Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Michael Dumanis' "The Cease-Fire"
Michael Dumanis, editor of Legitimate Dangers and author of My Soviet Union, has descended upon us in Cleveland, where he is now the Director of the Poetry Center at Cleveland State University. Tonight he will be chatting with students at 5pm and giving a reading at John Carroll University at 8pm, where he will read his vaudevillian breakneck poetry; like the great Buster Keaton, who once literally broke his neck while filming a stunt, Dumanis may at least sprain his tongue. At the very least, with word-torrents like "The Woods Are Burning," he is sure to exercise his mouth and our ears most fervidly. I can't wait. Yet even the most dervishy poems, the tears of a clown are readily apparent....
from "The Woods are Burning" by Michael Dumanis
1. The Cease-Fire
I thought there was a war on. I was wrong. To think the war
was over me! The war was over. No: the war was over
there, the other side of the barbed wire enclosure
from our side, warless, where we fidgeted and held
each other's hand as though they were the last
we'd ever think to hold, all the while keeping
strict tabs on the body count covering the soft
field of lamb's ear, beside the nasturtiums,
it's just a field, merely an empty space
between the hydrangea bushes. The war was not over
the bushes, who, like the lamb's ear, the boy-gardener,
and the flowers, became the war's first casualties.
Because there was no cause for war and none of us
were sure there was a war for us to win, the newspapers
named it The Casual War, The War That's Not Really
a War, The Don't Mention It War, The What War,
The There Isn't a War War, The War Over Nothing,
and (on the day the papers were shut down) The War
The Authorities Ban Us From Covering. I,
as I have told the Truth Commission, didn't think
there was a war, nor spread the vicious rumor,
until the ground shook and I saw you fall, until I took
the survivor's cracked mouth into my open mouth,
tried ot give the survivor my last breath, and in the smoke
and cannonfire confusion of the war, mistook
his breath for mine, and pulled (I didn't mean to) his
last breath into my healthy mouth and watched him not
but this is not about me. I have testified.
Lay prostrate on the courtroom floor. Went down
before the Justice of the Peace on my trick knee.
Reached for the lavender-scented sleeve of her black robe
in her secluded chamber. Swore I knew nothing of
the Schlieffen Plan, the Bay of Pigs, the secret pact
we struck to fan the cease-fire's flames until it burned
itself out of existence, as she turned to me and ran
her satin hands over my eyelids, toward my lips.
Knowing the war would never end, we kissed.
Am I the one who suffered? Was I there?
This is not about me, Trojan Horse