January 29, 2011


by Lex Runciman

The chaplain sat at his desk. Have we met?
No. But you want me to support your conscientious
Objection -- you want me to write a letter. Yes.
Let me ask some questions. Could you kill someone --
An intruder to save yourself? No. What about
To save your mother or wife from rape? Yes.
Save a sister or daughter? Yes.

Where are you from? Oregon.
Do you love your country? Yes.
Would you serve the United States? Yes.
Would you kill its sworn enemies? No.
You would kill an intruder to save your family? Yes.
But not an enemy of the United States? No.

Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, Quaker --
Do you practice any religion? No.
Believe in God? I don't understand the question.
You're afraid. Yes. You're afraid of battle. Yes.
Of letting others down? Yes. And these
Are your conscientious objections? Yes, no.
When ordered by a superior officer, would you kill?
I don't know, no, I would have to decide.
Wouldn't it be too late for that? Yes,
It would be too late.

You're a coward: you're a coward
And you want me to help get you off the hook.
I looked at him. Are you afraid? Yes.
You say you love your country? Yes.
You could kill to save your family? Yes, yes.
Then why are you here -- what are you afraid of?
Loyalties and confusions, I should have said.
Infinities, the worth of a day.

January 10, 2011

For Hunter

by Ansley Clark

Hunter is back home, alone, in that house,
in the middle of the black murmur,
           black woods.
On those arctic autumn evenings he listens
to the dishwasher hum, smoky creakings
of the wood stove, strange rustlings of the creek,
to the steady ceaseless drip of rootless northern rain
asking him to take its hand and follow.
           He listens to silence.
The last of us home, he will be last of us to leave,
to scatter, to throw himself outward,
as we have already done.

On nights like these I roam,
wayward, against the town's distant lights,
and the country is huge--lengthy sky ablaze--
broad, burning ocean of wandering earth under unfamiliar
             and on nights like these,
the world's immensity is coppery, too bright,
prods a dull, familiar ache.

I don't know how anyone lives
in this world of light and dark, of leaving,
          of the human heart,
which is not a whole entity but scattered
in a thousand flaming pieces across the cracking earth.
I only know the memory of rain and woods
           and silence,
constantly knotting me
to you.