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Friday, October 26, 2007


by Wayne Crawford

There has never been a Department of Creativity,
a Secretary of the Arts, a Narrative Surgeon General.
Never an empire dedicated to peace, a nation
unified by love. We’ve always lived in the After:
After the Department of Defense. After war budgets.
After war.
After the most powerful governments of this day
became the most prolific arms dealers of all time.

A steel door is a trick; A litter of Golden Retrievers,
eyes bright, tails wagging, scamper out. A raised deck,
plain-surfaced except for a half-dozen embedded shower
heads, a trap.

I’m watching a “Special Report” on chemical warfare.
These pups breathe the spray: tails stiffen, faces sink,
bodies tremble, one leg and then another collapses.
Bewilderment glazes their eyes during their thirty seconds
until death.

We could be next. The single-engine dustcropper we see
through our kitchen window circles low over our homes
at 7:00 a.m. We could be dead before the eight o'clock news.
Or we could sit on our east-facing patio while morning
warms us, our coffee steams, and our creamy Danish
sugars our appetite for another day.

Our current leaders approve so large a war budget, they
threaten to bleed dry domestic programs that pump
our economy with human resources. Maybe: They are
drawing up a list of our first born, our most famous, our
intellectual leaders, scientists. They already ban poets
from the White House unless they promise to speak well
of the president’s policies, or not at all.

I read that we are enemies of their holy war--their war
against us, whose lives are less valued than oil fields, landfills,
the quarter acre on a nowhere cul de sac to be
developed by a sleezy investor, who will, like strip miners
of the past, turn land into dead holes, leave a mess no one
can redeem, and move on, pockets full of paper on which
is printed, “In God We Trust.”

Our leaders say, there are no innocents among us. We are
with them or we are wrong and must be silent. The only
true patriot is a capitalist pig. Everyone else: a sinner.

The carpenter aims his magnetic tool at a plaster
wall to locate its studs. I wish it were that easy for
archeologists to identify and unearth the road to peace,
but that road is buried deeper than memory, beneath
one civilization after another that reigned and waned.

We can’t return to the infancy of Cain and Abel:
Before there were marked men. Before we needed gurus
to tell us peace was within ourselves. Before
governments determined who would live in peace, hired
and holstered citizens as peace officers because there was
no peace without them. Hired and holstered citizens
to soldier because there was fear and insecurity without them.

It’s normal to burn forests, flood land, claim what is ours
for ourselves and what is others for ourselves too. Genocide
is our most recurrent activity. It is normal, military capabilities
that, in seconds, can kill yellow labs, destroy green crops,
ignite natural disasters one hundred times worse than Katrina,
rocket Earth into a black hole. It is normal
when you live in the After. In the aftermath,
there are no never-neverlands.

Sitting on the patio this evening is almost perfect, cool
autumn, slight breeze, no mosquitoes, fish playing
in their pond, hummingbirds on Honeysuckle blooms,
butterflies on Zinnias.

I wrote checks this afternoon for my estimated taxes,
one for the state, another for the U.S. Treasury. I no longer
credit peace as a possibility. Mornings, before I eat my sweet
Danish with my designer coffee, sitting in my chair
at my table on my patio, my plate is half-
filled with sugar, half with greed.

Wayne Crawford manages the online literary journal, Lunarosity, and is co-managing editor of Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders, an annual anthology of New Mexico writers and others in that region. His work has appeared in New Verse News before, as well as in Mannequin Envy, Shampoo, Motherbird, and many others. His latest publication, a book-length collection of poetry, Sugar Trail, was released in September 2007. Sugar Trail can be purchased (and exerpts read) at