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Tuesday, September 13, 2005


by Michele F. Cooper


The radio's too loud, static
and explosions at 6 and 11,
counting the losses at midnight,
approval ratings up and down
the body politic, e-mails blinking
till the message leaks all over
and no excuse for not knowing.

It didn't used to be this way;
we chose our enemies from lists,
marked our territory,
our bills, budgets, and bunglings,
warning our moms to watch out,
our sisters, our children,
as the smiling trumpets passed,
the floats, the long batons.

You think it's only the Jews
in long beards and yarmulkes,
Islams looking out
from under their folded scarves
with daggers to their heads
and midriffs?

We're sleeping with enemies
in our mortgaged homes;
uncles and brothers leave
the table sulking, plates half full
with franks and slaw;
they could kill us for saying no.


The bunting, the uniforms,
gold buttons saluting the crowds,
fire-cracking rifles scaring the kids,
fragments of red and blue alerts
racing from brass to brass,

drums and trumpets puncturing
the good will of pacifists
as their families form committees,
inform and reform arrangements
with grandmas and school pals
for the cellar cot or second couch;
the trial's coming in four days,
news clips on treason still playing out
over black light and sickly green
though it's only for now, they say,
while the war's on.

Michele F. Cooper is the first-place winner in the 2002 TallGrass Poetry Competition, second-place winner in the 1999 Galway Kinnell Poetry Competition, a finalist in the 2004 War Poetry Competition; she has won honorable mentions in the 2003 Emily Dickinson Poetry Competition, the 2003 New Millennium Awards, and the 1999 Sacramento Poetry Competition. Her poetry and poetic prose have appeared in many journals including Larcom, Fiction International, Paumanok Review, Pedestal Magazine, R.I. Women Speak American Writing, Nedge, CQ, Faultline, Online Poetry and Story, and in a chapbook, Women on Women. She is the author of two books, founding editor of the Newport Review and Crone’s Nest, and of a chapbook series. She lives on a horse farm (not hers) in Portsmouth, RI.