Friday, June 10, 2011

435. reflections upon the incidence of violence

My dear friend Dean didn’t have a daddy
because something happened one night
when his dad got home drunk once too often.
He’d been on the first wave at Normandy,
he'd seen most of his friends shot to pieces,
and so the images stayed with him; he drank,
he beat his wife. That night she had a shotgun,
and what the Nazis couldn’t kill, she sure could.

Well, there was my second cousin,
she was married to some farmer
out in Iowa, happy, three healthy kids,
yet he blew them all away. The cousin
ran out the back, she had just about
got away when he caught up with her,
blew her to bits, then killed himself.
Guys get upset, stands to reason.

We didn’t really talk about it much.
Jack’s eldest son, Tim, was out in Iraq,
and he got himself blown to bits, too. Taking
the meaty fragments out of the sealed coffin,
Jack laid them reverently on the front lawn
and called in the neighbors. Barbecued
hamburgers, beer, fruit juice for the kids,
Stars and Stripes up on the flagpole.

Some party pooper called in the FBI;
they arrived in their big black SUVs,
their anoraks, their earplugs and shades.
Jack got himself arrested, they hauled
his ass into court, the media in total outrage.
They hit him up with some Federal Statute.
Judge, he said, I let the government take my son,
I was showing my friends how they sent him back.

Don’t know what they’re doing, most of the time,
these governments; just beneath that silky veneer
of competence, they lie. Not just sometimes, always.
When Paddy stepped off that transport at Tan Son Nhut
the first thing that hit him was the heat like a wave,
and the next was that awful overpowering smell:
they were burning, literally burning shit in barrels,
and he thought, O Christ, what the fff have I done?

No vaunted Green Card can be worth this, nor was it,
since, having survived that Asian madness, Paud left
God’s Own Country to God, but only if She wanted it,
and to the tossed salad of humans who lived there.
He felt no rancour nor regret. Like St. Paul before him,
he had shaken off the dust of the place from his sandals,
and had struck off down the road to different lands,
many of them in Asia. But none of them Vietnam.

We can walk away, as he walked away,
but I do not believe we can walk away forever.
I have seen the results of violence. And so have you.
Hating them (so we say) in the end we deal out the same.