Two Poems

The Root Causes Of War

I guess we’d been arguing in the plebiscite for hours as to what the root causes of the war were.  Although intelligent and scornful, we were getting nowhere.  Then, a small girl rose up among us, and began to speak.  Or maybe it was an old soldier, near death, rising on weak legs and supporting himself with a cane extended from the one arm he had left.  Or maybe it was a slave, grown wise through servitude, or perhaps it was one of the enemy, captured and tortured, or maybe it was a crone, or a mynah bird.  Whoever it was, our attention was compelled, and we all stopped for a moment and listened.

In the beginning
there was moonlight coming in an alley,
filling an empty paint can with its verb.

In the beginning a door opened
and out came the smell of dying winter.

In the beginning a telephone wire dipped
and rose with the landings and take-offs
of small inclinations.

Into all this came the absence of a man,
holding his not-being-there tightly against him.

This was all the forest needed to church.
This was all the ditch needed to lime.


Ode To The Nation State

As the nation we had belonged to was destroyed, things that had once seemed accomplished now needed to be done all over again.  Boundaries needed to be drawn, allegiances proposed, forged, and broken, kings elected and presidents crowned.  But first, before doing anything, we would need to compose a new national anthem so we could discover through its various interpretations who we are.  I came up with the following, the easy part, the words.  Now who would supply the melody?

If we were to rest a moment here, in this field
of ideas and dogs, we wouldn’t be able to sleep
without waking up hungry.

If we could paint the millions of souls
loosed from the wreckage of our orthodoxies
would parrots then land on the shoulders of scribes?

—Greg Grummer, Shorewood, WI