When, against blue morning
those harriers pierced twin shells,
mingling blood and steel, fire and stone,
profaning heaven with their smoky issue;
when, in otherworldly blaze,
the slender, stricken towers
shrieked from sky to earth –
Into the assembled storm
plummeted the confusion of our century.
Did our children’s voices,
raised in morning song,
innocence faltering, set aswirl
atop a world so suddenly gone mad?
Would these shattered stones could rise,
would that severed souls rejoin healed bodies.
Then all would be just as it was before,
child-giant sweetly slumbering,
guns and rockets safely stowed,
Oh, that our world be ruled
by capricious, hateful gods,
immolation their sole ethic.
Easier to explain
into each others’ stricken eyes
the lunatic scourge goading our flanks.
Better this than recognize
a cold and distant logic
setting all to move,
this latest but a scene
page from an awful play,
antecedent atrocities pillaring the plot.
Above our ravaged cities
cheshired skulls of long-starved children loom;
these our rescuers cannot apprehend.
They float above us all, in every land,
emptied eyes that case us as we
once again repurpose into war.
From this bloody day
ugly rumors spew
journeying through our minds
bringing the unthinkable home.
Songs will be created, prayers recited;
streets will fill and empty and refill,
as each and everywhere our voices send
their brave, defiant messages aloft.
Who will sing for limitless, stilled voices,
unborn lives whose numbers swell
whenever brutal actions rule the day?
Thus, the blackness of our age,
serrated underedge of our existence,
slices back and forth across our hearts,
insisting we surrender to the pain
the rescuers stare down those vaporous fears,
the people rise and join them, hand on hand;
you and I will find the better way,
instruct our children,
catalog the stars,
smile at the unfolding of a flower,
grasp the ancient rhythms of the place.
Against the screams of hate and fear we pitch
the stronger, surer voices of our love
and speak and sing the creatures of the earth
and realize the beauty of our lives
until the smoke that crowns war’s tiny deeds
rises, mingling with the ageless clouds
and, at the insistence of the wind
fades beyond the bluer skies of peace.