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…