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Bio Note: Last month's poems focused on grandsons and I'm still besotted by them. November brings us Veteran's Day and as we move into greater darkness, I'm thinking of war and conflict. As an aside, I worked for many years in a public works department, a city's unsung responders. For more poems, visit triciaknoll.com.
The Day the War Ended
August 31, 2021 This morning thunder launches the black arthritic dog into an attempt to land on my mattress, but she’s too old, too sore. We’ve been at war for twenty years. Her nails scrape my wrists. I’m going to bruise. She whimpers. We’ve been at war for twenty years. No one will ever ask where were you when this war ended? Not like Kennedy or Martin Luther King Man on the moon, the twin towers. We’ve been hearing ice cream trucks, reading comics and horoscopes, celebrating Thanksgiving, voting or not being able to, combing the dog, learning to like tofu, and listening to quarrels about masks. August 31 came in Kabul on its own schedule. The last man walked the midnight tarmac, a Major General trapped in night-vision green. I get out of bed. Hot and humid – steamy for old people. The end-of-war parade left Humvee’s behind. Also helicopters. I rip out prickly buckthorn. The green general was ready to go home, board the last plane. TV announces new travel restrictions. Too many Americans without shots. A hurricane threatens the Gulf. The first drops of rain feel cool and good, then it’s an inch an hour. I remember New Orleans. They backfill water mains with oyster shells. Water pipes go through front yards. People plant trees over them and the wind snaps the trees, cracks the pipes. Public works employees clean up. No one knows if the Taliban pay those workers. Kabul’s airport is a mess. The last dead soldiers fly into Dover. Matthew Arnold described another Dover: And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night. Some parents don’t want to meet the President. Some do. War for twenty years – as many people to blame. The green man hoists his backpack. He’ll remember where he was. I pull invasives with thorns. Wearing gloves.
Naming of Parts
After Henry Reed Spring eased the almond blossoms open and promises of cherries while we named parts left over from winter. Collusion. Taking away, reducing, throwing in the trash legal widgets that keep the water pure, air open to the cherry’s pollen flight. We named parts with words round to our tongues, like emoluments, to see how that piece fit in the grooves of palaces and greens like golf courses. Lies are new lower swing swivel’s alternatives, the stock aiming. We call it a number, not a name. We watched tired armies of people whose papers dictate that they bolt backwards, locked. Riled bees assault the fumbling flowers and some too called that easing the spring. Assembled from parts, the barrel is loaded and pointed at every one of us. The sick. Disabled. Those who stumbled. Women mourning in too many dry cities to count. Children born to know only this. Whatever bitter cold silence ensues, whatever violence, these parts came forged as cocking-pieces, and the many words to name them buzzed over us diseasing the spring.
Originally published in New Verse News
Good Housekeeping reports the most popular novel the year of my birth, Miracle of the Bells, told a story about a second-rate actress who died while filming as Joan of Arc. One President sang Amazing Grace for the gun-down slaughter of people at a prayer meeting. Thousand-year rains submerged Baton Rouge and the state’s brown pelican icon tears her breast to feed three nestlings who never expected floods like this. Joan rode into the One Hundred Years War and burned at the stake. When our town’s arts commission re-gilded her statue in the roundabout, no reporter counted up how many years we have been at war, just as no one asks for whom the bombed bells broke.
Originally published in Columbia Journal
©2021 Tricia Knoll
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