Big Bridge #10

An Open Letter to America


Anne Waldman


War Crime

World askew. She arrives home to charnel ground zero, ancestral dwelling cordoned off, you need identity papers to get thru. Who are you? Citizen? Terrorist? Also to duplicity, deception, path-ology in one she thought a friend who proved-was all along-her worst enemy. Pity? Forgiveness? Don't mess with the goddess. She is on retreat now, prostrating to the deities of clarity and "chod"—where you cut the aortas of the perverters of the dharma. No idiot compassion for the narcissistic male egotist who used her good name, sucked at her power, resented, manipulated and undermined the community to his own ends, called the cops on her & her son in Ashcroft's New World Order. A trip to the coast, demonstrating against the Afghan war punctures her disdain. Push, push, against the darkness...

Identity posits control. Who is enemy? Who are fleeced? Rendered abject, dead, merely dead. Dead on the ground. What was your name, citizen? And of what realm? Animal? Human? Warring god? You are bewildered in the twilight of Star Wars, in the twilight of shattered bone or eyeball. A Daisy Cutter so grievous you have more than 400 lbs. per square inch pressing on your skin, pressuring out an eyeball, limbs falloff with that implosion. Give me breaks, simple breaks I would die for I could die with not this which I can't live any longer inside of. Give him, the other generation, his due, fighting the way back up to 1945. Clean up? Shoot anything twitching. Clean up? How much pain to inflict on a nearly dead one? All over Germany, the left-to-die-dying, whatever their stripe.

I hate my Nazi life, everywhere Nazi life in every movie I hide from, see in every step I take where you go informed by Nazis this whole woman-life encounters. Nazi with that exaggerated tongue, and how proud they stand, how many actors love to play Nazis. I hate my Nazi life. I am labeled before I leave the vestibule: "queen" "faggot" "gitane." Sleep in the wagon then escape. Don't go down that road yet they will find you. Cloak and dagger. Helpful train master who leads you to safety? or is it a movie I missed, light in the tunnel, manic change of costume. Not what I seem. Dressed as beggar my gypsy gal leads me through the labyrinthian streets, there is a checkpoint, she makes me look foolish, rose in hand, escaped to fall in love, for that girl saved me, that sweet Jewess. My tender Jewess haunts me. Hands over the occupied life. You imagine that things go well, my water is my dust. My daylight is my giver and my curse is this gullet. Water, do no harm. Safe water, the well of Sinai, the well of Galilee, everywhere no harm if you have water to drink. Water do no harm.

Get down to beg for water. The enemy spills out the canteen I drank from, big draught. My father said so, never asking for help but asking for water. It was metal with drab olive bag to shelter the sandstorm of outrage and hefty hoist downstream, coming down on you. Harm on you. She saved my skin to cross the line of demarcation. This zone lights the way to freedom. Let me down now, Mata Hari wears real silk, I tell you Nazis-that word "freedom," that word "silk"-could never be the beautiful time you had, dead on arrival. Harm. Harm. Give me back my life my beautiful life.

Go down, Palestine. You will be free. Tell "old" Israel to let your people go.

Harm to you. Harm to me. Next door, out there, harm to you. From above, strafing, harm you are never safe from their airborne probe. Violation in all directions, the inviolate that says no harm is done it's not true. Look at them, their photos. Harm to you. Roll back a crime, take out of the forest, crime. Crimes against women and children. It's not true what they said. Escaping across the Himalayas to what new India now mounting its troops on the border. Believe the victim from her sad grave.

Charred remain, hand reaches to heaven, the ghostly vehicular journey you made, no longer, all the old corporals laid to dust. He cleaned up with the same hands he held me. Man-o-live, stretching out the amnesty, the old war . . . ovens? You said the ovens were plenty full? And now, what colony occupies what territories? Colonialism leads to war, take the text down from the shelf, brush up on your victim mentality. You go nuclear, you go ballistic, Israel. Take out the spyglass, the tattered notebook, the frayed-at-edge dossier that holds the spoils-literary-of strife. How dare he question my father? That card is played. I examine the remnants, the body parts. It was my job when you were \ saying you were merely dreaming for me to keep them together, sort them out before the jackals come. Sort out the ones for lustration rites. Sound the gamelan, your mallet proceeds you, ready to strike. Raise a cry to heaven as you sift through the pits. Everyone is culpable, believe it, in this harm. Go back, there is an image my Celan vows to bring to the most angular surface rendering of trade-off to. Bring to the path of circumstance, go mad with renewal when everyone says it's reclamation time. The march of the next plan: down on your knees. What is brought to trial when all is not fair, love or war.

I cede to the harm. I want to die.

Walk into the ocean like the one before me. The tall, thin novelist.

Strip down to a woman's body you cannot love.

Man of war you cannot love.

These are the shoes, these are the bayonets.
These are the dried ears who still listen.

The Cong are not silent in their march now, their long tunnel runs under your feet. You are old enough to remember, now, twenty-five years later, the streets of Hanoi, so much struggle in the mind.

My psyche lies down in the hot room, fan whirs overhead, my lover dead to me in another country sleeping with the enemy.

Here are your spoils little girl, young Annie grasping the broom even more tightly now.

Here are the spoils of war.

Crime's the way you walk the way you talk crime's the way you get away with it not seeing arrogance, narcissism my god & all his prowess on my side. What mastermind of machinery to make sure suffering is not yet death, not enough to die without the torture chamber's cry. The crime is in the pudding in the picture, on any screen that will play. Drama of infrared music, you want to shout in the disco before you tumble, night after night you are not in control with your signal of error with your signals of terror with your action deferred with your faulty warning system. You are not in control with your pilot warning rhizome with your human bomb attuned to readings in philosophy. Nietzsche could still rule your mind not hope of loving a virgin not to be confused with the word raisin. In heaven: raisins. Raison d'etre, to be greeted by virgins who are like the raisins in heaven. Crotches, nipples of Sweet fruit? This is not a fine-tuned translation. But never going on your nerve underestimate the mind of a revolutionary man, a revolutionary one. Anarchy is sweet revenge and you get what you want, this act of "faith": war.

Fake identity: war. Are you what you seem? Greed, revenge, violence rules your day. The small villages plundered, citizens plundered, whatever human brings with its scent of fleshy doom: rape, desecrate a crop, starvation. It stinks.

War in this neighborhood is not a pretty sight. The petty mind is giving the petty mind another boost of recognition. Before the tribunal sets in. What about Guatemala, Mr. Reagan? You are my disgrace.

Where are my fine Rwandan sons going to be buried now? Anybody's guess. How to sift, sift again, then sift again, you sift sift through rubble. It is the antique obsolete way that moves and you think, watching them now below your very neighborhood sift, what is gotten, a cufflink, a locket? Your legs dear dead American make me weep. Sift sift again through hair and flesh and machine matter, the asbestos jammed into last year's air conditioner. They posted a warning on my door at dawn. Do you still question never paying another tax? Tax that harms another, harms your very own child? Don't carry my war to you. Harm to you.

You have not voted with simple mastication on any other night like this of fact or fiction. Panting like the oval office, panting like one day to the next, what we know and do not know. More theme music. Harm on you.

Question: I am relatively new in your new frontal-assault-on-home-world. My behavior is modest Iraqi, no my behavior is mufti Europe. My erotic manners are as good as yours. The Brits show their mettle. Some are deader than nails in my coffin. Harm to them: does anyone pray to the Church of England?

Prey on them.

Question: And friendly fire?

Answer: Euphemism is a danger to the nonbeliever, to true reader. The poet will not insult you with her euphemism. You get a handle? You need the door. Don't go out yet. Hear me out before you crash and burn. One handle turn is enough.

Doors are for hospital, morgues. When there is no door you have a sky burial. The tent flaps open, the tin cans are not enough to be your door. When they kept the athletes prisoner, my stomach sinks down, blood on the floor, on the sofa. I will not absolve any killing. What is your motive?

Go burn yourself out in front of the u.s. Embassy. Stop taking out more innocent lives. I will do that next time. I will load up on kerosene and matches.

That is one idea. Another idea is more Marxist where you vote on point of fact. You could be a civilian casualty anywhere, any rail station, any rubble-strewn outback, in your own backyard, in a lonely colony. Who resides here that cannot flyaway. Safe zone will return in its own time frame, portioned out, drawn and quartered in its map-like gaze up at you. Take out this, pinpoint that. What did the president know or not know. Where are the charts of the war room all can get to. I'm ready. I am ready to see. Lay it all out here, all to see. The meeting is not adjourned. To tell of what comes up I visit the United Nations building, its gardens its art lobby, its trim and brisk attempt to be kind. How to ever be kind together. That's it. Is it ever enough-is it ever precious enough that you want to concede and drop an habitual pattern that drives a wedge in your world and you explode. Where is he-the great other, the companion, the true citizen of heart and line? Gone, gone, gone beyond gone.

So you sit inside your war, never sure, never clear. Who did what to whom? Who will live to tell of it? The father hiding in the chamber you think of now as the war room. The recovery room, the bardo of going beyond the sound or hum of crossfire, the stolid command, the "hup hup" that Mr. Burroughs sang in mockery: my heroes are dead and they were their own kind of criminals. Yes. You think?

I want to tell you that it is a crime of passion to write this down now.

Dear My Country: Spread the wealth around. Turvy is my world. You could be mentally merely coming up for mere air. There are gunboats protecting you all sides. A submarine doesn't move, if that is at all scientifically possible. Merely.

What I am angry about.

Not safe in bed, no lover's arm.

The sweet boys protesting one spring day you'd better keep at it until you die, protesting. You can take your body to the street, not pay the war tax. Pity the poor soldier boy. Or honor him. May he never have to kill. May he be untrained in any reality, mugging-a throng of thugs do gang up on you. He looks like you, my son.

Didn't hear the warning signal (move to higher ground).

Parched earth, scorched earth. The ponds low in these parts. Stocking up on supplies inside the war mountain. All buttons ready to go. Aimed at your own heart.

The charitable fund dies but who would care.

Give up your sanctuary, nothing protecting you now not even the place of the babe Lord Savior's birth. Let's go down now to the bombed fertile crescent, let's take the irony out of the cradle of civilization. You are thinking about yourself, the clock is running down, why don't you swerve toward me, scented one? With war pomade. With oil-slick hand or torture implement.

The crime smacks of desperation (more heroin on the streets).

The crime leaves its signals behind (step on a hypodermic needle at the beach).

"All the cops bring the best dope to the parties."

By definition you grow weary keeping up with the scandals, with the time. You are on your own get-down time. Marrow time. By definition you are transparent in your Enron slumber. Wake up!

Answer: Struggle. A day like any other. Just because you don't see . . .

Count them, how many in their suits and ties testifying, how many ugly faces, a face you know is lying right toward you. It doesn't matter. They are empty they are transparent ghosts of another lie. They are the banality of evil, they are sweating when they don't get their way. Remorse is not a word in this sick man 's eye. Look right through you to dollars and sense and avoiding criminal time. Is there a pen to put you in? Is there a pen mightier than a sword to light the page?

(the car stops, minivan, you are afraid to exit)

Question: Could you emerge as the worm you are? Could you be loved, lowly, humble?

I would say yes.

(denigrating the enemy, the male is charged, is lifted up to the rise )

(the jets freeze in air, you are afraid to ride now)

(he is good male, neutral, not without qualities of: bravery, jaw quite prominent, a drawl, a lit object of smoke, your pick is right, there is no one else here)

Question: you are convincing me to join and serve. Serving is not a virgin heaven.

So waiting for the curfew I put my head-covering on to beg. The sanitation trucks disturb the sleep of the homeless on the sidewalk. Someone shines a bright light on a city street. Crime is on the street again. War is in every headline. Once when I was an American I felt the pulse of war to be light, an allegorical dream that sent a chill down my narrative spine. It was telling a story. This vertebra was on fire with the explosion of my birth, this one came later when he died, flag on the coffin, this one resorted to being on a map of mountain terrain. There was no cave I could lend you in this body. It was surface, all surface.

The war was on the body, the crime was in the twisted mind that could handle harm and not repent. Take this other spot on the ganglion stretch of star, of plenty of matter ready to be discovered, that the dust on Mars could poison you, that toxic is your hatred of me. The planets align in the sky to say this is the spine that runs your life. Disarray, discord, all will perish. Who was blind to the ray of sun! Who took the inside of moon to be soft like the underbelly of no reward who walked free out of one's life, never having served. Was he a man! Was he a man of war! Was he a reject! You were addressing all lovers, where are the men who whistle and march home to Johnny's song, where are the men who seek in their crimes of having to serve to what intention to what major way of being never a child once again. "Not I" comes home to myself as a bowl resembles the one held out to beg. Down on your knees for to have them come marching home. Hurrah. I will line the street with my swollen eyes, with my nuclear winter eyes, with my eyes of gloom and doom not being able to look into yours because you hated the gaze back at you, hiding out, a coward. Better a soft coward than a dead hero!

What is a hero in poetry! What does waiting in ambush mean! What are words for this battle cry! What are the anapests doing in my sleep! Why do I wake up crying every day and loathe the lack of courage that could change this. Women most of you o women unite. Rip those babes from wombs and hide them from the new homeland security measures, from the new draft law day, make them criminal investigators of the harm to land, water, sky. To earth you shift your weight, restless upon. Open the mouths of the babes and feed them on love and a power to turn it around. Harm to none. Every death is a palpable hit in this heart.

Who is blind? Who gives strategy the next move on my behalf, who is it who lies and covers his crime? Who stargazes? I will stop all bullets now. I will study war. First it was merest conflict of cosmos, a flicker. "This" got separated out from "that." First it was not yet wronged, then a person-an animal-a consciousness? got harmed. Harm to you. Then it was a crime to see it, the harm, look back on itself, jump and start the whole wheel in motion to see what harm might be in me. I am fascinated in my harm to you. Harm to me. This wound never heals. Harm on the whole planet is my wound in me. You feel it too? Look across the table at him. Harm to me. The babe on her father's knee, she got fooled that men are heroes. He was standing taller than she. Then it was wounded the harm to itself on me, on him. He was caught in the wheel of harm and duty. It is duty to be harm to me, no don't say that. No, I can take it. Yes, I will. No, I can't. Gaze, crime, give me back my life. Let me re-live the twentieth century and never war no more. Never no war no more. First it was an edict on the rights of heaven earth and man or the first truce carved and sitting on the United Nations wall, I saw a press officer sigh before Gutenberg, I saw the assessment paper in several languages. I saw the press officer eat his pastry out by the large window, out by the river that still flows, urbanely. It was civilized. We put up with the world that day. No one was allowed in Jenin that day. The crime was on hold. The war went on. It was an error to see it any other way.