THE WARTIME ISSUE
VOLUME SEVEN, NUMBER TWO
Guest Editor: Sarah Browning
As I write this introduction, we
are marking the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Three
years ago, the war seemed to many of us not just illegal and immoral,
but colossally bad policy, one that would increase the animosity toward
our country around the world, while breeding hatred and violence and
despair – in Iraq and here at home.
There is no comfort in having been right.
Over 2,000 U.S. families have lost their
beloved daughters and sons. Tens of thousands of U.S. service members
have been maimed and damaged in ways that will affect us all for years
to come. Even more appallingly, our government's actions have torn apart
the country of Iraq, killing countless Iraqis, destroying whole cities,
pitting neighbor against neighbor.
Cindy Sheehan, who has lost her only
son to this madness, eloquently asks our president why. What is the
noble cause that killed her son? How can we keep on feeding our daughters
and sons into the flames? Who benefits?
The most obvious answer to that question
is the war profiteers, the Halliburtons, the oil companies. But it seems
to me that the Bush administration's primary goal is to create a state
of perpetual war, and that by doing so they hope to silence the opposition,
to keep the American people in a state of constant fear and anxiety,
so we will continue to elect "strong leaders," so we will
acquiesce to the gradual loss of our liberties, to the erosion of our
common wealth as a people, so that we will give up our dreams and our
ideals, so that we will come to wonder how we could have been so na´ve
as to believe that we could someday live in a true democracy, with real
equality, a society built on compassion and—yes—love.
Thankfully, the poets refuse to acquiesce.
When the politicians are compliant and the press is distracted by the
next sparkly thing, the poets continue to believe, to speak out and
to say no to fear. They are na´ve and hopeful and true. Even in
their despair and their outrage, they call us, as Melissa
Tuckey does in her poem, "Forsythia Winter,"
to "go ahead, open your hand."
The poems here tell stories –"of
loss and of connection despite the anguish. "A part of us vanishes
each day," writes Adam
Chiles in "Tucson Elegy." "We suffer another
missed touch," Venus
Thrash tells us in her poem, "Ritual." The poems
won't let us forget.
When the war is, as Reginald
Dwayne Betts's "A Conversation" says, "tucked
into the back pages of the paper," the poems remind us of the atrocities
our own sisters and brothers are committing in our name. Linda
Pastan asks what we are capable of. The poems answer, in
sorrow: almost anything.
I received over 350 poems for this issue
and I am deeply grateful to all the poets who sent work, who keep writing
and witnessing and testifying, despite the odds, despite the despair.
Their words challenged me and comforted me. Making choices was brutally
hard, but I was so glad that I had to, that large numbers of poets have
refused compliance and silence.
I am deeply grateful to the incomparable
Kim Roberts for inviting me to be the guest editor for this special
issue of Beltway. Kim held my hand and supported and encouraged
me throughout this process. I thank you, Kim. Special thanks also to
Miller, my personal cheering section; to the extraordinary
poet-activists in D.C. Poets Against the War, too numerous to name here,
without whom I would still be scribbling in solitude; to Andy Shallal
and Busboys & Poets, for believing in the importance of our work
and providing such a spectacular venue for our words; to Martha Richards
and The Fund for Women Artists; and to my patient and supportive family,
Tom and Ben. They are the light that keeps me burning.
So go ahead, open your hand. May the
poems, as Yael
Flusberg writes of the boulders outside the new Museum
of the American Indian, "help us survive this season/of short sight."
To read more by this author:
The Whitman Issue
Intro to The Wartime Issue: Vol. 7, No. 2, Spring 2006
DC Places Issue
Split This Rock Issue
10th Anniversary Issue
on DC Poets Against the War: Literary Organizations Issue
Sarah Browning: Langston Hughes Tribute
Sarah Browning: Floricanto Issue
Sarah Browning on Lucille Clifton: Poetic Ancestors Issue
I. A Part of Us Vanishes Each Day
Blaskey: "A Marine Comes to Tell Her What She Already Knows"
Clute: "Less Than a Moment"
"Angry Mother’s Son"
"Dying Is Different Than I Thought It Would Be"
Henderson: "Military Portraits"
II. What We Are Capable Of
Pastan: "What We Are Capable Of"
"My Jesus" and "Haiku for the Head Locked"
Berger: "For Botero, Who Looked at What I Could Not"
Rocky Delaplane: "I Confess"
"What do the dancing white birds say looking down upon burnt
Ambroggio: "El peso de los cuerpos" and "The
Weight of the Bodies"
W. Luther Jett:
"To the Captors of Tom Fox on December 13, 2005"
III. I'll Fight My Heart
Wormwood: "Mea Culpa"
Winslow: "Morning Routine"
Miller: "These Seinfeld days when nothing happens except
I love you"
"In These Times"
IV. Through the Looking Glass
Wise: "Of Gods and Clowns"
"Field of Operations"
"Still Life w/President, Wreath, and Unknown Soldier"
F. Rutkowski: "Metal"
"When is War Going to Stop?"
"making a killing"
"When the Terrorists Get Creative"
"Through the Looking Glass in Iraq"
Betts: "a conversation"
V. Go Ahead, Open Your Hand
Tuckey: "Forsythia Winter"
"Relocated Boulders Bless the Grounds of the National Museum
of the American ..........Indian,
Autumn Equinox, 2004 "
"The War From This Side of the Anacostia River"
"For the Monument Custodian"
"Walking with William Blake Near Capitol Hill, D.C."
"home is where the war is"
"Be All That You Can Be Haiku" and "Mom Haiku"
"War Bird: A Journal"