Friday, December 11, 2009

Modern War

I read this past Saturday at an “art share” hosted by Meredith McCarroll and Jeff Christmas. The idea behind it was for North Knoxville artists—which included dancers, musicians, painters, and writers—to come together, meet each other, and perform our work as a way to see what we do in a broad sense of exchange between all arts. Not only should I thank Meredith and Jeff for such a great night, but they received a grant for this through the Tennessee Humanities. So, thanks goes out to them, too. (And the painting here is by Leslie Grossman who shared her work with us that night.)

Being the week that President Obama announced the deployment of more troops to Afghanistan, I decided to read an older poem that I wrote called “Modern War.” The poem does not talk about whether or not I think the choice for more troops is a good one. (After all, I wrote this during Bush’s term.) Instead, the poem discusses how I’m bothered by how these decisions remain intellectual for me. Political. Ideological. I don’t stop any bit of my daily routine. Granted, for those living in the countries where we are stationed and for the soldiers, it’s a different story all together, and that chasm disturbs me.

(Originally published in 2004 by The Seattle Review)

A war begins
and a chickadee cracks
a sunflower seed,
spitting the hull down
to the ground, the same
ground that somewhere trembles
underneath the weight of tanks.
The night glows red, white,
and green with artillery,
and the birds begin to sing
mistaking light for day.
They tug up worms
from the earth,
swallow them whole
with a flex of the throat.
No one around me
stops working
the day a war begins
anymore. Not the gardener
tending to the grounds,
the teacher leading a song
of ABCs. Not the bird,
the worm, and never
the earth, incapable
of memory.

1 comment:

  1. Great poem. I hate how relevant it still is. I will spare everyone my marxist diatribe about capitalism creating an underclass desperate enough to maintain enough profession soldiers--giving us the luxury of war being so very distant.

    Anyway, we should be disturbed by that distance. Thanks for posting this.