War Poem in our Time of Madness

At the hour when it seems we’re about to send more troops to die, and the madmen at the wheel of the Ship of State are raving unrestrained in their own slobber, I’m posting a poem written in 2004 from an as-yet unpublished book:


Perhaps there’s something waiting in the moonlight
to show its face

I’m writing on an oversized book of Mathew Brady photographs
pictures of Lincoln and Walt Whitman
pictures of young men and boys bloated with
arms flung back and fat legs flung forward in
death forever once in the mud and millions of
times later as people riffle the pages of books of
Civil War photographs and wonder as I do how it could have
happened and only about a hundred and forty years ago
bodies in black and white casting shadows on battlefields that are
just rolling green fields now over local hills or down
grassy valleys but then there were

guns focused out of trees on anything that moved and
yells of pain and astonishment when anyone would get
shot no doubt rebel or union yells cut short in midair
heard again now from farther away as bombs and
shrapnel cut flesh and split open organs like fruit
on streets and sidewalks empty lots and blasted buildings
in Iraq

7/10/2004 (from Underwater Galaxies)
(Check out a poem on the same theme by Peter Gizzi on The Nation website for the January 22, 2007 issue: On What Became of Mathew Brady’s Battle Photographs at http://www.thenation.com/)

Categories: Poems