There are only pictures of departure:
boys in clean white suits
starched into sameness,
pressed patterns of swirling brown
and tan to protect them. The pictures
are posed and perfect, their smiles
are starched too. Their salutes
neat and practiced, they are together
in clean, ordered rows, or kissing
girls, or standing alone, solemn
and incredibly young.
We know in numbers what becomes
of these boys: 12 killed in Afghanistan skirmish 9 lost to friendly fire 33,082 dead in Iraq
But the numbers are shells
without eyes, without birthmarks;
they are figures missing a mother,
absent of a face or fingers.
They are boxes that can’t be opened,
names painted on plaques.
Their homecoming is quiet, those that knew
them say little. There is no Latin
phrase, no cursive script. Poems
are written, women weep.
No photographs are taken.
In a room with vaulted ceilings
high windows, and light streaming through
I am alone with a pad and a pen, and I
am silent. I close my eyes, allowing
my pen to hear the sounds about me.
At first, I hear only the rustle of my
moving arms, the wind blowing through
the cracks in the window panes. At first
all I hear is this solid Winter in Maine, that
surrounds us with that muffled roar, with
that chill that burns our throats, that sears
to the bone.
Then, eyes closed, ears closed, heart and mind
pouring open, I hear a young child’s voice.
He is wearing a long, torn, red shirt, dusty
with the sand that has blown up against it, his
hair straggly, or cut short to his head, his eyes
wide, his stomach bloated from hunger. My pen
weeps for this boy, watching from the bushes
as men in many coats and grasping souvenirs,
trinkets, children’s toys, young girls,
line his family up, and behead them, one by one.
My pen grieves, and the blood of that boy’s family
runs from it, and the paper drinks it up
transports it from heart to mind to pen to paper
to memory, to family, to community, to world,
until the world has grasped it, and blown it
out and around, shared its flame, shared this boy’s
pain, until we all bear upon our shoulders the grief
the pain, the blood
which pools about his feet.
What the world needs most
it does not have.
It needs world peace.
They shoot bombs but they need
to shoot world peace.
They shoot the sun so the world
will shine. They need luck
so the Peace Maker wins.
It takes time for peace to spread
in your heart. It is like
making a sandwich. The moonlight
is Peace’s best friend.
The plants are Peace’s family.
Peace sits like soup in a bowl.
Poetry is what every heart needs.