Capt. F. A. Rhodes Jr. 1/3/71, POW

Etched name in silver reflects a man
engraved in a fight not his own,
a name i can run
my fingers on like Braille,
it is all i know —
of his uniform stained or how
the sweat of the jungle
may have flowed
between the stubble on his lip.
What could it have been
but a deafening thunder that rose
into clouds disappearing
as certain as smoke.

looking back (political)

I have so many poems already written (Try over 100!). Some stretch back as far as college (that first exciting writing class sophomore year!). I wish they were already posted. But, I have to be patient… here are two political ones. More to come today. I’m feeling motivated. [First one: Spoils. Second: Saddam Hussein]

Spoils:

We photographed ourselves
around the naked prisoners in Abu Ghraib
with thumbs up.

As we’re told, all is fair
and it felt so good to indulge. We were all smiling.

Then in a dream voices spoke
of what we are told not to speak.
I was told by some
that the casualties of war are
other people’s brats
who are expendable
and born to be.
Told by others
that the casualties of war are
decent folks who become
beasts with red eyes
and calculating cold fists.
I was told by the Ministry of Truth that
there are no casualties in a war
that results in victory and peace.

Then we woke up.

We nod our heads yes
to the talking heads mouthing
our shock and dismay of mistreatment on film.
How unfortunate that a few bad apples
went and spoiled the bag.
We do apologize for them.

But history will prove us right, despite the setbacks.
We will write how we liberated the shiny gold road of freedom
in such a god forsaken desert. We will write how we
selflessly gave the spoils to the poor people
like a patriotic Robin Hood. It is all so simple.

We will devour the photographs with our smiling white teeth.
We will wipe our mouth with a napkin of self-righteousness.

Saddam Hussein

They got him.
He was wallowing in a hole,
a spider hole,
six feet by eight feet,
and the walls were dusty and steep.

Doesn’t it seem strange,
to find him there, trapped as a rat.
A murderer taken with
no shots fired;
he acquiesced and was pulled into enemy arms.

The shots and shouts of those freed
alerted tentative neighbors
something in the desert was gone,
something was different today than before.

Those restless souls, those tortured and in pain,
those paranoid, scared,
starving and hot,
thirsty souls might get a chance after all
to feel a rain, so unimaginable.

They got him
he was living in a spider grave,
bearded and tired,
he did not flinch when the enemy
examined him.
He was in good physical shape despite the humiliation.

Years before in Vietnam,
those Vietcong waited in spider holes despite
the venom bites.
They waited to kill.
They knew battles might be lost,
but that war rages on.

He looks like a tired defeated old man.
He looks happily forward to his genocide trial,
his place in history,
his name, his glory—
see his bearded face on TV.

Will tired ghosts finally sleep? Will revolution mean change?

Can spiders in hiding ever disavow his name?

He imagines the back page headline: a car explodes in the desert.
War rages on.

song of March (2003)

easing myself into this whole “sharing with the world” thing. Starting with the more comfortable pieces (are politics more comfortable?) and planning to move forward from there….one from just before the Iraq war (George W. not George senior). In the style of T.S. Eliot…

Song of March (2003)

It snowed for no reason tonight,
just seemed the thing to do.
And quiet crowds cowered in their houses
with bread and water and
plastic and duct tape awaiting the inevitable;
the athlete,
the farmer,
the prom king and queen,
cried innocent and shivered while the enemy sweated
and lurked in every dark alleyway,
sweating in turbans and yards of cloth,
plotting and deceiving.

He turned the hourglass and let sand sift through his hands.

The few great left another generation alone to contemplate:
Crowds cowered in their fallen houses across the sea.
Covered women who come and go
weary from watching Michelangelo.
They’re told he’s an infidel, that he’s the one
because of his painted ceiling in Rome.

Yet it makes no sense again.
We grow so old; we
chant what we do not understand;
we lose the audience with haphazard metaphors that
tick like bombs, but make no sound— no questions,
no time left to consider.

He turned the hourglass and let sand sift through his hands.

The thing to do, seems the only thing to do.
In March we go,
in step we go,
before the sky can open up
beneath the weight of escalating egos,
of bipeds with opposable thumbs bent on the thing to do,
hitchhiking back to the beginning of it all—
the middle east,
the middle earth,
the point of the big bang that still reverberates now.