oward the Middle of the Second Decade of the New Century


Bombs fell. The war wasn’t going well.

The enemy was more & more diffuse.

All the old beliefs fell away.


Young people wanted nothing of the empire

of greed & corruption. They saw

through all the lies the leaders swore


were their eternal truths. Bombs fell.

Streets & buildings turned to rubble.

Those who knew the war wasn’t going well


continued it, not knowing what else to do

to stop the enemy it always knew

would infiltrate among them, bearing


arms they themselves had supplied to soldiers

who’d fled, leaving weapons behind. Bombs

fell. Reporters sought the safety of safe cities.


One who dared to cross the no-man’s land

into the battleground reported back:

Bombs fall. The war’s not going well.


The Incongruity


We were talking about our childhoods,

the resentments we’d carried


for decades, the sins of the father,

the passivity of the mother, the hurts,


the slights, another glass of wine,

another, & the secrets, the shames,


until the deck where we sat wrapped

in warm night air seemed detached


from everything, the two of us alone

with the past that would disappear


with us, & all this while, children

went on dying in places whose names


were little more than sounds to us,

their futures stopped like the bullet


or bomb or disease that could not be

stopped, & although we would swear


we were not indifferent, we never

thought of them as we promised


to love, to live our lives with love.


What Does the Loss of Hope Look Like?

            On hearing Dr. Stefan Bradley interviewed by Christ Hayes, November 24, 2014



This is what the loss of hope looks like.

There is no justice. There’s just the law.

There will be no indictment . . .

                                                         In the dark city,

buildings burn. The authorities urge calm.

Who can be calm when justice is spurned,

violated so brutally? Oh, my country,

how could this be justified, an unarmed young man

silenced on a summer afternoon,

shot six times in ninety seconds, the final time through the head.

Shot. Six times. In ninety seconds. The final time through the head—

silenced on a summer afternoon.

How could this be?

                                 Justified?! An unarmed young man,

violated so brutally? Oh, my country,

who can be calm when justice is spurned?

Buildings burn. The authorities urge calm.

There will be no indictment. In the dark city

there is no justice. There’s just the law.

This is what the loss of hope looks like.


Twelve Kernels


A bad year for the corn, only twelve kernels

around, not the twenty of the year before

or the eighteen the year before that. Maybe


the rain, maybe something in the air, not

pollutants so much as a general despair,

a heaviness sinking down to the root,


so that none of the usual measures worked—

extra nutrients, milder herbicides.

The corn rose, but still, nothing to write


overseas about, where the boy said things

were going fine, the war would be over

before his tour, & then around the time


the corn came in, he came home, something

gone out of him—they couldn’t say what,

& he wouldn’t, just a lot of time in the fields


or the barn where they heard him nights

talking, drinking from bottles he’d keep

in the hay loft even before he left, drinking


& talking—to the cows? the horses?—

in a voice that seemed to be circling,

smaller & smaller circles, closing in.


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