The Warmest Day of the Year

The war has entered the marketplace
of a country where women must choose
whether it is worth the risk
to buy more fruit and bread,
sugar for tea, cigarettes, soap.
All I did today was refuse
to buy the stamps with the flag.
In line at the post office,
the man behind me asked if I had a child
at the university
named on my envelope.
I’m not old enough to have a child in college
I said in a tone I hoped would embarrass.
Then later, driving away, I thought how stupid –
of course I’m old enough.
I could have a child in the war
like the boys I read about this morning –
nineteen, twenty, twenty-two –
who love the rush of battle,
I can’t imagine
being in a line of work that didn’t
let me carry a gun,

one of them said, though quick to add,
I hate to kill, and it’s for a cause.
One of these boys could be mine.
I could have stared at him across the dinner table
in the weeks before he left,
trying to memorize his face,
to understand how the corners of his mouth
tilt upward, to know the birthmark next to his ear
as well as I know the blow of his joining
an institution my whole heart is set against.

I have one child in college
and one in the war
I tell the man in line as I drive through town,
and I live for awhile in that other life.
How would I not favor the one child
over the other? But perhaps I always have
and so the one who – and how could he not –
sensed my displeasure did the thing he knew
would displease me most.

Kill the children who will grow up to be soldiers,
wrote the Greeks of their Trojan enemies.
Kill the women who make men soft,
imagining the life they could go home to.
A culture devoted to logic.
Science dismantles the miraculous,
wrote Hippocrates.
But if it is knowledge that makes the world unholy,
we should be bent in prayer
for the little we know of our lives.

The string section adds the almost human
sound of weeping to the symphony.
Often I fail to hear the layered
nuance of sound
and fall asleep at concerts.
Listen to the birds and the dogs,
said my lover on the first night of the bombing.
On TV we saw the sky lit and heard,
between explosions, mad chirping
and the distant howls of pets or strays.

Look at anything long enough to love it.