The War

Laura Mullen

About the Author

The light from the screen
Makes my eyes water. I'm taking
These notes in some
Exhaustion and pain. I think
If you freed my arms I could write
Better, I think I could write
Better if you paid my debts
And dragged me a little closer
To the mirror, better yet if you'd teach me
Something about all these bankruptcy
Proceedings, better still
If you'd only redeem what's left
Of my feet. These are not empty

I could run after you screaming.

Am I ever going to finish
Trying to explain? "These shoes
Need to kick somebody," or "I don't exist
When you forget me"? All my resources
Have been exhausted! What do you want
It to mean? I believe if you loosened these
Bindings I could give you a better picture
Of what I hope to get away with here calling
the sea. Is this a family resemblance?
Where's the sunscreen? Who I am
When I'm not with you, I mean:
"I'm fighting my own particular war
With nature"? but I'm not a Nature
Poet! "Obviously." Leaves.

There isn't any time left
In which to accomplish anything.
It feels like. What's this space
to be used for? It feels so empty. Is it
Empty because I don't love poetry?
Enough, I mean. Am I just--uncertain fingers--
Trying to gain access again
To my credit rating? Am I deserving?
What kinds of plastic do you take?
Stop kicking me. Then take off
The sign that says Stop
Kicking me.
Comes back in. "Where's my chemical
Warfare, goddamnit, where's my enemy?"
"Asleep." "Asleep?" "Well, it's the middle
Of the night." It is the middle
Of the night. You there,
I thought I told you to leave that line
Of trees: meant to be a kind of screen
Seen through here to the bare
Earth churned up around the tilted
Stumps and blasted saplings half-sunk
In a red and motionless sea. See?
What did I tell you? Branches and leavings.

From a letter: "The war
Happens all around us, faithfully without us
Really having to do much of anything, it seems
It all gets done somehow." Leaving us feeling
Incredibly lazy? Past tense or de trop?
It's just a memory. We've been out-

Leaving the redwood forest he made believe
They couldn't wait: pretending to drive away--
Actually out of sight, dust settling back on the dirt
Roadway and trees--with the rest of the family.

It's just a memory. Of her desire
For money he said she was
"Sticking a knife in my gut
And twisting it." He pantomimed
The gesture for his young
Audience, staggering back to fall
Against the cutting block. We were all
In the kitchen. He was obviously
Exhausted and in pain, fists
At his stomach as though trying to turn
A knife or a key. With some difficulty.

Which war do you mean?
Downwind of the plant
When the valve blew. Removed
From active duty. The flutter of green.
"It's an ill wind…." Finding it difficult
To breathe. Leaves
Trips to the city. Remembering
Those who used to say sometimes,
"It isn't any good here,
Your money."

Passed out in the shade
Of an empty shopping cart at the side
Of an alley, one of the guards
Catching a little shut eye?
One of the casualties?
One of the warning signs?
One of the many. I think
I'm forgetting how to read.
From a letter: "We don't even have to lift
A finger." Dust-colored clothes, the body
Apparently sinking into the ground.
One of the deserving?

I think I could please you more
If you would untie me. I think I would be
Even more servile, if anything, if I were
Free. I promise this time. It might be the moving
Darker areas on the screen: making my eyes…

My hands are tied, really.

I mean what other markets could I hope to open
So late in the game? I think I've proved I'm willing
To let you inspect my facilities. Each
Accommodation equipped
With hot and cold running wa…--
All the necessities. So why does it still
Feel so empty? Is it because I'm faking
Belief? He might be directing
The loading, remembering
How they can suddenly turn in the hold
And crush a man: the cut
Trees. In the middle of the night:
A couple of the guys slightly drunk,
Everyone else just tired and clumsy,
And the boat tied up at the dock
Like a cradle, rocking and rocking….
the air bitter cold, dense with salt, stopped
In you throat as though you'd been sobbing.

Where's that music coming from?
I think I could write better if you fed me.