Melancholia on the Fourth



I have been trying to cheer myself, what with two suspect wars at hand and watching 4,000 young Iowans boarding planes for Afghanistan. “Cheer” is course the wrong word, trite in all its variations. But I have been opposed to these conflicts and continue to oppose them. I will try any spiritual nick-nack, any mega-theric penny candy I can find.

Today I remembered an anti-war poem from the Viet Nam era by Bill Knott entitled “Prosepoem to Hart Crane”. Knott’s poem is better than penny candy. I first encountered it in Robert Bly’s magazine The Seventies. Here are its opening lines:


India and China, please help, there is a famine here, an

American famine, there’s no longer enough America to

Feed Whitman or Poe, and I’m getting very thin. Oh drop-

ping bombs upon what no longer exists! Glances traveling

through life and death…  




My melancholia on the fourth is marked by this unshakable sense that our nation is dying spiritually, that there are few heroes of the moment who might stand and say that our job is to feed the world, embrace human rights, and to finally, finally reject imperialism.

To paraphrase Lou Reed, somewhere an arms manufacturer is laughing til he pisses his pants.


My job, the job of conscience, the job of laughter that isn’t burnt, of tears that are not bled out is to play the same song over and over.


Here, for what its worth, is a poem I wrote against the “wars” almost three years ago.


Life in Wartime


There are bodies that stay home and keep living.

Wisteria and Queen Anne’s Lace

But women and children too.

And countless men at gasoline stations.

Schoolteachers who resemble candles,

Boys with metabolisms geared to the future,

Musicians trying for moon effects…

The sky, which cannot expire, readies itself with clouds

Or a perfect blue

Or halos or the amoebic shapes

Of things to come.

The railway weeds are filled with water.

How do living things carry particles

Of sacrifice? Why are gods talking in the corn ?

Enough to feel the future underfoot.

Someone is crying three houses down.

Many are gone or are going.




P.S. We at POTB believe that Bill Knott and Robert Bly continue to be national treasures…

0 thoughts on “Melancholia on the Fourth

  1. Nor can I ever grieve enough for the person who was forced to fight for unjust causes, as so many people are. War creates many victims — it’s difficult to remember them all.


  2. I grieve the loss in combat of the life or soul of a person who has fought for justice. I can never be grateful enough for the sacrifice that was made. I can never grieve enough for the loss in combat of the person who did not understand and choose the risk that was being taken — the person who fought in ignorance.
    People who support war for unjust reasons, kill more than individuals; they destroy and defile the integrity of nations. How long will it be before there are enough people that understand this? How long will it be before we need no longer live in fear of our neighbors? It cannot happen until each individual understands that their happiness and the neighbors’ happiness depends on thoughtful, conscious living. It will not be until we become fully human.


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