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Our Long War

ISSUE:  Spring 2012

If we are at war let the orchards show it,
let the pear and fig fall prior to their time,
let the radios die
and the hounds freeze over their meat.
Let the balconies crack their planked backs as we recline,
let the streets of stock and trade split open,
let the horses pulling at the fields
wither beneath us.

Let each year decay, and each decade:
to receive report is not enough,
the equations of the mathematician must
each come wrong, strangely, inexplicably, the remedies
must run dry,
the violet must let no more tincture
and the waters let no more cool.
When, at mudtimes, we trek to the waterfall,
there it should no longer be—
nothing should be where the guidebook says,
not the orchids, not the taro,
not the market, not the fishmonger thrashing carp against rock
where once we bought it bloody on the board.

If we are at war with a holy book in our hands let it shrivel
to slag; its teachings cannot survive the drone
and will not gleam while villagers drink the ditch.

If we wage it, let the war breach up
into the light, let it unseam our garments
where they hold fast, each button and string failing
until we run to hide ourselves
in the alleys where at least rats and refuse
and the sleeping poor show some partial ghost
of what’s abroad—

If we war there ought to be a sign,
our lives should feel like cut-outs of lives,
our bodies paper dolls drifting to the ground.

But still our horses ripple their flanks
and the orange grove shakes green in the warm wind it loves.
We laze on the balcony with clear water in the glass.
at the newsstand stacks of cigarettes
with their sure wrappings and that little red pull, candies and juices
made of the wildly thriving corn.

Before the war
what is called the soul
spoke so clearly
we took it for an imbecile.

But now the war can’t know what it wants:
we make meals, pay a tax and dream nothing
hard enough to wake us.

Not once have I dreamt of the war.
I forgot it quietly, unwantingly, and because
there were peaches everywhere, peaches
that shouldn’t have happened,
nor the idea of blessing at sundown,
the orchard lit into an avenue
of torchlight.


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