hidden recess of the will...

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Mark Johnston

War Movie in Reverse

Holes close to smooth skin
when the shrapnel flashes out.
The shores of burns recede,
and flames leap with their hot metal
back into the bomb that rises,
whole and air-borne again,
with its gathered blast.
Leading the plane perfectly,
the bomb arc back slowly
through the open gates
and disappears into the waiting belly.
The bombardier lifts
his peering eye from the sight.
Swallowing its wake,
the plane returns to base
with its countermanded mission.
The pilot, irresolute now, faces
his commandant, who marches,
brisk and backward
to the general’s lair.
The general takes back the orders.
But into what deep and good and hidden
recess of the will
go his thoughts of not bombing?


Johnston’s poem moves from such a disturbing reality to a confrontation with the self ... “thoughts of not bombing”. Sometimes, you cannot save everyone, but you can save yourself. You can make the right choice. It’s been there all along.

A poem, certainly, for our times. I keep it with me always.

1 comment:

esk said...

Wow. Great poem. One that when you close your eyes, you can still see the images of the poem.