Dedicated to Abolishing War, Establishing Justice, and Fighting Climate Disaster

Dedicated to Abolishing War, Establishing Justice, and Fighting Climate Disaster

by John Babalon

Our Asian war is over; others have begun.
Our elders, who tried to mortgage lies,
are disgraced, or dead, and already
the brokers are picking their pockets
for the keys and the credit cards.

In delta swamp in a united Vietnam,
a Marine with a bullfrog for a face,
rots in equatorial heat.  An eel
slides through the cage of his bared ribs.
At night, on the old battlefields, ghosts,
like patches of fog, lurk into villages
to maunder on doorsills of cratered homes,
while all across the U.S.A.
the wounded walk about and wonder where to go.

And today, in the simmer of lyric sunlight,
the chrysalis pulses in its mushy cocoon,
under the bark on a gnarled root of an elm.
In the brilliant creek, a minnow flashes
delirious with gnats.  The turtle’s heart
quickens its taps in the warm bank sludge.
As she chases a frisbee spinning in sunlight,

a girl’s breasts bounce full and strong;
a boy’s stomach, as he turns, is flat and strong.

Swear by the locust, by dragonflies on ferns,
by the minnow’s flash, the tremble of a breast,
by the new earth spongy under our feet:
that as we grow old, we will not grow evil,
that although our garden seeps with sewage,
and our elders think it’s up for auction–swear
by this dazzle that does not wish to leave us–
that we will be keepers of a garden, nonetheless.

©John Balaban, Locusts at the Edge of Summer (Copper Canyon Press, 1997)

[wp_dark_mode_switch]

For updates from antiwar veterans and others in the movements for peace, social justice and our planet, subscribe to our newsletter.

You have Successfully Subscribed!