Men of War, Be Gone!

 

Oct. 2001 – Oct. 2004

 

Men of war, be gone

That’s how I wanted to start this poem, in Afghanistan, in Iraq.  This seems to be

The thing people are saying   

 

I start instead: 

Men of war, we make a garden to defy you.   Gilles the Frenchman

brother of the mother of my child, my daughter’s dark-handsome uncle – he and I dig rows for potatoes, leek, tomatoes, and on a sunny day we pick strawberries

 

And we said to each other, in French and English and then in nothing and maybe laughing    

I had once, my entire life, been eating out of packages bought from stores

Am I to judge the men of war who feed me? O package!   Shall I find you hidden and shake your hand and blow up in excitement?  

Thunder hid in a cloud, and then the cloud became the shape of the jaw of men with big ideas

Scribblers who tell all in History will forget much they’ve seen

 

For example: two men, rows of potatoes, old communist garden in cracked soil

Windy hill near Orly airport, tanker planes and birdy hops to Spain and Italy flop

On clouds that dump rain that the two men wait for, having for this bud toiled

 

For example: while digging with a hoe in Gilles’s garden I dreamed a second Deluge, but

Noah was locked in a big white room in Soho looking at art

Gilles and I grabbed each other for the coming flood

We grabbed our fathers alive and dead, and our mothers who we loved who were mad

We grabbed our girlfriends, and our children who lived and were to be

In glass-lit foam the streets beneath us moved from side to side, the towers began to sway

The world was eaten at last in self-hood

 

                                                                                                            -Christopher Ketcham