Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Poetry: Jim Harrison

Poem of War

The old rancher of seventy-nine years
said while branding and nutting young bulls
with the rank odor of burned hairs and flesh
in the air, the oil slippery red nuts
plopping into a galvanized bucket,
"this smells just like Guadalcanal."

* * *

The theocratic cowboy forgetting Viet Nam rides
into town on a red horse. He's praying to himself
not God, though the two are confused
in the heat of vengeance. The music
is the thump of derricks, the computerized
lynch mob geek dissonance. Clint Eastwood
whispers from an alley, "George, they
were only movies." Shock and Awe.
God is only on God's side. War prayers
swim in their tanks of pus like poisoned
frogs in algae laden ponds. The red horse
he rides is the horse of blasphemy. Jesus
leads a flower laden donkey across the Red Sea
in the other directions, his nose full of the stink
of corpses. Buddha and Mohammed offer
cool water from a palm's shade while young
men die in the rocket's red glare
and in the old men's hard puckered dreams
René Char asked, "Who stands on the gangplank
directing operations, the captain or the rats?"
Whitman said, "so many young throats
choked on their own blood." God says nothing.

-- Jim Harrison February 13, 2003

(Published at Poets Against the War.)


Anonymous Henry Lawson Poems said...

Very visceral poetry, very flowing and rhythmic, well done.

4:52 PM  

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