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

an omen.

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.

This Thanksgiving

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,

whose consciousness

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

still running,

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

is buried.

I surrender. Take

it all.

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

killed itself

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,

thus proceeds

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

magic wands

so they could help

Star Wars.

Children should be heard

marching off to war,

and, after the carnage,

not seen.

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

and souls.

"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

Martyr's Syrup


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.

Lao Tsu

"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."



Back then

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

are overturned,

no car radiators

are riddled with holes,

no one is dying

in a muddy ditch.

Since Hiroshima

roads are wider,

cars are faster,

but our modern freeways

become more crowded,

like our minds.

We refugees

escape neither east nor west

and April clouds do not hide

what we know.

I'm told that

despair alone

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.

Let's try


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.

The Lesson

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

from inside

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

he did.

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

and wane,

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

Verse 1

Hear a mother softly cry

Beneath the dark and mournful sky

War claimed her child and she asks why

How can this be?

Verse 2

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?

Verse 3

This victim of hostility

Cut down by our brutality

Could be the child of you and me

How can this be?

Verse 4

With guns to shoot and bombs to drop

The killers reap their bitter crop,

Grim harvest that we never stop

How can this be?

Verse 5

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.

Verse 6

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,

or Xanadu.

Rhyme or blank verse,

conventional or nuclear,

whatever works.

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

are exaggerated.

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.

Being dead,

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.

Hitler won.

He has converted the Jews,

Palestinians, Russians, Chechens,

Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans,

even his nemesis, the

Holy Americans.

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.

Bloodthirsty saints

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)

is right.

"He put a basket in the yard and practiced very long and hard. Aloisyus wasn’t tall but crawled..."

Animals I Have Known  

Copyright © 2019 by Tom Greening. All rights reserved.

Blood and Oil

Nacht und Nebel


Bombing Sheep

Nichts Neues im Westen

Gulf War Memorial


Turkey Shoot

A Happy War

Writing and Poetry by Tom Greening

Let's Try Everything




War Games

Collateral Damage



Anti-War Demonstration

Criminal Intent

Death’s Rainbow

Sleep of Fools

Onward U.S. Soldiers

How Can This Be?

Waiting for War, Again

Hiding From the War

Anti-War Poetry

Where is Thoreau Now That We Need Him?


Prime Time In Iraq


My Plan for Peace in the Middle East

Opting Out

Epilogue 2004 to Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”


Prepackaged Thought


Falluja Corpse

Insurgents East and West

Hitler Won