While I was Gone a War Began

While I was gone a war began.
Every day I asked friends in Rome
to translate the news.
It seems I saw this story
in a Hollywood movie…

…Remembering Revelation I wanted to laugh,
the way a nonbeliever remembers Sunday School
and laughs, which is to say
after flood and rains,
drought and despair,
abrupt invasions,
disease and famine everywhere,
we’re still left dumbfounded
at the persistence of fiction.

While I was gone
continents exploded–
the Congo, Ireland,
Mexico to name a few places…

“What good have all the great writers done?”
an Italian dissident asked, as if
this new war were my personal charge.
“What good your poems,
your good intentions,
your thoughts and words
all for the common good?
What lives have they saved?
What mouths do they feed?
What good is your blue passport
when your American plane blows up?”
the Italian dissident asked in a rage.
“Forced out of his country
the poor African selling trinkets in Italy,
does not hesitate to kill other blacks
not of his tribe.
What is the bad guy? Who is the last racist?
Who colonizes in the twenty-ifrst century best:
the Mexican official over the Indian
or the gringo ranchero over the Mexican illegal…”

–excerpts, 1998, Chicago.
“I ASK THE IMPOSSIBLE” poems (Anchor Books, NY; 2001)

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