A series of poems on peace, by Dean Blehert
Lying in Bed One Morning Before the War
This reminds me of the ludicrous account he gave Mr. Langton
of the despicable state of a young gentleman of good family.
"Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about
town shooting cats." And then in a sort of kindly reverie,
he bethought himself of his own favorite cat, and said, "But,
Hodge shan't be shot: no, no, Hodge shall not be shot."
the Life of Samuel Johnson
If this house were bombed now --
but it won't be; that only happens
to people far away who live in
ugly stone and mud-brick houses
and don't own much or enjoy life anyway...
but if it were bombed, I wouldn't like it
(if I had time, before I died, to notice).
It would ruin the house, the resale value
would plunge, the trees would be burnt stumps,
the lawn all muck, rags, broken bricks and teeth;
my wristwatch on the dresser...the dresser,
all my socks, my underwear, my shoes in a row;
in the corner, the blue bag of clothes to be washed,
never to be washed...and, on that chair,
my pants with my wallet -- Ohmygod, my credit cards,
dollars, IDs, photos! And downstairs, a room full of
poems hardly anyone has ever seen...
all our dishes, chairs, couches, rugs, books --
not my books! -- floors, walls with paintings --
Christ, the TV, the computer, ALL MY FUCKING
EMAIL ADDRESSES LOST (NOT AGAIN)! The study
with my passport, my tax records, shit, all our
neatly bundled tax records and what about
the warranties for our appliances, what about
our insurance policies! And the kitchen -- that
untouched tiramisu from Trader Joes, the salmon steak,
all my vitamins, minerals, echinacea, aloe vera, blue-green
turned to molten glop! And the garage, my poor
shiny Camry (only 33,000 miles on it)!
But this is unthinkable. Who would do such a thing?
No one would. No one will. And we make sure of that
by making war elsewhere, never here. Anyone who has
as much as I have, so well owned, so full of me,
my finger smears, my smell, my thoughts, my
little ways of folding or not folding things, of being
in the middle of several books at once --
surely nothing can ever take all this
away from me. Surely my house and my things
will outlive me, and I will live for a very long time,
as long as my house and my things need me.
No, no, my good books, my sunny rooms, my long fingers,
my bright blue eyes, my teeth so well brushed and
flossed -- no, my dears, we shall not be bombed.
No, we shall not be bombed.
"Peace on earth, good will to men" --
so proclaimed the angels, we're told,
like most candidates for public office
ever since, and kept their word
just as well.
How is it at our craziest,
thrashing out in rage, screaming -
we feel so RIGHT?
It's sheer electricity,
like the edgy air during a summer storm,
almost a relief,
because what has been tormenting us,
demanding that we act out its obsession,
this ghost we've been wrestling with day and night,
this clenched fist in the forehead -
we've let go,
given it our own voice, body, knuckles,
blood - we've given it what it wants,
and even as we rage,
we are at peace,
riding the wave of our rightness toward
where mist and distance blur
the crash of foam on ragged rocks.
After love-making, we lie in each other's arms.
Beyond our walls it is not like this.
For example, in the oceans fish dance and mate,
but have no arms to lie in afterwards.
In the sky birds couple and convulse,
but wings cannot wrap and hold.
Beyond our bedroom walls
the world slumbers in unfinished peace.
Only we, entirely, are up
War is not always the wrong thing to do,
but it is always the wrong thing to have
(by acts of commission or omission)
gotten oneself into the position where
it is the right thing to do.
Urgent Message From the Dept. of Homeland Security:
What to do in case you are NOT attacked
1. Get a life.
In the living room we slump in soft chairs,
legs crossed. Not so upon the hard
throne because we plant our feet
slightly apart and stare ahead
with great solemnity,
for it is a serious thing to rule; throne
because while one is on it, one's worst
is hid from view; because no one
approaches without awkward ceremony;
because for all the apparent dignity,
envy prowls the outer halls, and one is apt
to be unseated, ousted, swept away
in disgrace, hurriedly buttoning and buckling.
But there is no peace
like the peace of a secure throne.
Here one can reflect, hold audience
for imaginary minions, spare
the tiny bug on the tiled floor,
and retinally rearrange those tiles
in new patterns.
If the toilet had arms, one could retire to it,
each man his own Lincoln Memorial
with pants bagging below the knees.
By Other Means
"War is diplomacy by other means" --
And peace is war by other means, I think:
Each pours his foe -- himself -- another drink;
And all our sullen silences, our scenes
Are only peace by other means. We tease
and beg and stroke our sadness into lust;
Our throbbing bodies do what bodies must,
Subsiding into separate sleep. Disease
Is lust by other means, and health is but
Disease by other means, and when health fails,
A polished, civil front can fill our sails:
politeness -- no, allow ME, please! -- is what
Excuses filling up with words each breath:
Diplomacy, by other means, is death.
This is a wretched world.
Some blame the Jews for everything.
Others blame God. To make peace
between these groups, others assert
that God is Jewish.
If Peace Talks fail,
we can have War Screams.
Bang Bang! You're dead!
Kiss Kiss! You're alive!
Rock of Ages
Perhaps this rock
stands still for millennia,
not because it lacks a will of its own,
but because it doesn't want to move.
Or perhaps it has not one will,
but trillions of tiny deathless
impulses, each trying to move the rock
its own way, each too obsessed
to communicate, to come to an
so that the rock is stymied,
a frozen explosion of random impulses,
When we become fixed in our old decisions,
too rigid to reach out, find each other,
and create new agreements,
we have wars.
After we have crushed each other down
in too many wars, we become small,
more fixated than ever, but very small.
What becomes of us then, I cannot say.
This rock stands still for millennia.
Why must we give this man,
who rejoices only in destruction,
so much joy?
On this dark plain,
sad am who sane.
War on Iraq--
serves 'em right, using a "q"
without a "u"!
The Medium is the Mess
Next war, we won't have to put up
with repetitive news "flashes" and hours
of "background". Those who can afford it
will buy direct satellite links, each
to his or her own assigned soldier,
wired for sight, sound, emotion....
The less affluent will be linked to
quartermaster clerks and aides.
We will be able to follow the progress
of the war (from our limited viewpoints)
minute by minute. Greedily we'll exchange
our dope. We'll know the boredom,
the tragedy: "Joe, is it true,
did your number come up last night?"
"Yes...yes." "Was it..." "I can't
talk about it yet." "Did you stay with it
to the end." "Yes." "Good man."
War is evil, we say, for those we kill
could be our own parents, children,
brothers, sisters, lovers. No wonder
we have wars: A legal way to kill off
all our nearest, dearest enemies.
In pro and anti-war rhetoric
we drown: GLIB GLIB GLIB...
This war is like no other we've fought:
Different people are killing
We are now engaged in a contest
to out-destroy another's destruction--
what did we fail to create?
Wanting to do something about the war,
I enjoy the sunset.
We are such a big country
in such a small world.
The shriek of Araby.
Mid-East philosophical argument:
"Is real!" "Is not real!"
Why do we blow people up?
Wouldn't it be simpler
not to have babies?
Maybe we've made it too hard for you.
"Thou shalt not kill"--after all,
there's self-defense, war, following
orders. It's too broad, too complicated.
We'll make it simpler. How about,
"Thou shalt not round up families
and herd them into fake shower houses
and gas them"? Or "Thou shalt not
rape and mutilate small children"?
OK, so you rob a little, kill a little,
but leave the kids alone. What?
Well, yes, brats can be annoying.
Look, how about, "Thou shalt not
blow up or poison the entire planet"?
Well, of course, you can't always
help what you do. How about...
War is a mess. You get a mess
when you don't pick up after yourself.
Once you have a mess, you can't
avoid a mess. You can only clean it up.
But that, too, may be a war,
for it's a mess to clean up
a mess that's been left too long.
War happens because someone
has nothing better to do
and because others lack the vision
to suggest something better
that will be real to them.
So many songs about the misery of war--
We need to hear the joys of war,
so we can understand war
and stop doing it.
We yearn for a new Arab
of Good Feeling.
Now, when the news fills our eyes and ears
with ugliness, now we must create.
When it is over -- this wasting of dreams --
more than ever,
they will need dreams.
War, no time for gentle poems:
Hello, Iraq; Hi, Ku-
Gulf war, positive leadership,
nostalgia for the leadership crisis.
So much concern for the world our children
will live in, yet so pitiless
toward our ancestors! If only we cared,
we could remake the past, give our grandparents
a wonderful world to have lived in.
We could decide that Hitler,
in his fondness for Jewish children,
invited them to his palace for ice cream
and cookies and puppet shows; that the
Russian nobles said to Lenin, "I know what!
Let's play everyone-owns-everything!
All this wealth is such a bore!"
We can decide anything we want--
and make it so. Let's decide something
nice. We owe it to our parents.
One day perhaps our children will give us
an even better world to have lived in.
Bombing a city for peace, destroying a cult to save its children...
- When ends justify the mean,
the means just defy the end.
Some fear "peace in our time", preferring
war's chance of glory, eager to buy
epic in epoch.
Since the towers collapsed,
no one understands my words,"
said a man of peace
The New Clear Bomb
I just invented it: You drop it
on a mile-wide, mile-deep crater
in the desert. The cloud
will be ten miles high and phallic,
but don't look right at it
or you'll be able to see forever.
When the dust clears,
where had been a crater
will be a bustling city
with old women bent double
over garden patches
and vacant lots
with secret tree houses.
The tortured, the torturers...
it's even sadder than you think:
They were ALL good people.
We have to kill more people.
Otherwise it will be just murder
and not History.
Old newsreels: Wars, depression,
insanity -- but that's the past,
when flickering grey-white people
filled the streets with the quick
jerky motion of insects.
Reading of battles, thousands butchered,
I think, "Why can't we just talk?"
Listening to some poets reading poems,
I think the same thing.
Wars are based on a dubious principle:
Do be us; don't be them.
The bank robber yells, "Freeze!"
and everyone turns to stone,
no sweat, so how come I can't
go out on the street, yell "Melt!"
and have all the stony people
If the planet
Were about to blow up, these trees
Would sway as gently.
A planet is saved by lots of people
discovering that everyone else is as
interesting as we each wish someone else
knew we were.
We scrape by, day after day,
never knowing where our next
planet is coming from.
No history book tells of men waiting
in waiting rooms, because it is not seen
that they make things happen, nor
do they, but THEY happen, or rather,
when enough men have waited long enough,
there occur the explosions we call History.
"So all day we sang songs of peace
and protest." Peace and protest?
War and contentment?
The meek shall inherit
the national debt.
The meek shall inherit the earth.
The strong know they can do better.
Relax. Don't worry about a thing.
You're safe here in a meat body
on a stockyards planet where
the leaders are the ones
who wear the loudest bells
and are first on the ramp.
Why do we busy ourselves
with this clever chitchat while yet
there's a planet to blow up?
They get along beautifully,
except when his dead father
gets into savage fights
with her dead mother.
People would love one another if they
realized how much they love one another.
I don't know why I get so furious
with my government. It does dumb things,
but even my best friend makes a mess
on the rug once in a while, & a dog
is much smarter than a government.
But I wish my government were as cute
Fear those who love their neighbors
as themselves and hate
Lately there's talk of anti-Semitism
in America. Maybe I'll get to be a
"Stop explaining and explaining,"
says the earth, running its wind
through its leaves -- "Just hold me tight,
you fool, and tell me you love me!"
Here and there bombs and bullets
make abrupt changes in people's plans,
but overall the main thing happening
is still the weather and a few good
Babel is a metal tower, tapering to a point,
but incomplete: just a steel skeleton.
Men erected it to keep in touch. It
touches the sky and babbles in every
language known to man bad news and lies.
In the movie people were kicked,
slashed and shot. I didn't feel
Soldiers falling down in a field.
Do they turn back into men
just before they hit the earth?
We sit in our living room
feeling safe, though our house
is out on the street after dark.
"The incident," says the newscaster,
"was almost a repetition of the
terrorist attack earlier this year
when four people were killed." But
they killed different people this time.
Good guys and bad guys are corny.
Real life is just a lot of people
caught up in something bigger
than themselves. At least that's what
the bad guys would like the good guys
You've heard about the man
hoeing his garden, who, when told
that the world was about to end,
heard and understood, but went on
hoeing his garden with undiminished
interest. It was perhaps not mentioned
that because he did this,
the world did not end.
The faces of enemy soldiers
(under funny helmets) could be
our faces. We fire, hoping to shatter
the mirror, but no glass breaks, only
shattered eyes and lips mirror still
If you can't save me from myself,
could you at least set up talks?
World War: What a lot of peace
goes into it! To wage war on such a
scale, millions of people must agree
on each side, learn to work together,
rising above all petty differences,
to destroy each other.
I HOPE WE'RE FEELING BETTER NOW
"We" are bombing Serbia. Is it right?
It seems too easy. No one is bombing
our houses. The media show us terrible things
that Serbs are doing in Kossovo. I don't know
why we should trust the media. Many heads
can lie as well as one. But I believe them
this time. So we (or "we") must do something,
but what? What can I do but hope to have
the right opinion, sign the right Internet
petitions? What is this all about? Americans
proving to themselves that they are not helpless?
And the more we bomb, the more helpless we feel.
What we'd hoped to stop has only accelerated.
We can perhaps punish, and then we'll feel better.
Is that what we're doing? Looking for a way
to feel better? How did it come to this, the world's
most powerful nation with no option but to destroy?
THAT is helplessness. I could say things about
blood, rubble, children, those we kill, those we
fail to save, but I know nothing about that, just
what's on the news -- you've seen it too.
Our own children (this, too, in the news)
do terrible things to each other. We will stop that
too -- by banning trench coats (there, that feels
a little better!) and hiring more psychologists --
who've done so much for us already! While we're at it,
we could bring in Radovan Karadzic, an eminent Bosnian
psychiatrist whose patients (and this is fact,
not a feeble stab at surreal) included Milosevic
back in the days when he was susceptible
to depression. He's far more chipper now.
I don't know what to call it, this drugging
of the Oh-so-esteemed selves of our children --
something wholesome like "Mental Health" or
"Ethnic Cleansing." Did you know that "Mental
Health" was previously "Mental Hygiene" (a
cleanse)? After the mental hygienists in GERMany
had branched out into racial hygiene,
that word became unpopular -- so many of us
had turned out to be germs! -- so we settled
for "health." Anyway, maybe if we punish
the Serbs, we can pretend we are beyond
reproach. (We can leave our punishment
to our children.)
Here's a quiet neighborhood --
I can see it from my living room window.
None of us would commit ethnic cleansing or
racial health, though we might move to a
cleaner, whiter exurb. "We" are we. You know
the dirty word: "Taxpayers." That is something
we can do, pay taxes, we home-owners, stock-
holders and all that ("bourgeois fucks," says a
I know, who would certainly tell us what's right
if we didn't so richly deserve our wrongness) -- we
who for decades have been accused by every trendy
J'accuse-er of doing nothing to stop
this or that atrocity -- we can at least pay taxes
(though despite our urge to be among the angels,
no one has said, "Here, take MORE taxes from me
for this Holy Cause!"). Then we say to our government,
our paid civil servant, "Do something!"
So then we can say we are doing something,
that is what this is about, being able to say
we are doing something about it, being able
to say (and it's hard to talk). We should all --
more than 200,000,000 of us -- have a huge
ceremony, lined up in endless ranks and files
on the Arizona desert or waves of Dakota plain,
all chanting in unison, "Behold, WE have
done something about it -- at least
we are trying!" And thousands of TV pundits
and millions of African and Asian and European
intellectuals and radicals and bloated Somalian children
and tortured Guatemalan women and angry Afro-Americans
would kneel before us, singing hymns of gratitude:
"Thank you for trying, O good-hearted bourgeois fucks
of whom it will never be said that you let it happen,
though it is still happening, but that's not YOUR fault."
Then we could return home and tend our azaleas in peace
(but there are no children in our streets,
except in the ghettoes, where the children in the streets
are not children.)
When Smart Bombs Go Bad
I understand and share the outrage of those who condemn the
tragic bombings of buses, apartment complexes, the Chinese
embassy and other inappropriate targets in recent raids, but
I think it important that we try to understand these bombs,
not dismiss them as dumb or monstrous devices.
After all, for every smart bomb that goes astray and wipes
out women, children and old men, 100 bombs correctly wipe
out the uniformed husbands, sons and parents of those women,
children and old men.
And bombs that go bad are not BAD bombs. They are bombs that
got in with a bad crowd; bombs, typically, that didn't fit
in, so that all the other smarties picked on them; bombs that
had no other way to attract the attention they so desperately
needed; bombs that looked to US for guidance in all that turmoil
of gust and fog, but found themselves lost, alone, aimless;
bombs brought up on TV shows and movies full of random STUPID
violence, where ANY explosion is cheered as long as it's big
Remember, no matter what monstrous things these bombs have
done, they are not monsters...or if they are, they are OUR
monsters. We need to communicate with our bombs, understand
their needs and how rough it is for them in today's heavy
weather and high-speed, impersonal warfare. We must TALK to
our bombs. We must TEST our bombs early and often to detect
those with the potential for unsmart violence; get them counseling
BEFORE they go out of control.
But first we must learn to LOVE our bombs. If we want well-
educated bombs of which we can be proud, we must make the
world a secure and caring place for our bombs. Our bombs are
our future, and our future is the WORLD's future.
Laser Guidance Counselor
and Editor of Detonations
The End of the End of the World
I can imagine the cataclysm -- explosion, flood,
asteroid collision, implosion of the sun....
I can envision billions of bodies or no bodies,
an ashen globe or its ashen quadrillion fragments --
all that I can conceive of.
What I cannot imagine, in all that silence
(and any silence is an opportunity,
so this final silence must be
the opportunity to end all opportunities) --
what I cannot conceive of is the absence
of 10,000,000 poets -- the absence of even
a single poet -- to tell the absent us
in trillions of words, collectively,
how hard it is to speak at such a time,
but that now, after the end of the world,
more than ever, we must speak out;
no 10,000 or 10 billion e-mail messages
about gatherings of poets, ash to ash and
on the web, to mourn, to share, to celebrate
man's renewed commitment to survival, if only as
dispersed atoms and exotic rays in whirls
of dusty cosmic gas;
I can't conceive of no lyrical affirmations,
no acid condemnations of those to blame
(The System, corporate greed, philistines,
Arabs, Jews, Communists, Blacks, the press,
the administration, right-wing extremists,
liberals, environmentalists, men, etc.),
no fresh and powerful voices joining in,
no performance poets rapping out their rages,
brags and politically correct empathies,
no brilliant epiphanies to make us keenly aware
that we are all, everyone of us, cinders --
and perhaps that most of us deserve it,
and certainly only the poet could feel
the death of a whole world
in the crushing of an ant or the shadow
of a leaf's fall -- if only there were still
ants and leaves and sensitivity.
No, this is inconceivable, beyond silence;
it cannot be, this oxymoron: A catastrophe
without poets, the greatest conceivable catastrophe
without the greatest flowering, or at least vegetating,
of poets. It is inconceivable,
like a perfect God with zits, and therefore
impossible. Yes, thanks to poets,
the end of the world is impossible
Copyright © 2004 by Dean Blehert. All Rights Reserved