By my co-worker Bruce Weigl
Song of Napalm
for my wife
After the storm, after the rain stopped pounding,
We stood in the doorway watching horses
Walk off lazily across the pasture’s hill.
We stared through the black screen,
Our vision altered by the distance
So I thought I saw a mist
Kicked up around their hooves when they faded
Like cut-out horses
Away from us.
The grass was never more blue in that light, more
Scarlet; beyond the pasture
Trees scraped their voices into the wind, branches
Crisscrossed the sky like barbed wire
But you said they were only branches.
Okay. The storm stopped pounding.
I am trying to say this straight: for once
I was sane enough to pause and breathe
Outside my wild plans and after the hard rain
I turned my back on the old curses. I believed
They swung finally away from me ...
But still the branches are wire
And thunder is the pounding mortar,
Still I close my eyes and see the girl
Running from her village, napalm
Stuck to her dress like jelly,
Her hands reaching for the no one
Who waits in waves of heat before her.
So I can keep on living,
So I can stay here beside you,
I try to imagine she runs down the road and wings
Beat inside her until she rises
Above the stinking jungle and her pain
Eases, and your pain, and mine.
But the lie swings back again.
The lie works only as long as it takes to speak
And the girl runs only as far
As the napalm allows
Until her burning tendons and crackling
Muscles draw her up
into that final position
Burning bodies so perfectly assume. Nothing
Can change that; she is burned behind my eyes
And not your good love and not the rain-swept air
And not the jungle green
Pasture unfolding before us can deny it.
Elegy for Peter
That night we drank warm whiskey
in our parked car
beyond woods now lost to the suburbs,
I fell in love with you.
What waited was the war
like a bloody curtain,
and a righteous moment
when the lovely boy’s
spine was snapped,
then the long falling into hell.
But lately, you’ve been calling me
back through the years of bitter silence
to tell me of another river of blood
and of the highland’s
howl at dusk of human voices
blasted into ecstasy.
That night in sweet Lorain
we drank so long and hard
we raised ourselves
above the broken places,
mill fires burning
red against the sky. Why
is there is no end
to this unraveling.