Monday, August 13, 2012

A Farewell to Arms

This is another bit of "bookspine poetry," a writing game in which you borrow titles from your bookshelf and cobble them together to make a poem. If you make minor modifications to the titles or add words for transition (as I have in a few places) it's considered a 'found poem.' The possibilities are endless in this type of exercise -- stories materialize before your eyes as you peruse your books. 

The folks at Tweetspeak Poetry and Every Day Poems provide an endless stream of prompts to inspire the writer in you. This month the theme is rain and water at and the challenge is to write a bookspine poem in keeping with the theme.

As to the subject of my poem, I could have called it "The Art of Diplomacy," or the "Importance of Being Earnest," two phrases I fear are foreign to too many of us in this hour. The culture war that played out over chicken this summer left me with heartburn. As I look ahead to three months of mud and politics I may just turn off the TV.

I am reminded of Gail Hawthorn from The Hunger Games who says to the heroine, Katniss, "What if no one watched?" 

Indeed. What if all of us decided not to watch? What if we elected to vote but not to play in the theater of politics? What if politicians were required to write a three page summary of their positions on issues and the only coverage news outlets could provide was a copy of that summary? What if you couldn't get a driver's license unless you voted and you couldn't vote until you passed a test to ensure you understood the candidates' views?

More importantly, what if we fought FOR our ideas and ideals and not AGAINST the people we disagree with? What might happen if love broke out and we convinced the people on the other side of the aisle or ideological spectrum that even if we disagree, we're on the same team?

What will happen if we don't?

In our time, night falls 
on the customs of our country, 
on the life of the Beloved, and 
the story of the world repeats.

Down these mean streets,
reputations are blood sport, and
 the lovely bones of lovingkindness 
litter the killing fields.

In this kind of war, 
wounded healers pray for 'all is grace,' 
 and the courage to be a different drum;
good soldiers fight the zero game.

How now shall we live?

As bees in honey drown,
should we drown in feathered sleep, 
dreaming of water, our memories of water,
while Rome burns?

Should we eat, pray, love
the good life, the taste of bread?
Should we mark this book of hours
another year of magical thinking?

Dreamer beware, when water burns
how late it is, how idle are
the people of the lie -- they are 
the beautiful and the damned.

Heaven waits for us 
to wake our slumbering spirits and 
see the fault in our stars, 
to feed our better angels, and
starve the hungry stones.

In our time, the sun also rises for those
who practice the presence of God,
but move beyond opinion
to begin the pilgrimage to compassion.


  1. I'm looking at the Studs Terkel volume on my desk right now, thinking it could have slid in there somewhere: The Good War.

  2. Shucks! An opportunity lost, although I tried and discarded at least 30-40 other titles that seemed they should make it and didn't. The finished product bore little resemblance to the initial draft. It all pitched and pivoted on "As bees in honey drown, should we drown in feathered sleep"...two titles too good (separate books if you can believe) not to write a poem around!