Bombs Away! And the rockets’ red glare!

Bombs Away! And the rockets’ red glare!

Seven days into National Poetry Month, and the man who has gained possession of the “nuclear football” and alone possesses the secret codes and key to the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, and now has the ability to turn that key, push a tiny red button, and within a couple of seconds destroy the entirety of human civilization, culture, and even existence, — that same so-called man has launched dozens of warhead-armed missile attacks on the people of Syria, a nation who’s close allies are Russia, Iran, and China. This individual, with the most powerful military force in the world at his command, is now attacking and murdering citizens of Syria supposedly because the dictator of Syria is a war criminal (and of course he is) who murders his own fellow Syrian citizens (of course he does). So now our nation is doing that dictator’s murderous work for him. “Because you have attacked and murdered some of your own citizens, we will now send our own missile attacks to murder some more of your citizens for you. Now that there is less of such work for you to do as dictator, perhaps you will volunteer to step down and peacefully retire to Miami, or Moscow?”

Our nation, who imprisons more (and a much higher percentage) of its own citizens than any other nation in the world. Our nation who pays corporations to construct and run private prisons in which to hold our federal domestic prisoner-citizens; — hold them, crowd them, punish them, enslave them as unpaid laborers, and torture them, while the government winks. Our nation in which, daily, unarmed citizens are murdered by corrupt and militarized police troops. Our nation, the richest in the world, in which one out of every ten children goes to sleep hungry each night. Our nation in which one of every three women serving in our military is raped by her fellow military personnel, and one of every ten males in our military is likewise raped by his fellow enlistees. Our nation, still squabbling over whether all citizens have equal marriage rights, equal rights to use public restrooms. Our nation, our nation…My country, ’tis of thee I sing, sing my ceaseless lamentation. Nation, wake up!

Here is a poem for this day from American poet and former US Marine, Sam Hamill:


The little olive-skinned girl
peered up at me
from the photograph

with her eyes wide open,

deep brown beautiful eyes
that bore silent witness
to a grief as old as the ages.

She was young,
and very beautiful, as only
the young can be,
but within such beauty
as bears calamity silently:

because it has run out of tears.

I closed the magazine and went
outside to the wood pile
and split a couple of logs, thinking,
“Her fire is likely
an open fire tonight,
bright flames licking
and waving

like rising pennants in the breeze.”

When I was a boy,
I heard about the bloodshed
in Korea, about the Red Army
perched at our threshold,
and the bombs
that would annihilate our world


I got under my desk with the rest of the foolish world.

In Okinawa, I wore the uniform

and carried the weapon
until my eyes began to open,
until I choked
on Marine Corps pride,
until I came to realize
just how willfully I had been blind.

How much grief is a life?
And what can be done unless
we stand among the missing, among the murdered,
the orphaned,
our own armed children, and bear witness

with our eyes wide open?

When I was a child, frightened of the night
and crying in my bed,
my father told me a poem or sang,

“Empty saddles in the o-l-d corral,
where do they r-i-d-e tonight.”

Homer thought the dead arrived
into a field of asphodels.
“Musashino,” near Tokyo, means
“Musashi’s Plain,”
the warrior’s way washed in blood.

The war-songs are sung
to the same old marching measures–
oh, how we love to honor the dead.

A world without war? Who but a child or a fool
could imagine such a thing?

Corporate leaders go to school
on Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
“We all deplore it,” the President says,
issuing bombing orders,
“but God is on our side.”

Which blood is Christian,
which Muslim, Jew or Hindu?

The beautiful girl with the beautiful sad eyes
watches, but
has not spoken. What can she

possibly say?
She carries the burden of finding
another way.

In her eyes, the ruins, the fear,
the shoes that can’t be filled, hands
that will never stroke her hair.

But listen. And you will hear her small, soft, plaintive voice
–it’s already there within you–

a heartbeat, a whisper,
a promise broken–
if only you listen

with your eyes wide open.

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006

Recording courtesy of Michael Ladd. First aired on Poetica Radio, June 23rd, 2007.


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