Blood Phantoms Endless Night





            horses’ tails swish in a sunlit field.

            traveling to Antietam, she recalls a war story: 


            her father, Uncle Bob said, was

always gentle

& kind, always ready to laugh—

never angry. 

her mother remembered other things: 

he’d wake up sweating—

wild eyes in the night—

the German officer he had to shoot, point blank—

those eyes, that cringe,

night after night.


            in the cornfield

where the blue boys lurched & shrieked,

the cannons’re set up as in the old photograph,

but freshly painted, with an asphalt walkway curving around. 

& in Bloody Lane,

where bodies were heaped up waist-high,

I marveled at bees in the corn tassles not 30 feet away. 

at Burnsides Bridge, the lazy river barely rippled.


            23,000 killed, wounded & missing here.

“such a

beautiful vista,” the old man said, leaning on his cane: 

fields spread out

for miles, lines of trees & hills,

farmers on tractors,

eyes back & down to the turning discs,

or pulling tanks,

insecticide hissing over the fields: 

“not a cloud in the sky.” 




A View from the Road


rows & rows & rows & rows—

identical white stones in the late afternoon sun: 

we pass, in a hurry,

hardly giving them a second thought. 

& at the VA Hospital

over the hill, unseen from the road,

those legless & armless men are waiting,

those old screamers

who can’t put away the nightmares,

the shell-shocked mutes

drooling in their wheelchairs.




A Million Mute Corpses Speak


            when the senators questioned the general

about his former role, he said

the whole nation owes allegiance to the president,

regardless of what he does. 

his blue eyes glittered in the cameras. 

he shifted in his seat, a smile on his lips.






            now I know the secret of peace

            wandering here among hills where no one lives. 

white pines,

clumps of sumac, hillsides covered with white oaks,

poplars & birches: 

I never stand still for long,

but listen & move on. 

odd, coming here, all my cares seem petty—

insignificant.  the light floods the woods & valley. 

even the shadows are luminous & clear. 

& I, just another face among so many.



sitting around a table waiting for the day to end

these men relive the war: 

sore shoulders & jaws firing rifles at boot camp,

the advantages of the M-16,

how a grenade works,

blasting tiny shrapnel in every direction. 

Roger relives watching perimeters at night,

calling artillery strikes on anything that moved: 

so jumpy

any monkey or snake in the brush might set him off,

he talks of loneliness, staring into the alien night

when everything he loved was far away.

Jerry—fond of guns & tactics—

proudly remembers taking an M-16 off a dead GI;

he’d been issued an M-14

& wanted a better gun.  this was how to get one. 

Benny talks of piles of bodies,

corpses with arms, heads, legs ripped off,

the twisted faces of the dead,

the stink that filled his nostrils,

a smell he can’t forget. 

he speaks without passion,

regretting the wasted effort, the needless deaths,

yet he accepts his part in it,

still amazed people could live like this for years,

from attack to counter-attack

hiding in fields & ditches,

finding uncles & sons blasted to pieces

more often than children are born.



Ann Arbor: 

after the politicians’ lies, the funerals of friends,

the nightly deaths in the evening news,

our rage swelled into riot. 

surging around a lone police car

we smashed the windows out, punching the driver’s face in. 

others ran thru the main streets;

store fronts & bank windows shattered on the pavement. 

as the dark night settled in

we blocked traffic, heading farther & farther downtown. 

suddenly police filled the streets before us—

gas masks, nightsticks, dogs straining at leashes. 

a charge! 

shouts!  screams!  nightsticks cracking skulls! 

tear gas all over main street!  panic! 

some ran blindly, in any direction,

officers in gas masks on their heels;

others sat down in the street, folding their arms,

waiting to be beaten & carried off. 

up the dark alley!  thru sidestreets, home again,

& once home

I looked at my face in the mirror,

filled with rage & horror, alone & cut off.



years later, on a picnic,

we watch light play thru willow branches. 

listening to this soft breeze

I wonder how I put the violence behind me. 

so many friends dead

& those come back still dazed & broken,

yet the night passes, somehow.




Burning Babies


Israel, Lebanon, the burning babies,

the women raising their hands to the sky

shrieking before pillars of black smoke: 

messengers race thru rooms of state

chattering their nothings for the media. 

Begin smiles & regrets; Sadat smiles & regrets. 

at last the fighting ends. 

now come the justifications,

wishing the blood off their hands. 

can it be there’s no such thing as mercy,

as forgiveness?





The Odor of Death


after the national guard broke thru the rebel lines,

the Red Cross followed;

they wore gas masks to stifle the odor of death,

collecting the bodies, some days old,

to be burned & buried. 

Somoza claimed total victory: 

his planes strafed roads into Costa Rica,

stopping the refugees in their tracks,

killing the wounded, the aged, the sick.   




The Shotgun


back from the army,

he went out with friends

& hit the bars.

where’d he been?  up to see that bitch?

what bitch?

goddamn it, you know what bitch!

the screaming—

out of the closet—he put the slug in—

shut up!  I’ll kill you,

you keep screamin’—damn bitch!

the police at the door,

a hole in the ceiling,

& she, in the corner, her wild eyes.




The First Death


            Chris was already dead,

            the pieces shipped home from DaNang. 

            childhood friends walked up the hill

in the rain,

remembering campfires & gravel roads,

swimming bare-assed in the river at dawn. 

a pump jock,

I worked 3rd shift, had to get used to

drunkards pulling in at 3 AM, their spit & abuse,

rich men, angry if I didn’t get their windows clean,

& blacks, whose eyes spoke only of

the National Guard on their burning streets

the summer before. 

I’d rush out of the back room

where Milton or Wittgenstein lay open among the oil cans: 

“yes sir, what can I do for you?” 

hands & feet smelling of gasoline,

the river running in my waking dream at 4 or 5 AM—

thinking of the carp spawning,

slapping their tails on the rocks at dawn,

& the mist rising over the water,

gone with the slightest breeze: 

my brains were ground into that pavement,

I found my fellow men

not so kind, & girls’d call me all night long—

“hey honey, how’d ‘ja like to check my oil?” 


I’d hit the Spot, surrounded by

the gruff old men I’d loved years before. 

now their sour jokes about “niggers” turned my stomach. 

they’d buy me beer, wanting to fight about

Vietnam & Nixon & hippies,

never giving me a moment’s peace.  

drunk, I’d wander home

under the swinging street lamps

dreaming of Chris, tears all over my face,

& stop at the dam to hear the water roaring & foaming,

the full moon overhead,

not knowing what I’d done to find myself here,

trembling to wake to another day. 

who could say to me then,

someone’s coming to show you a way?




The Plumber


            a tank commander in the 3rd army,

he remembers

a sniper perched atop a house

pinning the men down. 

he lowered his cannon

& “blew that kraut 30 feet in the air.” 

& no remorse.  they were all so ornery

they’d fight with their mothers. 

a clear, sunny day in July

37 years later: 

children’re playing catch on the sidwalk

& 2 young men sit on a wall,

talking tough, to impress their girlfriends. 

an old woman hobbles by,

laughing, an endless laugh all to herself.




Strafing in El Salvador



the peasants, half-naked, carrying their bundles,

eyes full of smoke & tears, wade into the river. 

the helicopters appear from nowhere

shooting, killing. 

an old man lies against an old tree’s roots

waiting to die;

a four year old girl,

her thigh shot away, trembles,

exposed to the heat, the flies. 



the buds open on the maple tree. 

I see them; it thrills me;

but walking on, the great why still pounds in my heart. 

we could’ve been angels—

we should’ve been lovers—

O memory—those fields & woods—

that sweet, empty sky—

vanished land of shades & dreams—


in the clatter of bullets,

in the flapping mouths of Reagan, Haig, Duarte. 

shatter the heart!  the dream’s secure.




            At Flanagan’s


            her tits on my back:  more beer? 

                yeah, four.  He’d gone thru basic,

saw his chance

& went to Puerto Rico.  I eyed my wallet—

he’d pay for drinks. 

he knew how lucky he was.  look at Billy,

back from DaNang,

dreaming dreams he couldn’t share. 

now he sells computers—

yeah, he could live with it;

fingers fidget with the bar napkin,

so many lovely women passing by.


Party Talk


over there . . . every day it was life & death . . .

my life . . . so BORING

since I came back . . .

he leaned forward, pointing his finger at me,

knowing I wasn’t one of those who faced bullets. 

    . . . those gooks . . .

you wouldn’t believe what they did

to the American dead! 

his fists clenched & unclenched. 

I thought of the severed Vietnamese fingers

my friend’s brother had sent back in the mail. 

there was nothing more to say;

I went to the next room & danced with the girls.




Mid-Winter Cleanup


            he & the boss argued

how many rooms & how to do ‘em & how’d they ever get

that much done;

the rest of the crew leaned against the walls

& perched on the stairs, watching the falling snow outside.

as a kid, he & his brother

walked the tracks with wagons & picked

the coal that’d flown from the coal car

when the tenders were pitching hard;

or they brought laundry from the “richies”

for their mother to do

& pumped the outside well for water to fill the tubs

so she could wash—

sometimes the “richies” wouldn’t pay, saying

the sheets weren’t clean enough. 

& when the war came, he enlisted,

went to Bougainville, saw little action but  recalled

a marine whose buddies had all been tortured to death

ordering the guards aside so he could

blast 8 Japanese prisoners;

& he could still see

the freed Americans whose faces had the twitches

& the fingers destroyed with bamboo stakes. 

finally, the boss walked out,

& he followed, shaking his head,

his watery eyes cast down. 

he stopped, explained the boss’s ideas to the crew,

& sighed:  “a few months more, & I can forget it all.”   




Memorial Stone


            a young man kneels on a stoop in the alley

            & blows trumpet,

            soft sad notes rise into the breeze;

                                    a block down, beyond the shadows,

            cabs & trucks & old Chevys roar in a spot of sun.


            my hand, against the memorial stone, again

            traces friends dead in war. 

                                    I sit—

& watch the bag ladies & pigeons passing,

            the water’s shine as it rises from the fountain,

            the manic ex-soldier who goose-steps back & forth.

                        the faces rise again in my mind:

            blond hair cut straight across,

            his raised hand & shouted hello along the river

            on a home-made raft;

                                    & the other, all curls,

            his Latin books shoved in a corner,

            V-8 engine pulled apart in his bedroom,

            smiling in his grease-marked underwear.


                        jostled now—

                        “you po-lice?”

            he asks, then “hell, no, not widdem clothes on!”

            his eyes on my janitor uniform;

            reaches into his pocket for his bottle

            & offers me a slug of sweet red wine,

            motorcycle cap backwards on his thinning pate.

                        we sit together, saying little,

                        glad for quiet company. 




Trapped in a Ravine


            machine gun up ahead,

            splattering bullets about their helmets:

               this guy loved women,

            he was a fuckin’ drinkin’ fool!

            just went off his head,

            probably the last 50 feet or so

            he was already dead,

            you could see the bullets slamming

            his body, jerking it

            as he tossed the grenades in—


            he paused.  so that brother-in-arms

            lived again, on his lips. 




            The Gist of His Command


                        the most sophisticated

            computerized missile system the Navy’s got!

            290 innocents float face down in the Gulf

            & everybody’s got his reasons.

            the seabeaten bodies, bagged,

            are piled up for shipment home.

            the shoulders of loved ones are shaking

            as they bury their faces in knees:

                        sobs & wailing

     echo thru the captain’s heart

            where the gist of his command has finally

                        become clear.




All That You Can Be


            bright boy

            in his hi-tech tank

            in the ARMY ad


            after zeroing in

            on another bright boy,

            exclaims:  when one wins,


            we all win!

            —nightmare come again,

            I see you


            who went to war,

            whose flesh & guts

            were splattered


            all over a clearing

            once the helicopters

            flew out of sight.


            all they found:  pieces.

            closed casket—

            red eyes—rainy day. 






               gas attack:

            the bodies

            heaped where

            they fell, faces


            in death—eyelashes—



simple white clothes—

a man,

bearded, his head

cradled by rock near

the step

& doorway to

his house—

              women & children

fallen together,

             their knees—




coming, going,

coming, going—  




Friday Afternoon


            four boys sleep soundly at the break table,

            caps backward over the folded arms—

                        the breeze comes thru

the open window, pushing branches & leaves,

green shade & shine above—

                        friends & cousins hunker down

in the desert where rumors of the madman’s gas

are rampant. 

            now the hostages go free;

now they are delayed;

                                    Thatcher & Bush & Hussein

toss words like grenades across nightly screens. 


still the leaves float above,

still these boys sleep at the table

                        & I dream of mothers

bringing them potatoes & beans & chicken

as they sit at table & wait, of family

prayers & winks at sisters,

            high school sweethearts

& prom photos with boutineers, that awkward yet

proud smile in their first tuxedos & dresses

with the rented limo behind—


            I see their grandparents

struggling thru wars & depressions, crop failureS

& long hours in roaring factories, finally to stand

at their cottage door with prayers
that sons & grandsons somehow have it better—

            & I see those grandsons,

their dreams of making it BIG, books piled up

before them now, altars to that hungry dream.


            the phone is silent.

I cross the room in stocking feet & turn off

the lights, & now the shadow branches bounce

on the walls before me.

            I too would dream, & kick my feet up,

hearing the silent winds of mountaintops,

thin trickle of a spring thru fern & fallen leaf

in a bright meadow below tree line:


            whole lives float by, nodding as they pass,

wrinkled ancestors gone thru graves, descendents,

children to be squawling in sad diapers—

            speech changes, forests die back to desert,

suns fade—whose dreams sing as waves

in that distant air where lovers’ lips may yet

meet above the whine & jar of steel?—

            I your distant ancestor call you now

& pass you this picture of sleeping boys

in a savage time, that this mystery be stars

in your night as in mine. 





            Coming Home


            lost again in the twilight garden among

            fading flowers & the season’s last crickets,

            I wander among mothers’ tears & old men’s sighs,


            the last forlorn embraces of lovers, boys

            torn from tender arms & loaded onto trucks

as brass bands blare over camouflaged brims


hiding downcast eyes.  tonight, hundreds of

thousands bed down in the desert & hear

their hearts for the first time—cry softly


in the deep night as the moon rises.  I pass

thru the now silent garden remembering others,

& see the speeches & the firepower arrayed


& the orators on all sides crying right

kingdoms rise & fall & threats become histories

& the agony of thousands fills the wink of an eye.


I turn at last & come home where Sue waits

in the doorway, taking my hand & looking me

eye to eye, the moon risen, full, beyond.   






            our bodies appear as streams of light:

            turn, sun & moon—stop voice, blind sight—

shine darkly, phantoms in endless night. 


beyond the crests, the harrowing height,

this dream soars as a spotted eagle’s flight—

our bodies appear as streams of light.


wish as you will, free of your fight

as darkling armies shriek in spite,

shine darkly, phantoms in endless night.


thru lunar phases night by night

spheresong bells wake the dreamers right—

our bodies appear as streams of light.


stone rolls from pathway & gravedoor tonight.

phantomflesh sings where the way is bright—

shine darkly, phantoms in endless night.


so finally flesh flowers as white light—

babe’s face & naked skull fuse brightly tonight:

our bodies appear as streams of light.

shine darkly, phantoms in endless night.   




            In Fitful Sleep


            legions of legless men

            drag themselves in line,


            armless blue-black faces

powder-burned & mutilated,


ragged hanging cheeks

& ripped flesh march &


march with eyes once

Johnny’s now hanging


in their sockets, march

with Bible thumpers &


ancient vets trotting out

flags & angry speeches,


march, young rambos

split from cheek to crotch,


march, arab bashers &

Hussein mashers, march


into the breach, into the

breach—where the god waits


in the center of the fire—

O cringe & tears of mothers


& fathers again, again

anguish of women & young men,


march for oil, march for

flags, march for Hussein,


march for Bush, march for

God, march for right,


march for money, march for

smoke of burning bodies,






            Fireball in the Clouds


            the soft snow floats thru

tight-packed buds & flaming

stems.  shadows gesture


& talk of ecology.  bits of brain,

strands of veins, cling to their

words, unseen.


spectres glide in corridors,

                        line up at windows & whisper about

                                    the weather—phones ring,


            secretaries coo & yakk—a red mist

                        descends & settles over every-

                                    thing, unseen.  protestors


            & flag wavers shout in rivers of

                        blood & oil that also engulf taxis,

                                    hydrants, passing buses—


            hands raised to flaming clouds,

                        a drunken man stumbles & reels

                                    into the gutter, empty yellow


            eyes & open mouth facing fireball heaven.

                        peace, peace, a million cry—

                                    grenades & flags parading from


            open mouths.  soldiers at briefings

                        describe mass murder in surgical

                                    terms, blue-eyed innocents parade


            with flags at the Super Bowl as

                        gassed Kurds & blasted Iraqis

                                    mingle in the silent screams


            that rend tender springtime’s

                        sleeping buds.  O fleeting doves,

                                    O soft snow, O delicate


            curve of wild berry, O sleeping babe

                        bombed with dreams, what briefings

                                    await you in the nether world? 




            Below the Headlines


            below the photo of Cheney & Powell

            grinning with a Bart Simpson statuette,


a surgeon in Baghdad amputates

children’s legs & arms by candlelight,


no anesthetic; takes blood from one

to give to another, praying the unknown


types are right.  the procession continues:

old & young men, bomb-battered women


with babes, faces ripped by shrapnel.

some die for lack of medicine,


clean water, some from the cold night

filled with sirens & bombs & wailing.  




            Ghazal for the Coming Spring


            broken men march with bleeding ears,

guns trained on their backs, glistening. 


here tanks & launchers burned, masses of

corpses flew & fell, ripped & stinking: 


here graves mass—open jaws & sockets

of skulls tell no hero’s story nor sing


where blood ran into sand & sank,

where rain & shamal remake the land daily: 


passing caravans tell & retell a silken

story & pilgrimage sums a lifetime’s hope.


women of Kuwait wail & shriek for lost love

& burning wellheads blacken the sky;


across the world, old men dream in

starlit silence among lilacs budding early. 





El Mozote


            Abrams & Bosworth could not remember

those days when they took over

in Human Rights, at State.  Amaya, hiding

in a tree, watched the soldiers kill

her children & put them to the torch.

in one house, the floor was blood-soaked,

most of the dead, children.  “this . . .

could have led to the unravelling

of the US effort to promise a rapid

expansion of Salvador’s military forces.”

in La Joya, Lopez came home by night

to find his wife & 6 kids shot to death.

perhaps a thousand dead:  Reagan certified

El Salvador’s “concerted efforts” for

human rights.  refugees returned

to the abandoned town years later

to say Mass for the long-neglected dead.




Sarajevo Market Massacre


two men drag a limp & headless corpse thru

piles of rubble, body parts, puddles of blood

as in hills above some mother’s son cross

himself, dumps another missile to mortar:


Karadzic claims the people shot their own

to get NATO involved—he says this straight-

faced, reasons lined up like body parts

in death wagons to justify genocide:


let lost howling innocents, eyeless

men & women, butchered grandmothers

crying for a simple morning market stroll

wake in his own grandchildren’s tears,


fill his nightly dreams—let him wake

in his own bed of fire & learn mercy at last.

let Bosnia finally know a quiet morning;

let the mountains fill with singing birds


& farmers come again to market,

the changing seasons herald miracles.

let old women teach ancient customs

to babes again; let prophets lay blessings—


let dreams walk in open air free of terror,

now lost & too long smoking in a living tomb.




February 25, 1994


howl of hundreds

shot in the back

at the patriarch’s tomb


scorches this

red dawn.  lovers wake

from fragile dreams


& quiet sighs to

stricken mothers,

angry sons with stones,


uncles, grandfathers

in tears.  who can

sum hopes & sorrows in


a single human face?

hundreds forever

lost to us now, how


many more before

the butchery subsides

over these sainted bones?




The Job


            years later, he’d disgorge monthly:

            searching swamps & paddies for the dead,

                        eyes in treetops for snipers,

            he’d reach thru muck & gassy water

            in tropical heat:

            skin slid from arms like sausage casings,

            arms & legs pulled loose from bloated bellies—

            swollen eyes popped open, white with decay.


                        (get the dogtags &

            drop the stinking meat into a body bag—

            try to forget anxious parents,

            the highschool sweetheart now in college,

                        her perfumed letters,

            his radio flyer buckskin fantasies, hip shake watusi

            & all those dreams of panting love—

                        tally ‘em up). 


                        he couldn’t explain

            to his girlfriends how even in their

            most intimate moments that death smell

            would come to him—he’d

                        run shrieking into the light,

            shaking, his tongue a babble

            of dead men’s names.

                                    even here, among

            the laughter of friends, he’d need

            you—to hold his shaking hands,

            again & again, trapped in that dream. 




            The Detail


            after the shootings,

            those on the detail

            who buried the bones


            & later dug up the bones,

            yanking half-decayed

            corpses from earth


            piling them in trucks

            & vans & spiriting them

            away to other graves


            to avoid the inspectors—

            those who stood

            stolidly in the villages


            speechless, close-

            mouthed, hands

            in pockets, heads


            down, turned aside

            from all inquiry—

            what dreams move


            within when they lie

            at last in their beds,

            the moon shining thru


            their open windows?



The Fourth


                                    she came off the plane from

            Macedonia in tears, unable to speak except with

hands & eyes

            the anguish of two lost sisters,

their children, their families,

how would she find them here?


            and her husband worried

their luggage wouldn't make it,

talking, talking, his hands wringing—

the last remains of a life forever lost.


within a week

he'd have a garden in, turned with a simple spade,

his cabbages & peppers & shallots

growing in this new American soil—


yet she alone,

                        dreams shattered

beyond internet Red Cross listings & English lessons,

would stay at home,





            The Michigan Dead at Sharpsburg


            each stone:  a name, the state, a number

(5000 here in all, laid out state-by-state),

smaller numbered stones for the unidentified:


these slaughtered where dunkers prayed,

early in the morning.  farther across the circle,

Sue wanders among the New Yorkers,


looking for Meagher's Irishmen, cut down

in the sunken lane shortly after absolution.

a sunny afternoon, stillness after two days


on the road—here the lakeboys, voyageurs

& new immigrants, the hopeful ones,

all Whitman's boys beyond all lilacs now.




The Job


years later, he’d disgorge monthly:

searching swamps & paddies for the dead,

            eyes in treetops for snipers,

he’d reach thru muck & gassy water

in tropical heat:

skin slid from arms like sausage casings,

arms & legs pulled loose from bloated bellies—

swollen eyes popped open, white with decay.


            (get the dogtags &

drop the stinking meat into a body bag—

try to forget anxious parents,

the high school sweetheart now in college,

            her perfumed letters,

his radio flyer buckskin fantasies, hip shake watusi

& all those dreams of panting love—

            tally ‘em up).


            he couldn’t explain

to his girlfriends how even in their

most intimate moments that death smell

would come to him—he’d

            run shrieking into the light,

shaking, his tongue a babble

of dead mens’ names.

                        even here, among

the laughter of friends, he’d need

you—to hold his shaking hands,

again & again, trapped in that dream.   




ground zero


                                    high in the tower

                                                rush hour headlights stoplights

                                                            metal traffic


                        below,  office workers

            streaming thru doors in a hundred buildings—


            two sit on the stairs holding hands,

                        one stroking the other's hair—she

                                    in tears looks up as


            a dark stranger's shadow passes down

                        into the stairwell below—


                                                she waits until he is gone,

                                    turns & folds her head

                                                            into her sister's arms. 




Blue Notes for New York


a winter of dust & paper

fills mouths & eyes—

faces forever racing away, in terror—


even in the rising sun, the bright

day over battery, harbor, Liberty herself,

ships speeding away toward Jersey shore—


so many gone down the dark way

for nothing, amid flame bursts

& bodies falling thru spreading smoke—


in dreams, millions tramp thru centuries

down Broadway's  ancient native path,

golden door with its open promise, rush


hour crowds, saxophon'd canyons' bleak light:

here a blue note for your long night of wails,

a paean for your fallen dancers' hearts.





In Silence


                        for Ann Barber


            hour after hour

they waited in the ER,

expecting the onrush


of wounded & maimed—

yet there were only

firefighters with


smoke inhalation,

cuts & bruises, hour after

hour, the minutes


ticking away, the dust not

even settled, filling

the winter garden, the palm


court, where no

wounded walked nor

rescuers bore the maimed,


only the silence &

the realization at last

that none would come


thru the open door,

beyond the shrieks & sighs

& the endless roar. 





                             L'amor che move il sole e l' altre stelle


again, the towers fall again—crowds emerge from the great  cloud

where last cries float skyward in the endless roar—& days on end

turban'd men run, gunmuzzles flashing, cars in flames, yet I recall

            l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle, & sing thru a silence of tears.


            talk shows rake thru the bin Ladin bio, the chopped-off fingers

            of Saudis, caged young radicals in Cairo now loos'd on the world.

            tabloid covers put the demon in crosshairs, yet we do not forget

            l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle, & sing thru a silence of tears.


            in spite of the ultimata of Bush & Blair, the Taliban's defiant cry,

            the endless string of caves like hole-in-the-wall hideouts for a demon

            bandit, in spite of survivors' curses & hoarse cries for killing, I recall

            l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle, & sing thru a silence of tears.


harvest moon hangs low in black sky which turns thru another night: 

we rest, work, laugh, weep, dream how a tender touch or quiet word

might sigh a breath to awaken a world enraged, & hope they hear

            l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle, & sing thru a silence of tears.







& booby trapped,

compassion's key


dangling in

bombsights, under media


blitzes & briefing

room pronouncements—


"we're dealing with sick,

twisted people"—


who'd learn

the art of terror


& give his life

to rage, to overcome



awareness, the prophet said,


is the key, hum

to the bomb,


to the bomb,

hum to the bomb


going off again

& again in our own minds—




            Bomb Fragments, Body Parts,


            where Taliban fighters once

camped & awaited their day

of glory, their welcome from


seventy virgins in their

imagin'd paradise, the piles

of rubble're all that's left,


two men picking thru

looking for unspent bullets—

blue sky above, line of brown


ridges valleys snowy peaks

beyond, telescoped goatpaths

where generations once must've


hiked in silence & heard their

hearts, singing to bell'd herds,

dreaming under a blue moon.


now, far above, B 52 trails

mark the horizon where others

drop bombs or die for


the same oily glory, blasting

away for their big holy chunk

of the gasping planet.  





            Passover Blood Market


            bombs bombs bombs bombs

            in market restaurants street corners


            tanks checkpoints, shrieking

            women shot at trying to bury bloated


            sons in parking lot—Arafat hisses

            by flashlight, Hussein's  payoff


            turns dividends for families who

            sacrifice their own—Sharon howls


            as Bush & Cheney spin in silence,

            synagogue bombings in France


            & you, my son & daughters, I see

            in your eyes this my gift to you.




After Ronsard


among wars rumors of wars faithless

century faithless age angry politicians—

among a thousand trials, ancient freedoms stripped away,

surely it's madness to speak of Love—


chained madmen, fanatic terrorists're

no less mad than I—I,

grizzled and sickly, who've grown eyeless

as Love itself, insane—


imagining lovers falling for each other

among fallen towers, dreaming of love

among threats flashing across airwaves—


adieu, weird sisters, spellweavers, politicians—

Muses, I shoulder my own sack—I'd rather

pass trials than go blind on your aery streams.




Emile at the Crossroad


            too many blue hours too many nights in the mirror,

                        hiding, running, his eyes now bulging in daily nightmare—

                                    the helmeted gunner, machine gun spraying near-naked


            bodies, writhing, wrapped in blood mists jugular spray

as they fall, corpses bulldozed into ditches eyes wide

in death, & he, standing along a ditch—he, spared to


            finish the work—he, looking into the blue faces

                        open mouths disappearing beneath a wave of sand,

neighbors, lovers, one hand last to sink beneath—he—


            now at a downtown intersection alone with his

                        clutch of daisies & one red rose wrapped in green,

                                    the anniversary of Heloise's disappearance, she who


            had sustained him, her red hair like a fire

                        in his brain, her impetuous smile & blue-eyed

                                    laughter at his angst, his vain pronouncements—


            the candle she'd lit in the window time

                        & again to welcome him in during his darkest

                                    hours—a brief repast, a tender touch, a moment


            shared where they could reach into silence

                        & hear the lost songs—now gone forty years,

                                    now a dream he clings to, awaiting the signal


            to change & let him go, far from the maddened traffic at last.




Abu Ghraib


the prisoner wears a black pointed hood; he stands, arms

                        extended as in crucifixion, wires attached to his hands:


            who set him up like this?  what parents, sisters, brothers,

childhood friends, neighbors, knew those who could snap this


            memento from the cage?  & here, a grinning man, arms crossed,

& a woman leaning forward laugh over prisoners jammed


together naked, heads in hoods. this man & this woman—

what hearts beat softly as they returned to their silent rooms,


alone?  or this woman who smiles, thumbs up, fingers pointing down

                        at the cock of a hooded prisoner, hands tied above his head—


            already she claims she was forced, others were responsible, yet

                        now the prisoner cannot live in his own home town, shamed..


            here, the corpse has a bandage under his right eye, agony stamped

                        in his dead face:  he is wrapped in cellophane, packaged in ice.







The strong young man,

            cupid's bow lips, wide

                        eyes, wipes his brow,    


            his body shaking,

choking with sobs                                             

            before a photograph:


                                                a young girl in white,

            her white hat tilted

rakishly, her dark eyes


            glancing up

            appealingly, small

            hands clutching red






October Surprise:  An Absurd Reverie


in october may banjos, guitars, & violins serenade the clouds

& open the heavens that the blasted & broken dead may rise

from mass graves & sing again in voices unscarred by war—


in october Pablo Neruda will return in his centennial year

& sing again the heroism of peasants, that they labor sans layoffs,

that they have sunflowers & sweetpeas before their windows


& songs rising from their lost bedrooms in the starry night

where the moon shines over the sea, that the lost dead

thrown from airplanes may return, that Pinochet may wake


in his own nightmare & sigh, that Allende may rise from the sea

& proclaim victory.  may George Bush & Osama bin Ladin

kiss long & lustily, make up & dance a duo in tutus


by moonlight; may Sadaam Hussein & Donald Rumsfeld

exchange their grinning skullfaces for the faces of angels

& may they learn the ways of angels; may they learn to sing—


may unknown genius rise in the land & discover energies

not tied to black gold pollution; may the cartels fade away

& the armies lose their weapons.  may soldiers awake to find


themselves naked in the sand & recall the hours of sandplay

when they first discovered their nakedness & their hearts

beating to a tune not devised by the musicians of hate.


in october, let there be a surprise so absurd none may dream of it

in earnest:  let the lovers emerge from the corolla of sorrow & may

they proclaim at last a free song that heals planet & heart altogether






            mother & child

                        bulleted as they knelt

                                    in prayer—powder burns


            where the slugs

                        entered & tore flesh,

                                    blood erupting into dry air—


            even as marines

                        moved on to machine gun

                                    a man, his wife, his daughters,


            the blind old man,

                        father reading his Koran,

                                    the grandmother, mother,



                        & uncles.  one survived,

                                    playing dead beneath


            the body of her

                        brother, his blood

                                    covering, giving her life. 




            Marines with cobbled armor


            fight thru blind streets, windows where

            killers' eyes could be staring down even


            now—the camera follows a lieutenant who'd

            talked of struggles with morale, his bright


            face self-assured despite his doubts—now

            in combat racing thru with his fellows then


            screams & fire, bullets thudding above

            the wall where the camera catches one


            yelling above gunfire, he's hit, he's hit—

            call it in—puddle of bright blood spreading


            on the pavement below:  here on the TV

            in the locker room where boys & men


            suit up & return naked with their towels.

            eight stand again before the TV, still—


            one has dropped his towel & stands fully

            naked, mouth open, fully exposed. 





            Fireworks over the Flatirons


            shouts &

                        cheers up

                                    & down



            faces rise again—


                                                            dead friends—


                                    boys like

                        these now


            so mangled

                        their caskets

                                    were sealed.