Joseph Duemer is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Magical Thinking (Ohio State UP 2001) and is a translator of Vietnamese poetry. He is the author of the article "The American Literature of the Vietnam War" in the most recent edition of the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature. His poetry and prose have been published widely in both the US and Vietnam in journals such as The Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Stand (UK), and others. In 2000-2001 he was a Fulbright Senior Research Fellow serving as a consulting editor to the Foreign Language Publishing House (The Gioi) in Hanoi, Vietnam. He is Professor of Humanities at Clarkson University, where he serves as poetry editor of The Wallace Stevens Journal?and teaches in the American Studies program. He blogs at sharpsand.net.
"Anthem of a Doomed Youth" follows Duemer's poem.
When the electricity is on in Baghdad
militias charge the batteries of power drills
& at night go out & wire the wrists together
of others, who oppose them in the civil war.
Having released the atavistic demons
the occupying power should perhaps allow
the city to go dark, just turn off the power & leave.
Not that they can march out the gate of history.
The young men would still mount the carbide bits
on sticks & twist them into each others' eyes
& bodies full of ragged holes would continue
to pile up in the morgue faster than they can be
buried, anonymous, in numbered graves. And so
the power of God is charged & discharged
in the city's streets, the savagery of shock troops
with hardened ammunition matched by that
of ancient sects with improvised explosives,
the blistered city broken open by these
brutal silences-our silence & that which falls
between the flash of light & the shockwave
of super-heated air & blur of shrapnel that
snaps bones & reduces the body to pulp.
The microseconds of history add up to this.
Beneath the city walls the tablets of the law
crack & flake to dust. The city trembles, racked
by fevers. The sickness is contagious-faces
flushed with it recite the numbers of the dead,
a grain of sand between each lost word they speak,
each word an echo reaching back to Babel.
© 2007 Joseph Duemer
Wilfred Owen (1893 - 1918)
Anthem for Doomed Youth
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
- Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, -
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
"Anthem for a Doomed Youth" is in the public domain