I wrote this poem last summer, revised it for a reading this spring, and want to keep it on my blog for when I gather poems for my next compilation.
Here it comes again,
this poem I cannot complete,
cannot stop writing.
I am Lady Macbeth
and my hands are stained
with the blood of thousands,
yet I cannot stop my killing.
I am caught in the calculus:
How many chortling wrens
does it take to bomb a hospital?
How many of those fine heirloom tomatoes–
the Golden Girls, the Red and Green Zebras,
the Mr. Slabaughs and the Brandywines?
How many of them are required
to blow up a school
where refugees huddle?
Most days I hear my ancestors humming,
beginning their songs in the hallways of my heart,
lining the spiraling stairways of my DNA.
They accepted death by fire and water,
they received iron bars and stone towers,
they faced the sword,
rather than give their children and their gold,
rather than offer to Caesar
what they believed
did not belong to Caesar
(or to Mars, perhaps,
what did not belong to Mars).
I lack the moral fortitude
to hold back my yearly tithe,
and face the consequence of that.
Instead, I wake in the night
and calculate the costs
of all my killings.
When Caesar receives my birdsong,
my tomatoes and my blue-eyed chicory,
one full fourth of that
is funneled to the war machine.
Every fourth stone,
every fourth feather,
every fourth sunrise
bright over the hill,
every fourth chicken egg
warm from the nest
is feeding the birth of a drone
or a bomb or a rocket,
filling the ravenous belly
of the god of war.
All my murder leaves a trail.
The drones that drop their bombs
on the children of Pakistan today
come from this war-machine
that feeds off my quiet hollow,
my singing stream,
my tiny fledging hummingbirds,
my royal poplar and my sycamore.
the singing of my ancestors
I hear the pounding of cannon
and see the dust rising,
even here in this place
where sunlight flashes on birdwing.