Collected Poems On War And Peace
by
William Marr


Presented here are a collection of poems dealing with war and peace, and other human conditions.
Some are translations of poems originally written in Chinese.


a white joke
on the blue sky
occupied by fighter jets

-- from "A Dove"

Contents

(Click on any divider between poems to return here.)

Inspection
Television
Message of Spring
A Dove
Still Life
Heaven And Earth
On the Treacherous Night Sea
War Arithmetic
African Boy
Extraterrestrials
Hawkers
Memorial Day
Vietnam War Memorial
Dialogue
Berlin Wall Peddlers
Superbowl
Missing
A Birthday Song
Can't We All Get Along?
Croatian Funeral
Bosnian Winter
An Idle Bugle
Abortive Gestures
Silence
On Rabin's Assassination
A Stray Bullet
911
Bridge



Inspection

The cloudy sky, turned away
by the sunglasses on the reviewing stand
falls heavily on our faces

The final war has ended
so we now march toward the first

(1971)



Television

The world
is easily
switched off

yet not quite

A spark of hatred
from the dimming screen
suddenly burst into flames
soon spreading
over Vietnam
over the Middle East
over every feverish face

(1972)




Message of Spring

Someone is peddling peace on the streets
in an unseasonal spring

The last flock of bombers have sown their seeds
and gone
now it's time for frozen hopes
to sprout

(1973)



A Dove

coo coo coo coo coo coo

a white joke
on the blue sky
occupied by fighter jets

(1973)




Still Life

the bird
and the gun

stare at
each other

see who's
the first
to blink

(1973)




Heaven and Earth

In order to shoot
an invading bird
they define an air space
with searchlights

In order to shoot
a fleeing compatriot
they erect a paradise on earth
with tall walls

(1976)




On the Treacherous Night Sea

a broken refugee boat appears
like a ghost
on the tired sleepless eyelids
jolting and rolling
toward the ever-narrowing harbor
of humanity
toward the shore
where the lights die out
one after another

(1979)




War Arithmetic

Both sides claim
numerous enemies have been killed
Both sides declare
we've suffered no losses

Nobody understands
the arithmetic of war
Only the fallen
know the number

(1982)




African Boy

day and night
a monstrous stomach
wriggles in his bloated belly

Sucking up
the unblossomed laughter
sucking up
the teardrops that moisten a mother's heart
sucking up
the meager flesh under his wrinkled skin
sucking up
the indifference in his eyes
and eventually sucking up
from his open mouth a ghastly cry
which we take for soundless
but is in fact at a pitch
well beyond the limit
of our comprehension

(1984)




Extraterrestrials

the evening newscast
is swarming with images
of extraterrestrials

Protruding foreheads
dark and skinny
and big eyes
staring straight out
from sunken sockets

What?
starving Africans?
no wonder they look
so familiar

(1984)




Hawkers

constantly hawking fighter-bombers and tanks
to the open-mouthed crowd crying out for bread

in the fields tilled with caterpillar treads
bombs are the only fast-growing crops

soon after the bloom
the reaping

(1984)




Memorial Day

At Arlington, someone
Unknown goes down

The thousands, the thousands
Who have gone down in faraway fields
But who won't die in the heart --
How do we bury
The thousands

(1984)




Vietnam War Memorial

A block of marble
and twenty six letters of the alphabet
present so many young names
to history

Wandering alone
an old woman has at last found her only child
amid the mass grave
and with her eyes tightly shut
she feels for the mortal wound
with her trembling fingers
on his ice-cold forehead


(1985)




Dialogue

What are you running away from, old woman?
ARMY
what kind of army? red army or white army?
ARMY

What are you hiding from, young mother?
BOMBS
where are the bombs from? east or west?
BOMBS

What are you crying about, little girl?
BLOOD
whose blood? human or animal?
BLOOD


(1985)




Berlin Wall Peddlers

History on sale
One chunk for only twenty dollars

Look at this one
it's full of bullet holes
this one is stained with deserters' blood
and see these two dark holes
they were burned by an anxious gaze
the remains of cold war on this one
still make you tremble
and what we have here
are the dancing footprints of the youth
and the shouting and clapping
when a heavy chain tore it down

Our supply is abundant
after the Berlin Wall
we'll tear down the walls
between
the rich and the poor
the fortunate and the unfortunate
the oppressors and the oppressed

and of course we always have
the inexhaustible walls
between the hearts
of indifference


(1989)




Superbowl

sunday afternoon without any ball game
most of the faces in this country
will be as dark as the TV screens

so the smart producers pull out
bombers missiles tanks and cannons
to light up every screen
splendid as the night sky
on the fourth of July

satellite broadcasts
electronic games of war
war of electronic games
Superbowl
played in the desert
of the Middle East


(1991)




Missing

-- for all political prisoners in the world

a vacant space
refuses to be refilled
a bright spot
lingers in the eyes
as if entering a dark room

a green tree is rudely removed from the scenery
by the stroke of a paint brush
yet under the darkened colors
the uncompromising silhouette
remains


(1991)




A Birthday Song

-- for a dying Somali child

he wants to blow up with his last breath
the collapsing balloons
that hang listlessly
from his mother's chest
and watch them soar
high into the sky

on this birthday of his
on this deathday of his


(1992)




Can't We All Get Along?

No, we can't. If we continue
to be blinded by colors,
loving only our own
pale skins.

No, we can't. If our eardrums
are still muffled by biases,
echoing only distorted, hollow sounds.

No, we can't. If our faces
remain unpredictable as the weather ---
one minute there's laughter blooming among friends,
the next minute a wintry stare freezes up
a stranger's smile.

No, we can't. If we keep breeding hatred
in our narrow minds.
Showing fangs and flourishing claws,
the wild beasts are ever ready to pounce.


(1992)




Croatian Funeral

uninvited mourners
the Serbian shells
wail
from funeral
to funeral

death
after
death


(1993)




Bosnian Winter

Shielding an old man
from the streaming bullets
the dying tree
watches with pity
the dying man
chop down
a blackened limb
and drag it
into another ash cold
night


(1993)




An Idle Bugle

Holding its breath
a bugle stands in the shadow
of history
patiently waits
for the approach
of a pair of fiery lips

Triumphantly it will rise
to call up
the hunters and hounds
who will set out before dawn
shouting and barking
for a game
of rabbits
or
humans


(1994)




Abortive Gestures

He swings his sign
He shakes his fists
He raises his gun
He aims
He fires

These
He claims
Are unborn gestures
Of a fetus


(1994)




Silence

Many children born and raised in the warring Bosnia are so
traumatized that they lose the ability to speak. Ironically,
one of the Serbian leaders is said to be a poet.

 

when poetic language
is used
to ignite hatred
and bombs

it's time
to abandon words
syllables
and sounds


(1995)




On Rabin's Assassination

they must have convinced themselves
that God is dead

otherwise
how dare they point
to Him
for all
the devilish work


(1995)




A Stray Bullet

random flight
seeking a target

no permanent enemies
no permanent friends

look out
it's hissing
straight toward you


(2000)




911

we really didn't care much
the collapse of the Twin Towers
nor the Pentagon turning into a Tetragon
but when thousands of innocent lives
were agonizing in the flames
we frantically tried to dial for help
from Allah or whichever God

yet somehow we hesitated

there might not be anyone
on the other end


(2001)




Bridge

clasped together
intimate and tight

we really don't know
nor care
who was the first
to extend
his hand


(2002)





Copyright 2002 by William Marr. All rights reserved. Copying and reprinting are permitted
so long as credit is given and wording remains unchanged. Not to be sold in any form.



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