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Author: Charles M. Boyer
Location: Massachusetts

Charles M. Boyer has an M.A. in Fiction from the University of New Hampshire and has received a writing grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board and an Artist's Fellowship from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. He has published short stories and poetry in such magazines as Cream City Review, The New Kent Quarterly, Abraxas, Literal Latte, etc. He now lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and teaches humanities and writing at Montserrat College of Art, Beverly, Massachusetts.

In a Time of War

I comb my hair
while the bombs fall.

I walk the dog
while the bombs fall.

You brush your teeth
and tie your shoes.

Shrewd Odysseus draws the bowstring
and the arrow-winged death hums across the hall,

piercing the throat of the boldest suitor
who sprawls on the floor,

blood flooding his nostrils,
feet kicking platters of food.

They kissed their wives goodbye
took a subway ride and died.

After a chat and coffee at work
their choice was to jump or to burn.

Holding hands like sweethearts,
they leapt from the hundredth floor.

And we don't even know the language
of the people who hate us.

It sounds to us like a disconsolate singing
out of those blank spaces on antique maps.

What would we say
if we could speak?

It's too late for words.
Our tongue is in our bombs.

Hektor nods and his son cries
at the fearsome bronze helmet he wears.

He tips his head and laughs with open mouth,
showing his fine teeth, the god-like man,

and his wife whispers, "Don't go.
I know you will, but don't."

My neighbor's son leaps in armor
out of the roaring Blackhawk

onto the whirling sands,
which withdraw into malign silence,

and he tastes fear for the first time
like a new penny in his mouth.

Children stare at the men and the sky.
They seem not to speak any language at all.

Children with broken smiles
and brothers with guns.

Men crouch in cages,
while bombs fall.

And there will be a trial,
the old lurch after justice.

Shouting in rage man-slaying Achilles
chases Hektor about the walls

of the many-towered city, destined
to crack in flames and fall.

He drags his enemy's body
bouncing behind the chariot.

When the cheers are over
a whispering begins,

and when we load our massive planes to leave
and they lift like deserting gods

and dwindle to specks in a tranquil sky
the tyrants will be back, there or elsewhere.

An unseen god leads Priam the king
to Achilles' tent, full of celebration and laughter.

Priam clings to the knees of the man
who slaughtered his proud son,

and begs that Hektor's body be returned
for the sacred burial rites.

At last the killer and father weep together
for all those they loved who have died.

It's just a wornout story
a blind man once told.

And I drink coffee with a little sugar,
shovel the walk, drive across town,

turn on the news,
turn off the news,

while bombs fall
silence falls

countries fall
innocence falls

stockbrokers fall
soldiers fall

and children grow, their eyes
full of bombs and misgiving.

                      November, 2002

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