Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

John Samuel Tieman: A History Lesson

in his war dream someone handed him
a strange grenade

he was a soldier of some ancient city
in a war he didn’t recognize

on the horizon artillery flickered
like fires that can’t quite catch

but there would be violence
if he could find an enemy

he listened
to the drowning of some winged thing


the old man lectures on a vandalized
Jewish cemetery just down the street

only the living can hate the dead
he says

no one takes notes
as if the dead stop making history


an old man in charge of the young
tells a story

in a war once when I was on guard

he forgets the rest but keeps
the forget to himself

and makes up a firefight
knowing the young want a war

any war that begins in good
verbs and ends in a reckoning


he waits for an answer
when none comes he says

tonight when I sleep
my enemy will die again

but her home will go on
and sooner or later someone will note

all wars begin in winter
when all the old soldiers

refuse to retire
when all the young soldiers renew

their oath in a language
clean as the bone shrapnel exposes


he concludes
there is always a widow in another state

there is always a young wife and perhaps a child
just notified

you are expected to feel as you do
stoic and knowing the words

regret to inform
the old man leaves his lecture notes

the janitor sweeps
his single page that simply reads

we all want war we all want land water oil
but mostly we want to want enough to kill


this is what the old man read
in the kamikaze’s diary

once when the evening
failed and darkened the cherry tree

a young man’s mother taught him
the intricacies of tea and seppuku

years later just before dawn
right after he ran out of ink

the kamikaze listened to nothing at all
except the crew fueling the plane

and tasted nothing at all
except the petrol in the air

and remembered nothing at all
except the line

of the unfinished haiku
that flew with him


Copyright 2017 John Samuel Tieman

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This entry was posted on May 2, 2017 by in Poetry, War and Peace and tagged , .

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