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Deadline -- Barbara Kingsolver

Guest poem sent in by Sashidhar Dandamudi
(Poem #1212) Deadline
 The night before war begins, and you are still here.
 You can stand in a breathless cold
 ocean of candles, a thousand issues of your same face
 rubbed white from below by clear waxed light.
 A vigil. You are wondering what it is
 you can hold a candle to.

 You have a daughter. Her cheeks curve
 like aspects of the Mohammed's perfect pear.
 She is three. Too young for candles but
 you are here, this is war.
 Flames covet the gold-sparked ends of her hair,
 her nylon parka laughing in color,
 inflammable. It has taken your whole self
 to bring her undamaged to this moment,
 and waiting in the desert at this moment
 is a bomb that flings gasoline in a liquid sheet,
 a laundress's snap overhead, wide as the ancient Tigris,
 and ignites as it descends.

 The polls have sung their opera of assent: the land
 wants war. But here is another America,
 candle-throated, sure as tide.
 Whoever you are, you are also this granite anger.
 In history you will be the vigilant dead
 who stood in front of every war with old hearts
 in your pockets, stood on the carcass of hope
 listening for the thunder of its feathers.

 The desert is diamond ice and only stars above us here
 and elsewhere, a thousand issues of a clear waxed star,
 a holocaust of heaven
 and somewhere, a way out.
-- Barbara Kingsolver
           January 15, 1991

Keeping with yesterday's Owen's submission, I add two more cents to the
gory word heap. Kingsolver, better known for her essays, captures the
landscape of the impending Gulf War perfectly. Since folks are back at
it again: same place, almost same time, same villains and same heroes,
only this time with "smart" bombs, perhaps smarter than those that

     "...gasoline in a liquid sheet,
      a laundress's snap overhead, wide as the ancient Tigris,
      and ignites as it descends."

These lines bring up image of Kim Phuc, and her photograph as a little girl,
her clothes seared from her body by a Napalm bomb, running screaming from her
burning village, arms are outstretched in terror and pain. This in Vietnam.

Then the last two lines, "a holocaust of heaven/and somewhere, a way out."
resonate strongly with Bob Dylan's "All along the Watchtower":

    "There must be some way out of here," said the joker to the thief,
    "There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief.
    Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
    None of them along the line know what any of it is worth."

If poets are "jokers", whose duty, as Lucille Clifton at a poetry reading here
said is "to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable.", then I
think this poem does that very well.

There must be some way out of here... to peace!



Kingsolver's Web Page

Bob Dylan's lyric

Nick Ut's Pulitzer Prize winning photo of the girl

71 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Aamir Ansari said...

Great poem. Thank you for this one!

By the way, an idea what Muhammad's perfect pear is meant to refer to?


Cheryl T. Hornyan said...

Did you find out what "Muhammad's perfect pear" refers to?

Inversiones en oro said...

Excellent poem, good job.

Invertir en oro said...

I really liked this poem, i love to read poems.

Inversiones en petroleo said...

Hello, i would like to read more poems like this.

Cheap Viagra Online said...

I wrote this poem for my grandma, she's in heaven right now. I hope you like it because it wasn't my hand ... it was my heart behind a pen...

What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
We also had sex together dear lady
We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
making dirty things behind that tree
We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our prides, we sheet our dead.
We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of a year

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