Iraq War Sequence


Desert Serenade


even in shadows of death by fire, she dreams lost

lazy July rivers, loves lock'd in memory's starry kiss,


the long envision'd trip home, tearful parents—

time's illusions stripped bare now in the blinding sun,


the sudden crash beyond the vehicle in desert dawn

brings one back &  here she sat—2 RPG duds thudding


20 feet behind—lock & load, & there, not 30 yards away,

one ran for life as another furiously loaded another round,


aiming at her as she aimed at him—so easy to take down

black silhouettes, so unlike the living man beyond one's sight—


their eyes met, & then he turned and was gone,

she shouted down later for not pulling the trigger.


Beyond WMD & Halliburton:  the Latest Photo Op


the hushed-up secret flight, the on-the-job fatigues,

hands bringing plates of turkey & stuffing to astounded boys,

young women dressed as killers even on their day off:


Friday's RPG casualties dragged thru streets, mutilated, spat upon,

Saturday's bomb-blasted corpses, slumped in burned-out

trucks, their companions retching, reeling, firing into houses


where women & children cower on the floor,

Sunday's press conference on these last "desperate

acts" by a dying foe even as more blasts echo across the suburbs:


as corporate contributors revel in profits "rebuilding a nation,"

the prez mesmerizes starry-eyed reporters,

voters sticking themselves for a gas-fix, blue collar boys


thrown out of work looking for someone to blame,

flag-waving killers who'd slay their ten thousands for Christ—

all reach out for the plate he has so carefully prepared . 



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.