Mothers with newborns in knotted slings,
on their heads impossible towers of things,
the old in carts, the children by the hand,
these people crossing a cratered land
are more than metaphor;
but they are also metaphor.
We are the truth to one another. Look:
don’t wait for some historian’s book
to understand this (then it will be too late.)
This is the unchecked power of the State,
the end of empathy, the rise of Mars,
the avarice that in the end mars
all our laws and medicine and art.
Show me one fleeing person’s heart
and I will show you a thousand griefs
for loves, hopes, memories, beliefs
that war has undermined.
Corpses plowed under, mined
roads and fields, the groves and orchards
poisoned, fathers and brothers tortured,
hope abandoned with the other heavy furniture —
it isn't much of a road, the future,
if you don’t know where
it goes or it goes nowhere.
From Noon until Night, Barrow Street Press, 2017
Richard Hoffman‘s four books of poetry are Without Paradise; Gold Star Road; Emblem; and Noon until Night. His other books include the memoirs Half the House and Love & Fury, and the story collection Interference and Other Stories.