It’s true I never loved my country
in the abstract sense: red, white, or blue.
I have only this black waving flag,
Stars, bold stripes,
remind me of a million dead young men
in far-off ditches,
remind me of the innocents who fell,
wild-eyed, blazing: each of them
a universe unmade.
I say that I have never loved my country,
but I’d surely die
for several good friends, my wife and sons.
I’d sacrifice a number of pink toes
and fingers, too (my own)
for Emerson, for Whitman and Thoreau.
I’d give an eye for one deep lake,
for several good streams,
at least one waterfall,
a lovely stand of Norway pines
just east of here, not far away.
From New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015 by Jay Parini (Beacon Press, 2016). Reprinted with permission from Beacon Press.
The donkey. The donkey pulling the cart. The caravan of dust. The cart made of plywood, of crossbeam and junkyard tires. The donkey made of donkey. The long face. The long ears. The curled lashes. The obsidian eyes blinking in the dust. The cart rolling, cracking the knuckles of pebbles. The dust. The blanket over the cart. The hidden mortar shells. The veins of wires. The remote device. The red light. The donkey trotting. The blue sky. The rolling cart. The dust smudging the blue sky. The silent bell of the sun. The Humvee. The soldiers. The dust-colored uniforms. The boy from Montgomery, the boy from Little Falls. The donkey cart approaching. The dust. The laughter on their lips. The dust on their lips. The moment before the moment. The shockwave. The dust. The dust. The dust.
From Hoodwinked, published by Sarabande Books. Copyright © 2011 by David Hernandez. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
How magnificent the war is!
Early in the morning
it wakes up the sirens
and dispatches ambulances
to various places
swings corpses through the air
rolls stretchers to the wounded
from the eyes of mothers
digs into the earth
dislodging many things
from under the ruins...
Some are lifeless and glistening
others are pale and still throbbing...
It produces the most questions
in the minds of children
entertains the gods
by shooting fireworks and missiles
into the sky
sows mines in the fields
and reaps punctures and blisters
urges families to emigrate
stands beside the clergymen
as they curse the devil
(poor devil, he remains
with one hand in the searing fire)...
The war continues working, day and night.
It inspires tyrants
to deliver long speeches
awards medals to generals
and themes to poets
it contributes to the industry
of artificial limbs
provides food for flies
adds pages to the history books
between killer and killed
teaches lovers to write letters
accustoms young women to waiting
fills the newspapers
with articles and pictures
builds new houses
for the orphans
invigorates the coffin makers
gives grave diggers
a pat on the back
and paints a smile on the leader's face.
It works with unparalleled diligence!
Yet no one gives it
a word of praise.
Copyright © 2005 by Dunya Mikhail and Elizabeth Winslow. From The War Works Hard. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing.
A naked child is running
along the path toward us,
her arms stretched out,
her mouth open,
the world turned to trash
She is running from the smoke
and the soldiers, from the bodies
of her mother and little sister
thrown down into a ditch,
from the blown-up bamboo hut
from the melted pots and pans.
And she is also running from the gods
who have changed the sky to fire
and puddled the earth with skin and blood.
She is running--my god--to us,
10,000 miles away,
reading the caption
beneath her picture
in a weekly magazine.
All over the country
we're feeling sorry for her
and being appalled at the war
being fought in the other world.
She keeps on running, you know,
after the shutter of the camera
clicks. She's running to us.
For how can she know,
her feet beating a path
on another continent?
How can she know
what we really are?
From the distance, we look
so terribly human.
From A Chorus for Peace: A Global Anthology of Poetry by Women, edited by Marilyn Arnold, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, and Kristen Tracy, published by the University of Iowa Press. Copyright © 2002 by the University of Iowa Press. All rights reserved.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
This poem is in the public domain.