Check The Map

Let’s all take a deep breath and repeat after me: Give war a chance. This is Afghanistan we’re talking about. Check the map. It’s far away.

— Thomas Friedman, New York Times

 

But what if tomorrow, turning the corner, it’s not that street
with those elegant two-story homes & luxurious lawns,
but a gutted-out havoc of empty door frames & ruins
of what once had been walls. Overhead, the shrieks
of B-52s diving back thru the clouds. A smothering haze
through which you see women in burkhas down on their knees
digging their dead from under the rubble. Two blocks
from home & it’s suddenly Kandahar, the Kapisa Valley,
Mazar-i-Sharif. That wreaking of vengeance
you were so pleased to watch on TV.
But it’s you now who cannot stop coughing, whose mouth
has dropped open in terror, whose eyes smart
in that acrid smoke; you who are scurrying, shuddering,
hugging the shadows. Till you manage, somehow, at last,
to find your way home: that snug little duplex
with its nifty flag decal stuck on the window over the door.
Still shaking, you manage to get the key in the lock
& stumble into your favorite chair, though it’s hours before
your heart stops pounding inside your chest
& you’re able to breathe, till you no longer retch over
the toilet, till you’ve got yourself calm & all but convinced
it must have been some sort of vertigo, seizure, delirious
dream. But now — thank the Good Lord — you’ve come
to your senses at last & are more or less clear who
you are, where you live, what it is you’re supposed to believe.

Memorial Day
Because our sons adore their plastic missile launchers,
cybertronic space bazookas, neutron death-ray guns,
a decade down the pike it won’t prove difficult
to trick them out in combat boots
& camouflage fatigues,
rouse them with a frenzy of parades, the heady
rhetoric of country, camaraderie & God —
the drum & bugle & the sudden thunder
of the cannon as they march
into Hell singing.
Which is the order of things.
Obedient to a fault, the people will do as they are told.
However dispirited by grief at the graves
of their fallen, the mother returns at last to her loom,
the father to his lathe,
& the inconsolable widow home to raise sons
ardent for the next imperial bloodbath:
Ilium. Thermopylae. Verdun. Pork Chop Hill.