“Aurora” praises the Muse, presenting Her both as a real woman and as the Dawn, the source of consciousness and of bringing-to-life. I wrote the poem in joyful spirits in 1986. “April 27, 1937” is a different matter. It was written at the time of our invasion of Iraq. It protests military and political theories that justify collateral damage as inevitable in modern warfare. Ludendorff’s Der Totale Krieg seminally states this position. A more recent expression of it is the Rapid-Dominance, Shock-and-Awe doctrine. Such thinking only leads to horrible suffering and deep residual animosities between peoples and nations.
Your sleep is so profound
This room seems a recess
Gauze curtains, drawn around
The postered bed, confute
Each waking attribute —
Volition, movement, sound.
Outside, though, chilly light
Shivers a puddle's coil
Of iridescent oil;
Windows, sun-struck, ignite;
Doves strut along the edge
Of roof- and terrace-ledge
And drop off into flight.
And soon enough you'll rise.
Long-gowned and self-aware,
Brushing life through your hair,
You'll notice with surprise
The way your glass displays,
Twin-miniatured, your face
In your reflective eyes.
Goddess, it's you in whom
Our clear hearts joy and chafe.
Awaken, then. Vouchsafe
Ideas to resume.
Draw back the drapes: let this
Quick muffled emphasis
Flood light across the room.
-from The Color Wheel (1994)
April 27, 1937
General Ludendorff, two years before,
Had pushed the concept in his Total War,
And so it seemed a perfect time to see
If one could undermine an enemy
By striking its civilian population.
This proved a most effective innovation,
As the defenseless ancient Basque town learned:
Three quarters of its buildings bombed and burned,
Its children and young wives were blown to bits
Or gunned down, when they fled, by Messerschmitts.
Shocked condemnations poured forth from the press,
But Franco triumphed; and, buoyed by success,
The Luftwaffe would similarly slam
Warsaw and Coventry and Rotterdam.
Berlin cheered these developments; but two
Can play such games—and usually do—
No matter how repellent or how bloody.
And Churchill was, as always, a quick study
And would adopt the tactic as his own,
Sending the RAF to blitz Cologne.
Devising better ways to carpet-bomb
(Which later were employed in Vietnam),
The Allies, in a show of aerial might,
Incinerated Dresden in a night
That left the good and evil to their fates,
While back in the untorched United States
Others approved an even darker plan
To coax a prompt surrender from Japan.
That day in Spain has taught us, to our cost,
That there are lines that never should be crossed;
The ignorance of leaders is not bliss
If they’re intent on tempting Nemesis.
Each day we rise, and each day life goes on:
An author signs beneath a colophon;
Trucks carry freight through waves of desert heat;
A bat cracks, a crowd rises to its feet;
Huge jets lift to the sky, and, higher yet,
Float satellites that serve the Internet.
But still, despite our cleverness and love,
Regardless of the past, regardless of
The future on which all our hopes are pinned,
We’ll reap the whirlwind, who have sown the wind.
-from Toward the Winter Solstice (2006).
©2016 Timothy Steele