Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Our Long War

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Our Long War

Article excerpt

If we are at war let the orchards show it,

let the pear and fig fall prior to their time,

let the radios die

and the hounds freeze over their meat.

Let the balconies crack their planked backs as we recline,

let the streets of stock and trade split open,

let the horses pulling at the fields

wither beneath us.

Let each year decay, and each decade:

to receive report is not enough,

the equations of the mathematician must

each come wrong, strangely, inexplicably, the remedies

must run dry,

the violet must let no more tincture

and the waters let no more cool.

When, at mudtimes, we trek to the waterfall,

there it should no longer be

nothing should be where the guidebook says,

not the orchids, not the taro,

not the market, not the fishmonger thrashing carp against rock

where once we bought it bloody on the board.

If we are at war with a holy book in our hands let it shrivel

to slag; its teachings cannot survive the drone

and will not gleam while villagers drink the ditch.

If we wage it, let the war breach up

into the light, let it unseam our garments

where they hold fast, each button and string failing

until we run to hide ourselves

in the alleys where at least rats and refuse

and the sleeping poor show some partial ghost

of what's abroad-

If we war there ought to be a sign,

our lives should feel like cut-outs of lives,

our bodies paper dolls drifting to the ground. …

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