I used to be a soldier: a Marine, to be precise.
Now I am a greyed poet of anti-war words.
I craft into bullets words of anti-war battle.
Call me crazy. I don’t care.
I will stop war with words, alone.
Non compos mentis.
It’s post-classical Latin. It means insanity.
A person of unsound mind.
A person who believes the world can be changed for the good.
A person who wants humans to be wise enough to choose
the good over the easy; the best for all, not the best only for one.
A person who demands that words matter—deeply and humanely.
Can words stop cold, in frozen stride, a life—
as can and does, a bullet and a bomb?
Can a little humble poem suppress angriest aggression?
Can a stomach be churned in retching rancid reverse
by rhyming words?—abstracting with the very best intentions—
someone else’s stuttering loss?
Can sonnets shatter bowel control?
Can ghazals snuff a life?
Can villanelles halt genocides?
There’s Homer’s Iliad, certainly, with ancient spears piercing ancient eyes
and hearts and tendons but not even Shakespeare crafted odes of true
lethality, never drew cutting un-staged real red blood.
Yes, A Memory of Solferino, that birthed today’s Red Cross/Red Crescent,
was Henry Dunant’s in-prose tale of tens of thousands dead and dying
in 19th century Italy. Yes, E. D. Morel’s journalism helped end Congo slavery.
What of World War One’s Graves and Brooke, Sassoon and Owen?
What of Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse
Five, Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun, or Kovic’s Born on the Fourth of July?
Picasso’s great work, Guernica, has not—that’s known—
saved a life nor ever ended war alone.
Can a poem reliving Hiroshima dying/Nagasaki burning/My Lai crying
be an anti-war meme, blasting mass instruction
from a mushroom cloud of wanting, weeping, wailing words?