Guest poem sent in by Sashidhar Dandamudi
(Poem #1212) Deadline
The night before war begins, and you are still here. You can stand in a breathless cold ocean of candles, a thousand issues of your same face rubbed white from below by clear waxed light. A vigil. You are wondering what it is you can hold a candle to. You have a daughter. Her cheeks curve like aspects of the Mohammed's perfect pear. She is three. Too young for candles but you are here, this is war. Flames covet the gold-sparked ends of her hair, her nylon parka laughing in color, inflammable. It has taken your whole self to bring her undamaged to this moment, and waiting in the desert at this moment is a bomb that flings gasoline in a liquid sheet, a laundress's snap overhead, wide as the ancient Tigris, and ignites as it descends. The polls have sung their opera of assent: the land wants war. But here is another America, candle-throated, sure as tide. Whoever you are, you are also this granite anger. In history you will be the vigilant dead who stood in front of every war with old hearts in your pockets, stood on the carcass of hope listening for the thunder of its feathers. The desert is diamond ice and only stars above us here and elsewhere, a thousand issues of a clear waxed star, a holocaust of heaven and somewhere, a way out.
January 15, 1991 Keeping with yesterday's Owen's submission, I add two more cents to the gory word heap. Kingsolver, better known for her essays, captures the landscape of the impending Gulf War perfectly. Since folks are back at it again: same place, almost same time, same villains and same heroes, only this time with "smart" bombs, perhaps smarter than those that flung "...gasoline in a liquid sheet, a laundress's snap overhead, wide as the ancient Tigris, and ignites as it descends." These lines bring up image of Kim Phuc, and her photograph as a little girl, her clothes seared from her body by a Napalm bomb, running screaming from her burning village, arms are outstretched in terror and pain. This in Vietnam. Then the last two lines, "a holocaust of heaven/and somewhere, a way out." resonate strongly with Bob Dylan's "All along the Watchtower": "There must be some way out of here," said the joker to the thief, "There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief. Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth, None of them along the line know what any of it is worth." If poets are "jokers", whose duty, as Lucille Clifton at a poetry reading here said is "to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable.", then I think this poem does that very well. There must be some way out of here... to peace! Sashi Links: Kingsolver's Web Page http://www.kingsolver.com/home/index.asp Bob Dylan's lyric http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/watchtower.html Nick Ut's Pulitzer Prize winning photo of the girl http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/museums/images/pgallery/gallery2.htm