THE WARTIME ISSUE

David Gewanter

 

WAR BIRD: A JOURNAL
                                           Poets' Anti-War Rally, 12 Feb. 2003

The massed and pillared wings of
the White House never fly—
.......whitewashed yearly, they stand
impervious

.......to metaphor,

to hawk and dove, and red armies
of ants. Only the halting squirrels
.......investigate, creeping past the arrowhead
gates to scratch

.......the Midas lawns

for treasure—On the street, commentators
wander like boys in a story too simple
.......to explain. The political message,
a hat

.......punched inside out:

once, the Nazis got word that Churchill
would visit Roosevelt "in Casa Blanca":
.......U-Boats bobbed near the Potomac,
waiting for him…

.......but Churchill,

as he said, was sailing to Morocco.
Reagan protesters splashed the Pentagon
.......walls daily with cow blood—
soldiers waxed

.......the plaster, and triremes

of rats licked the bloody grass;
the EPA sent health goons to stomp
.......them, and the pacifists, away—
Then rats stormed

.......the National Zoo:

urbane, patient inheritors of the earth,
they snapped prairie dogs like wishbones;
.......vigilante zookeepers laced the ground
with poison,

.......Carthage delenda est,

and killed the hippo. (Here, in the
New World Order, penguin and polar bear
.......soak up ozone, and Nation shall
beat them both

.......into ploughshares….)

Hawks and fat cats disdained
the White House squirrels, their proconsul
.......Chevy Suburban nosed us aside:
we spoke

.......against the war,

and for the cameras, spelled our names
on Chinese Radio—Elder poets shrewdly
.......loitered at the lobbiest bar,
read first,

.......then left us

to the falange of Secret Servicemen,
chatting like critics into their black
.......lapels at every bungled line:
this was no

.......singing school,

no falcon heard our crows and warbles…
Emily, our modest leader, rapped the gate:
......."Mrs. Bush wanted American poems—
I brought

.......3,000,

all against the war. Can you take them?"
Gulping, the pimply guard asked his shirt
.......for help; older hands hustled up,
"The Great Oz

.......cannot see you…" etc.

Will four and twenty blackbirds fill
a cowboy hat? Bunkered belowdecks,
.......the President goes for the burn,
racing the

.......cut tongue

of his treadmill to a dead heat.
Even Nixon met the enemy once,
.......strode with his staff into a red sea
of hippies—

.......they didn't part,

and he burbled about baseball…
from his desk, he liked to watch
.......the sightseers through a gap
in the hedges;

.......peaceniks

learned this and blocked his view,
stood there day and night for years:
.......Nixon, nightmare reality shanking
through his eyes,

.......knelt with Kissinger:

Henry, he moaned, what do they want?….
Days from now, how many days,
.......the Valentine "Woo at the Zoo" begins.
A hand-raised

.......falcon bows,

and shares meat with its master….
He bows in turn, and eats;
.......both softly whisper ee-chu,
ee-chu,

.......a duet

heard only on abstract and crumbling
cliffs—if a man were to stand or
.......sing there, he'd fall. The master
straps on a

.......a falcon feathered

courtesan's hat and turns away—
Flapping wildly, the falcon claws
.......the head-shape, squawking,
gyrating to

.......hold on,

imperial lunge and lunge,
biting at the skull it fed, as
.......semen slowly drips into a
rubber dam.

 

 

David Gewanter's poetry books are In the Belly and The Sleep of Reason (Chicago), and he is the co-editor of Robert Lowell: Collected Poems (FSG & Faber). Awards include a Hopwood, the Zacharis First Book Prize, Whiting Writer's Fellowship, Ambassador Book Award (English-Speaking Union), Witter Bynner Fellowship, and James Laughlin Prize (finalist). His new manuscript is entitled War Bird.

Published in Volume 7, Number 2, Spring 2006.

 

To read more work by this author:
David Gewanter
David Gewanter: Museum Issue