BY MICHAEL MEYERHOFER
WOMEN IN AFGHANISTAN
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
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.
BETWEEN SOLDIERS AND BUTCHERS
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.
DREAMING OF THE WOLF
In the dream, death came to me like a wolf.
One of the kind that escapes
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
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
very much in love.
MEETING YOU LATER
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