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Friday, April 08, 2022


by Peter Neil Carroll

“Spectrum I” painting by Ellsworth Kelly (1953) San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and promised gift of Helen and Charles Schwab

War began as predicted, a vision of fire.
I pulled the blanket over my head, safe,
thousands of miles from personal tragedy.
Maybe I should send my blanket to the Red
Cross, they could forward it to a child in
Ukraine. Surely that’s the least I could do.
Not enough, though. Maybe tomorrow I will
purchase a box of soft diapers for a children’s
hospital in Kyiv or a can of condensed milk.
I saw a photo of a woman weeping in the street,
her arms bare, blood on her naked legs, shoeless.
Clothing. That’s what she needs, a little warmth.
Yes, I realize, the wounded need bandages, anti-
biotics, plain aspirin in an emergency. It’s okay
to send medical aid. They call it humanitarian.
I know there are many Doctors without Borders
already there, and volunteer cooks boiling soups,
and stews to nourish folks who have lost kitchens.
Those helpers are so brave, sincere, real menschen.
I should support them, too, but will money arrive
in time to save a country? Can I buy an ambulance?
Can I drive an ambulance? That’s a peaceful way
to help strangers trapped in a war. It would be good
for my conscience. But can one person matter?
What the soldiers who are fighting really want are
more weapons and ammunition or, better still, tanks
and rockets. They could use airplanes and bombs.
But stop there. They must be only old-fashioned bombs
built on TNT. Not atom bombs or hydrogen bombs
because that could kill too many people plus animals.
Where does it end? What is it the right thing to send,
to help someone in trouble? Or a whole country? As if
I could draw a red line on a spectrum or cross over it.

Peter Neil Carroll is currently Poetry Moderator of His latest collection of poetry is  Talking to Strangers (Turning Point Press). Forthcoming is This Land, These People: 50 States of the Nation, winner of the Prize Americana. Earlier titles include Something is Bound to Break and Fracking Dakota.  He is also the author of the memoir Keeping Time (Georgia).