the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century



War is war only if Congress says so.
Nevertheless, nine months later

they're still smoking out caves,
bombing targets, shooting
certain Arabs with their stereotypical

crazed Arab eyes
and Soviet-made machine guns

spraying death, quickening
their ascent to Allah
or so they claim, the Russians

driven out, the Americans
shaken, even their own

stripped of degrees, rights,
beaten in the streets

wrapped from head to toe
in cloth, like the mummies

of pharaohs
or the servants of pharaohs
wrapped in bandages

then buried with their masters.
Or the story of the little girl

who was thrown down a well
by her father, because men
in those days

had little use for daughters-
the story told to Muhammad

that, it is said,
brought tears to his eyes.



What got us off the savanna, out of
the sticky jungles and sun-blanched deserts

more than opposable thumbs, fresh water
or the accidental invention of fire

is what lets us hunt whales to extinction,
trimming their herds like the buffalo

for blubber, bone, thick blue skin
and the stuff of which lamps are made.

Lets us crack the tusks off weeping elephants
or herd Jews into camps, and celebrate.

And lets us fight the men who do this,
and sing songs and write poems

and hope, protecting our children, writing plays,
curing diseases and making more and

dropping them into the villages of enemies.
What lets us invent gods of fire or love

and burn them down, then turn back
when we feel alone, and pray.



So effective was the Roman war machine
that enemies often fled, so the pursuing soldiers
would sheathe their swords
and use long sharp pikes instead,
stabbing their enemies in their rectums

while they were running away, and though
your stomach may shudder, consider
the elegant endlessly trained samurai
killed by arrows, the missiles shredding towns

or sleek black fighters banking into the sun.
The academies eviscerated by a lunatic wash
of atoms, and the soldiers themselves

moving in wide lines
through some field,
stabbing their enemies in the ass

because they knew it would hurt,
would bring the enemy down
and end the battle sooner. Perhaps the war.
There were, of course, some soldiers

who did this while laughing,
hooting over the blood and filth
up to their elbows

while others-the quiet ones-
did it just as well but
without comment, thinking of home.



In the dream, death came to me like a wolf.
One of the kind that escapes
from zoos
or comes out of the forest

and attacks children at recess. The ones
who must be tracked by cops
and shot, and those who see this
are never the same.

In the dream, I wanted to run
but instead
I held out my hand

and the wolf licked it,
and the bottom
fell out of my stomach

out of my soul, and I swooned
like a drunk or a madman
or someone
very much in love.



would be, one might think, the furthest thing from my mind
as I sit by the stage of a strip club,
watching a woman peel their clothes off

and toss them in puddles at my feet,
taking my dollars in exchange
for the strong perfume between their breasts

driving me mad, making me think of you
and your breasts, your hands, your mouth,
the moans you make when you're coming

and how you look at me afterwards
and how much I want this, want you,
so I get up and leave

and think of you all the way home,
barely able to steer the car
through the haze of rain and my loins

and on and on to the apartment, where I drop the keys
on the table and puddle my clothes
on the floor, beside our bed, and beneath the sheets

I masturbate, imagining your soft body
gliding over mine
eventually clenching my eyes tight

to finish what I've started, then wonder before I sleep
if there is such a thing as Heaven
and if you are watching me from there.



When you died I was
young, I was not even
a poet yet. Forgive me.
I would have written
something better.