right.
Mostly we were right, we knew,
and fighting is what brave men do.
"I don't trust commies," he once said,
"except the ones I'm sure are dead."
Thus it was a big surprise
when I came to realize
that Howard had begun to doubt
and wasn't always sure about
the verities that we were taught
regarding wars our country fought.
He had always served our cause,
and never took time out to pause
and ask himself if someday peace
would ever make the killing cease.
So what turned Howard's head around,
how can it be that he has found
some fault with what we both fought for
and lost his shining faith in war?
I do not know and will not ask.
I'll carry out my patriot's task.
If he won't fight at least I will.
I'll find more enemies to kill,
and rid the world of all that's bad.
The only thing that makes me sad,
the part that I'll find hard to do,
is killing off the Howards too. m,
and the bad people will know we are all good
and will try to be just like us.
In 1939 my friends and I
were playing war in New Jersey,
safely far from the real thing.
Lucky for us, the postman came by
and corrected our unschooled way
of throwing hand grenades.
He'd been in The Great War
and commanded our respect.
"A grenade is heavy.
Don't throw it like a baseball.
Keep your arm stiff, and swing it up
in an arc from down low behind you."
It worked. Our rocks bounced
further down the brown frozen field
and those Germans learned to fear us.
I never had to use what I learned that day,
but I remember it in case the time comes,
along with how to build a fallout shelter,
and how, with no matches,
to start fires in my mind
that can consume the world.
Hatred like a high velocity bullet
pierced my skin, gathered my organs
(heart, brain, the rest)
came out the other side
and splattered all over the world.
Thus I got my vengeance.
I slumped to the ground,
a righteous martyr,
a fool, lying in a puddle
of mud, blood,
and, from the gods,
The moon is low and casts its shadows long,
and in this gloom what God can say I'm wrong?
My truth is that I am my father's son
and seek revenge and honor with his gun.
The man I'll kill would kill me if he could.
His father shot my father in this wood.
The unmarked grave is covered up with snow,
and vengeance is the only law I know.
The moon is low, and soon the sun will rise
but not until the killer's first-born dies.
Thus as a son I'll show what I am worth,
and so we spend our meager time on earth.
Children get killed in wars,
which is not good for them.
They should be tickled
and made to laugh,
not killed or made to cry.
I have seen children with rifles
taller than themselves,
very sober looking children
with a sense of responsibility
toward their country.
I'd rather they be irresponsible,
making snow forts and throwing snowballs
like we did.
Is that training for war?
I hope not. I hope it is
just playing in the snow.
In summer we rode our bicycles fast
over rough dirt roads
fleeing and attacking imaged enemies.
We survived, but stunts like that
inspired my braver cousin Raj,
who became a fighter pilot
and did not.
No one has asked me, but if they did
like Pilate I'd wash my hands of it.
They want a war? Let them have
their war. They want to bomb cities?
I won't stand in their way.
Was I supposed to run around Serbia
catching missiles and throwing them in the water?
History may condemn me as a cop-out artist.
I'd condemn myself, but NATO assures me
that civilian casualties are an unavoidable cost
that must be paid, that their sacrifice
will be consecrated by peace.
So I envision erecting a shrine for each martyr
constructed of rubble and missile scrap.
I do not anticipate the victims' resurrection
or my own. What I expect is
that we will repeat this pageant,
that it will become our state religion,
and I'll become a whiskey priest.
All is not benign
in my lush suburban yard.
As the pink and red camellias look on
a large crow
swoops down on a small lizard
taking his last sunbath.
Over and over the crow picks up the lizard in its beak
and throws it a foot or so.
Then it pecks at the lizard's head until it lies still.
Finally the crow flies off with its limp dinner.
As kids, Wilbur and Orville Wright were fascinated
by a toy paper and bamboo plane
powered by a rubber band
making its non-stop flight
across their living room.
In 1903, out of their bicycle shop
came the ancestor of the F-16,
which today blew up a bridge,
or mostly a bus on a bridge
and the civilians in it.
Contemplating all this,
sunbathing lizard, hungry crow,
bus, F-16, incinerated people,
it is important,
and perhaps not impossible,
to cherish the sight,
before they fall to the ground,
of those camellias.
Who did the tapping
the sunken submarine?
I think it was Volodya
who was always
trying to get attention.
He thought he looked so great
in his uniform, and actually
His grandfather knocked out three Panzers
In the battle of Kursk
and wanted Volodya
to join the tank corps,
but the boy had a mind of his own,
so down to the icy sea he went.
He bragged to old Dimitri
about the virtues of nuclear engines
compared to rumbling diesels,
and about the good food.
Dimitri knew the Russian navy
would rescue his boy,
and when the tapping stopped
so did his heart.
Instead of going to Baghdad
I strolled four blocks
to a convenient anti-war demonstration
with my dachshund, Ernie.
Honking cars, candles, posters, drumming, chants
and other dogs,
most with scant understanding
of what's at stake.
Much sniffing, but no fighting,
even though the breeds varied widely.
Several small children petted Ernie,
and no bombs fell on us.
I passed out my leaflets
and collected a dozen
which I read dutifully.
One group wants to abolish Western civilization--
I thought we already did that.
As instructed, tomorrow I'll call the President
and, since words fail me these days,
Ernie and I will just howl at him.
Were I to be a criminal
I'd try to be original.
Instead of robbing banks and stores
I'd like to rob the world of wars.
I'd steal them all and hide them well,
and if asked where I'd never tell.
I know this would be hard on those
who love to fight their evil foes,
who make good livings from such strife,
who profit from the loss of life.
But if my theft created peace
and made the constant bloodshed cease,
I hope that for my dreadful crime
I would not have to serve much time.
I walked upon the battlefield
and saw a grotesque scene revealed:
the corpses there, both friend and foe,
all formed a sort of weird rainbow.
The enemy and our men too--
some bled dark red and some bled blue.
The blood of others was bright green--
a stranger sight I've never seen.
When bullets mowed doomed soldiers down
blood sometimes came out rusty brown,
and who would in their right mind think
the blood of many would be pink?
Oh what a gross, macabre sight--
to see men bleeding black and white,
and on the ground where bodies lay
I saw big blotches of dark gray.
Around this place of pain and woe
some sprawled in pools of indigo,
and where brave fighters their ends met
were yellow stains and violet.
How sad that young lads had to lose
their lives in puddles of chartreuse.
I thought it simply could not be
that orange blood would flow so free.
In places there was purple blood,
at first a stream, and then a flood,
and youths shot down in life too soon
bled for their nations dark maroon.
Although they many colors bled
they share one fate: they all are dead.
So will this be the magic, blissful year
when finally all wars will disappear?
How can we keep our feeble hopes alive
while waiting for this blessing to arrive?
There are those pious souls who like to pray,
and some, like me, who try another way.
I stick my head down in the blinding sand,
drift off to sleep replete with angels, and
when waking up I quite expect to see
the world at last in perfect harmony.
If none of this transpires, what happens then?
I'll stick my head back in the sand again.
Onward, U. S. soldiers, marching off to war,
with the lure of conquest worth the blood and gore.
Bush, our royal Master, rants against the foe;
forward into battle, see our missiles go!
Onward, U. S. soldiers, marching off to war,
we are rich and righteous, and we want some more.
See our mighty army on the side of God;
brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
one in greed and malice, lacking sanity.
After all the carnage, all the blood and toil,
we will gain salvation, also lots of oil.
Cowards speak against us, whom we can ignore.
We must slaughter heathens as we have before.
We deserve to conquer 'cause we are all good.
We'll make other nations act the way they should.
Do not doubt our wisdom, do not count the cost,
do not ask how many children's lives are lost.
Show you're patriotic, cheer for Bush's team.
When the war is over, we will reign supreme.
Oil, the precious treasure, leads us on our quest.
God will bless and honor triumph for the West.
Let's jump into action, peace is such a bore.
Let's kill lots of Arabs as in days of yore.
Might is right for our side, that is all we know.
Fighting is what's needed, diplomacy's too slow.
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise
but our nation's purpose constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never 'gainst our will prevail;
we have God's own promise, so we cannot fail.
Onward then, ye soldiers, brave and righteous throng,
blend with ours your voices in this insane song.
Show that you are loyal unto Bush our King,
Kill those who oppose him, and his praises sing.
Adaptation of "Onward Christian Soldiers"
by Tom Greening
2002 Music: Harrison Childers, John Cannon.
Lyrics: Harrison Childers, John Cannon, Tom Greening
Hear a mother softly cry
Beneath the dark and mournful sky
War claimed her child and she asks why
How can this be?
The forlorn father rocks and cries
As he begins to realize
The light has gone from his son's eyes
How can this be?
You can talk about hatred,
You can talk about war,
You can talk about killing
While we all keep score,
And we count all the bodies and
Count them once more
How can this be?
This victim of hostility
Cut down by our brutality
Could be the child of you and me
How can this be?
With guns to shoot and bombs to drop
The killers reap their bitter crop,
Grim harvest that we never stop
How can this be?
The dogs of war again run wild
Killing yet another child--
Innocence and love defiled
How can this be?
Children have to pay the price
For debts they do not owe.
Time and time again they pay,
The children can't say no.
Shattered bodies, shattered lives
As yet another victim dies
Even God averts his eyes
How can this be?
I sit on the edge of my chair,
hold my breath,
wait, pray, fret,
cower and rant.
Human history is proceeding apace
and the species will probably survive
another round of its grotesque evolution.
War has become an equal opportunity event
with women and children, babes and the aged,
just as welcome as soldiers to the slaughter.
Mystics see beyond all this
and find peace.
I stumble around in despair
fearful that I'll step on a mine,
and explode into awareness
that this is actually happening
I bought a tree at the nursery
and had them plant it for me.
I bought it to hide the sight
of the big ugly house being built next door.
In other parts of my yard
my older trees do their job well,
and this is how I will avoid
the imminent war.
Green leaves will protect me
from what I can't bear to see.
As a child I played in the woods,
building secret hideouts in the dense foliage.
The Germans never found me,
and I never saw them,
and thus I survived World War II
in New Jersey. But that was before
these modern wars and the new weapons,
and worst of all for people like me,
I scurry around the city
intoning my anti-war poems
at peace rallies and poetry readings,
but so far have never prevented a war.
I can't keep trying forever,
and need some help
from Washington, Baghdad,
Rhyme or blank verse,
conventional or nuclear,
Crank it out by the ton,
drop it on people all over the world.
It will daze and pacify them,
maybe even enlighten some.
Inspection teams can verify the results.
Never let it be said
that we desperate poets didn't try.
I think it's time for us to go
and pay a visit to Thoreau.
In times like this we need a sage,
perhaps one from another age,
who sees more clearly than we can,
who champions the rights of man
and woman too, and who can think
of how to pull back from the brink
before it has become too late
to resurrect our nation's fate.
The Ides of March are at our throats once more,
so what the hell, we might as well wage war.
Let's bomb someone, and claim our cause is good,
compare ourselves with noble Robin Hood,
survey the world and find who is the bane
of our existence - Ah - Saddam Hussein!
And when we've done with him, just look around--
some other evil perp can soon be found.
We'll fight the world and build our nation's pride,
and never, ever, pause to look inside.
Where is the statesman who in such times learns
to be a patriot while Baghdad burns,
while watching hopes of peace go up in smoke
and even the UN become a joke?
Prepare yourselves for decades more of war,
We've launched into a century of gore.
Officials call Fallouja "restive"
but folks there claim they're merely festive.
It's more fun than a birthday bash
to see a helicopter crash.
The flames flare orange, a pretty sight
that brightens up a dreary night.
It's party time in bleak Iraq
where all too many people lack
big screen TV and comedy,
so they turn out in droves to see
the latest real life action show,
a bloody, colorful tableau.
I think it's generous of us
to entertain these poor folks thus.
Before the population wearies
let's make this show into a series.
Living in this Christian land,
it isn't hard to understand
our President was not elected,
but was by God himself selected.
A general has now declared
that we've no reason to be scared
because our leader's brave crusade
will make all Muslims sore afraid.
Their evil can't defeat our good--
we'll make them act the way they should.
God put us on this earth to win
and save the heathen lands from sin.
Hurray for Boykin, he's our man,
he's tough and righteous and he can
soon make those Arabs toe the line
because his guidance is divine.
And if you doubt our destiny,
just shut your mouth, that's heresy.
I'm sorry, but I must insist
that I am not a terrorist.
It's simply that I want my way,
and I don't care what you may say.
Your nervous insecurity
inflames your baseless dread of me.
You've naught to fear if you will do
precisely what I tell you to.
Your stubbornness and hatred made
me have to launch a new crusade.
My way is right, and good for all,
except for those who have the gall
to organize and try to spoil
my quest for lots of low-priced oil.
We all can live in harmony
if you will act more cravenly.
This world needs love, good will and peace,
and I am here to make it cease
its endless round of war and strife
and thus create a better life.
So if I must, I'll bomb you flat
to make my point quite clearly that
what's right is right, and I'll decide,
just ask my many foes who've died.
Although we worship different gods
and often find ourselves at odds,
I think you will agree, at least,
that I should rule the Middle East.
I'm growing old and prone to dodder,
thus I'm no good as cannon fodder.
The politicians' speeches bore me
and they in turn with ease ignore me.
They'll have to wage their wars without me,
and when I rant for peace they'll doubt me
because they're sure their ways are noble
and will resolve all conflicts global.
While helplessly I watch and weep
blind righteousness will corpses reap,
more blood will run, more heads will roll,
humanity will lose its soul.
Will April come, and with it some surcease,
perhaps a feeble promise of some peace?
Will flowers bloom again, in spite of war,
will doves and sparrows once more dare to soar?
Perhaps we too should take the time to wend
our way to Canterbury and to mend
our ragged spirits at some holy shrine
and pray a warm, forgiving sun will shine
through churning clouds of violence and hate,
or will our pilgrimage be sadly late?
Our nation's efforts, cruel and chronic,
to reign supreme and hegemonic
impress our allies as moronic,
imperialist and quite demonic.
We think that we should rule the earth
because worldwide there's such a dearth
of beings with our noble traits,
thus we should dominate their fates.
The world as our imperium?
This is a daft delirium.
No longer staid and antiquated,
my thinking now is automated.
Why dream up ideas by myself
when I can get them off the shelf?
I read the papers, watch the news,
and thus I get well-packaged views.
There's always some slick TV show
to tell me what I need to know.
Those guys at Fox are really cool--
they guide me so I'm not a fool,
and thank God for talk radio
to help me learn who's friend and foe.
I love to watch how history's made,
how we decide whom to invade.
In decades hence when peace will reign
perhaps at leisure I will deign
to try some thinking on my own,
but now the effort makes me groan.
I suppose there was looting in 331 B. C.
when Alexander the Great "liberated" Babylon.
They are at it again, but Rumsfeld reminds us
that war is not "tidy,"
as if we thought it were,
and reassures us that reports
of looting in Baghdad
The National Museum has been emptied
and elsewhere they have made off with
computers, a horse, a bus
and Omar's welding tools,
leaving him to wonder how to make a living,
and where 7000 years of civilization
have been scattered.
Ali Ismaeel Abbas, age 10, has lost his arms,
a hospital has lost its beds,
our president has lost his soul,
and I have lost faith in my country.
What shall it profit a conqueror
if the heaven he seeks is filled with smoke,
the land with rubble,
his veins with oil,
and his dreams with corpses?
Can dollars reconstruct all this,
buy Omar new tools,
give Ali new arms and
replace his haunted dreams
with TV sitcoms,
turn the National Museum into a Kmart,
and create the illusion we care?
Sand is blowing across the plains,
sifting into every crevice,
clogging the valves of our hearts
and Saladin is on his way.
I will lie here,
buried below Falluja
for a long time.
I am in no hurry.
You can collect those other corpses,
rebuild the city above me
and proclaim victory.
I watched with amusement
as they used a grappling hook
to drag Ali away
because they were afraid
he was booby-trapped.
They don't know the real meaning
of that word.
They don't know how much explosive
I have packed inside me.
I am a patient man
with a long memory
and nothing else to do.
Even from this awkward position
I will conceive many children
who will honor their father.
We're having a problem here
with the occupiers sent
by a foreign ruler named George.
We are not going to wait
until we see the whites of their eyes--
By then it would be all over for us.
They've got better boots, horses,
frigates, helicopters and Hummers,
but we know the terrain
and have God and Allah on our side.
We've got flintlocks and RPGs
and know how to fight and hide
and fight again.
This land is our land,
and whether it's tea or oil or whatever,
we want to govern it our way.
So give us liberty or give us death.
He has converted the Jews,
Palestinians, Russians, Chechens,
Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans,
even his nemesis, the
He knew he was right
about how the world worked
and how it should be.
"Mein Kampf" has been updated
and is the new Bible.
strap on their explosive belts
and helicopter gunships
to worship the new God who is
as old as our species.
Even in my safe suburb
my television is soaked with blood
and I hear the goose-stepping marchers
squashing my nation's conscience.
Enlist! There are benefits
if you survive.
Don't let the heat, the dust,
the scattered pieces of flesh
deter you from what we know
(because our new God's Goebbels tells us)
Copyright © 2018 by Tom Greening. All rights reserved.
Blood and Oil
Nacht und Nebel
Nichts Neues im Westen
Gulf War Memorial
A Happy War
Writing and Poetry by Tom Greening
Let's Try Everything
Sleep of Fools
Onward U.S. Soldiers
How Can This Be?
Waiting for War, Again
Hiding From the War
Where is Thoreau Now That We Need Him?
Prime Time In Iraq
My Plan for Peace in the Middle East
Epilogue 2004 to Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”
Insurgents East and West