Friday, October 23, 2015

This is not a poem

This is not a poem.
However much it may be
that words may witness,
this is not a poem.

Witness lives lost, wasted,
ground to dust, witness with words,
but that will not make
this poem.

Voices may cry out,
as poems sometimes do,
for justice, for approximations
of mercy, but this is not a cry.

This is merely the soft sound
a mind may make
when it has gotten used
to the converging unquiet.

This is the moment
when you cannot hear me
and the moment
when I cannot hear me.

It is the moment
before the cry,
before the words,
before the poem.

This is the moment
when the pencil
makes the sound
of stitching wounds.

This is the moment
before healing begins,
the moment
that healing begins.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

We should not seek the peace that comes before the fight

Twenty-two veterans a day
contrive and execute
their own death.
And how many who try today
will die tomorrow?

A friend writes poems
about vets who learn
to walk again,
the first of many thresholds
he will cross.

Word comes today
that Afghan soldiers
have retaken Kunduz.
Taliban vow retaliation.
Overhead, U.S. jets breathe fire.

How many will do a warrior’s dance
in celebration of survival
while hope and meaning
bleed out of casually abused
and uncounted broken bodies?

A friend writes poetry
about the anguish of witness,
which, she says,
is really the lament
of the powerless.

She lies awake at night
counting the stumble of victims
and by day writes
rambling questions
about why she cannot sleep.

What about the Syrians,
slogging through the surf,
she asks, when they lay down
to sleep, do they count the children
who remain alive?

Word comes that the court
has ruled that guilty enough will do
and the hangman rues the day
he took this job,
his shoulders slumped by so much toil.

Word comes that the court
has ruled that the verdict
does not apply to officers
with very important jobs to do
in communities of color.

A friend writes poetry
about bombs exploding in his head,
then hikes to deep and to dark
and to where he burns
and buries all his poems.

And I write to him.
What happens after
you are done dancing alone?
And he invites me to lie with him.
Together, he says, we will count.

Count what?
Yes, exactly, count whatever.
Count victims, he says. Count children.
Count the wounded.
Count the wounded women who survive.

We should not do these things
separately, he says. We should not seek
the peace that comes before the fight.
We should witness together.
We should speak.