Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) flout
conventional war’s designs
if rationale can be deemed
a variety of conflict.
No matter how I strive to compose
images, phrases, the wistful metaphor
and rhyme of its experience, the war
resents its commission to paper.
Which war, I cannot be sure,
the one that occurs, bloody prevalent,
in lines of fire, lines of newsprint,
the reeling lines of this ominous verse
or the war in one’s inner midst
locating and then denying the place,
the war zone actually, of representation.
Empire. Empyreal. Unreal. Too real.
There were no plumes of permeating smoke
reminiscent of Dante’s third, fourth, or fifth
circles viewed top to bottom or vice-versa.
The reconnaissance missions and fire walls
make dubious triptychs of dread. Not Dürer,
not Bosch, the shudder and rush of
these and those aesthetic directives
and their counter-examples. I plead
the third, fourth, and fifth denial of fitness.
Rescue and retrieval. Of language. Of bodies
culled from a pit in Najaf, whichever side or skin.
Were the poem companionate to suffering
(conditionals crop up here as far off there),
and sometimes it can be, this manqué poem
would transfigure into a mark of grief,
a globe of witness, a precinct of patience
in a time of multiple upheavals. But it cannot.
Its apology is itself, a failed consideration
of its materials, an uncoordinated attack
on its own composition.
Would that failure be acknowledged
in another life, another light, another land
as a measure approaching grace.
As of now, the bullet points merely gloss
their subject, I make a run for it,
and resolution is a divine providence
not available to me. Certainly not this poem.
Perhaps not even to the divine. No, not even.
A keepsake forsaken is my souvenir
of this war. Of this poem.