Posted tagged ‘no homonym for war’

What I Was Trying To Write

September 22, 2014


What I was trying to write

I was trying to write a poem about war.

I was trying to describe
how we are blinded
by certain adherences, whether to faith
or jingo,
how they drag us, one-eyed, into
a Cyclops slog–

how then, I wrote,
we lid our cribbed gaze
in righteousness,
let pride steel love,
train out any tender bend
towards anguish’s white flags, the sclera of
the vanquished (or, just, the scared),
temper mettle
to sword–

then stopped, partly because
I had to look up sclera–it means
the whites of eyes–but more because
I wanted to be clear, not obscure
with slant convolution–

because when I wrote the “training out
of tender bend,” I specifically pictured, men,
ours, so young their skin
shows individual bristles–I think somehow
of piglets but in the sweet sense, long-lashed and
rather soft
behind the neck–
but the necks of these poor men are thickened by
what they’ve learned
to carry; armored as tanks,
they force some dirt-gouted door,
striding cartridges
into a crouch of women, men, folded up
as cranes, bird bones pushed
against creased pulses;

and when I wrote
of “anguish’s white flags,” I saw specifically
the whites of eyes,
the whites of raised palms, the white lines
on the back-sides
of knuckles, and

the soldiers shout a foreign bark
they think means “where?”
or maybe, if it blares on,
“we don’t want to hurt you, just
to search,” but the sounds are din
to the crouched
as if the voices cried for “lobster” in the midst of a desert, and they are
in the midst of the desert,
and the triggered hands look
like great claws,
and the skin that gapes through gaps
in the camo, red,
and the women, their eye whites
flickering now like a terrible game
of shadow against a wall, begin to wail,
and the young solders want
to whale them,
thinking why in the fuck do these people
we’re trying to help keep fucking
with us,
and wish they could kick
something, their boots
so weighted, and their mettle–that is
who they are truly–flaming into something
they can’t temper, and plaster sprays,
cloth tosses, and goats shit skittering,
and the whites of eyes mouth please or no or
something more
unspeakable, and the men hate,
and the soldiers hate,
and the women maybe hate too, left
with nothing, and how
one wonders does this solve
very much.

Which is what I wanted to write, and without homonym,
because no words actually sound
like what war means.


Here’s a poem of sorts.  Draft.  I don’t know about the basic frame.  But it started out with Grapeling’s (M’s) “get listed” prompt on With Real Toads, in which he suggested writing a poem based upon words chosen from the Art of War.  I wrote a poem for that prompt, but deleted the italicized stanza at the last moment before posting.  Then later showed to M who expressed interest, and in response–thanks, M–I came up with this. 

I also want to acknowledge Kerry O’ Connor’s wonderful poem “A Poem Is No Place,” which I read recently and which also has to do with the uses of poetry.  

Am linking to With Real Toads open link night.  Sorry for the length and profanity. 

And the picture is one that I took the other day that doesn’t really have much to do with this poem, but am using because of the different frames.