Tag Archives: war

Answer To A Question Posed To A Friend Home On Leave

Originally posted in 2002 on the ancient blogging site, Diaryland.  Which, much to my surprise, is still up and running in 2014.


The moment I knew my life
would be different forever

was when the whoosh-snap
of the rifle

dissolved into my chest.
The sound of it and the feeling of it

were one and the same and the only way
I knew the sound had been there

was by its immediate absence
as I fell back.

All that – and of course
this too: my target 

fell back without making a sound of his own,
and did not get up again.

Overpass Banners

Originally posted 7/31/2009.

Overpass banners
in red white and blue lettering
flapping above the commuter traffic:

Welcome home,
Sgt. Orozsco,
Private Kenney,
Major Dent.

Love you,
Corporal Bronson.

PFC Rodriguez.

I pass under them
almost daily
without much thought.

But then,
one this weekend

with black letters
and black borders
simply said

Sgt. Conroy,

and when I close my eyes
I can still see
how it was fastened tightly
by each corner
to the fence
and did not move at all.


Casus Belli

(the case for war)

because it feels
like I’ve learned how
to sing using
only blood

because I step
on my own tongue
chasing it

because between
the legs
is how I feel

because I can buy
one boxcar full of lawyers
two boxcars full of editorials
and a whole train more of ginned-up rage
to ease the way
once it begins

because it can last a long time
it might lose its flavor
like old gum
but still stays firm
when it slides
up and down on the tooth

because having something sliding
up and down on my tooth
makes more joy than anything else
I can think of doing

because somehow
glamor and honor still congeal
around last charges
last stands
lost causes

and because they don’t give out
the good jewelry
for dying while asleep

Dragons (How It Has Always Been)


ruddy smoke
bleeds across
the river
from our
blasted homes,
drifts up
and leads us
into our

tonight when
their roaring wings
the stars
we will trust
our hills
to save us.

when we’re ready,
we’ll return.

if there are still dragons,
we may burn again.
we may slay them.

we will endure.


against.  Offense
Siege in progress.

These colors don’t run,
these walls hold fast,  these weapons 
never have an opportunity
to rust.

Smell the iron on the wind:
whose blood is that?

Close edge of the surrounding wood —
two does, one fawn,
peering out of darkness under
the pines.

Rain on the wind, 
wall of nimbus behind the trees.
Two soldiers crying now
as they have not till now.  

Why cry? Comrades,
the storm is made to refresh us — 
be washed, be ready, 

for the deer
have just fled back
under the pines.


To Market, To Market

The common doomflower
sprouts in C4
and blooms when fed

Red breath, 
silken bone,
charred ruby eye

are just three
of its many names.

She knows them all.
She carries
a charred ruby eyed seed
strapped to her torso
as she enters the marketplace.

Before her, a table
that holds bowls
of lemon-touched water,
plates of herbs, a tray
of fresh fish
soaked in lime juice.
A sign on the table reads:

Whoever tastes the water
will want to taste the herbs.
Whoever tastes the herbs
will want to taste the fish.
Whoever tastes the fish
will turn from the market
and go home satisfied.

She stops here
and tastes it all —
water, herbs, fish, lime.

Silken bone gardener,
seeking a place
for the red breath to flower,
a moment of clarity:
the sun, the people
crowding in for the food,
everyone happy
and ready to turn from the market
and leave satisfied,
even her;
she reaches
for the button — this is

a time to sow,
a time to reap.


Vehicle of dissent:
car on fire
in a street market. 

A call to arms:
the keening of those collecting
scattered, shattered limbs.

smoke — greasy,
dieseled, flesh-flavored.
The clouds hanging low.

choosing what makes any sense here —
eye, tooth, noose, bullet, mercy.

How we laugh in the cafes and alleys
when that word is uttered.

“If You See Something, Say Something”

— slogan repeated endlessly over intercoms, etc. at South Station, Boston MA USA, on 4/18/2013, three days after Boston Marathon bomb attack

 I see
some dressed in
military uniforms, desert camo,
black body armor, no visible weapons 
as I get off the train at South Station

I see 
black ripstop jackets, tan khakis, black body armor, M-16s
shield patches on caps
as I get off the train at South Station

I see
cops and
guys in civvies talking into their hands
dogs and
all of the aforementioned
as I get off the train
at South Station
walk through downtown Boston
toward City Hall Plaza
toward the Federal Building

I see more and more
H and K 9mm autos
the deeper I get into
the symbolic City

a small well equipped army outside
the Old State House
City Hall
the Federal Building
the Big Apple Circus
set up in between them

Street sweeper shotguns
on some of the black-clad cops
inside the JFK Building —
What mob do they fear
having to disperse?

Everyone of them
in dark, dark sunglasses —
no idea what they’re watching
If they see something
they say something

They must have seen something
because they’re shaking down
an older Black guy
in a bucket hat
right outside the Building
He’s scuffling his Crocs
and shaking his head
saying nothing 
or nothing good

as Street Sweeper says

“you start giving me
an explanation
that makes sense
or we’re going down
another road”

based on
what I’ve seen
we’re on 


War Dance

AR-15s frolicking their butts off.
The happy song of the bayonets.
Gates of paradise ground open by grenades.
Claymores bouncing,
bombers headspinning,
bunker busters diving
into the earth. Such joy,
and all because
we’ve allowed them to play,
pushed them into this abandon,

clucking like chaperons standing around
just to be defied,
recalling how we once did this
with our own cave-roughened hands.

“Kids these days,”
we chuckle,
forgetting for the moment
that we made them.

“In our day, we did it
up close and personal,
and we never wiped
blood from our hides
until we were sour
from the smell. 

They don’t know
what they’re missing.”

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