It’s not that you are altogether
guiltless, judged by our standards–
There are murdered corpses heaped
beyond the dreams of Presidents
and you made us capable of that;
this is nothing to the pyramid of bodies
left by disease, starvation, accident–
which you invented, and made us fear.
If we escape all that, we fall
gradually to slow, still-twitching rot
preserved in nursing homes, pickled
like the still-breathing accomplishments
of some superstitious funeral technology,
the brain and guts discarded
while what remains still moans, unheeded,
for death, or fear of death; this is justice
for wanting to live more than is good for us.
You have not, I fear, made us
as intelligent as I’d like,
though we are clever. I will give you
credit for the Father of the Neutron Bomb
and the mute, inglorious Edisons
of the punji stick; we all know
sufficient examples of human cleverness.
You have given us enough fear
to keep us turning in our beds;
this is a necessary part
of the mechanism that runs us
til it unwinds, or drives us
into the wall at the end of the freeway.
I am grateful–You know I am–
to have escaped so much, and of course
to have enjoyed so much being here.
I am grateful for religion, though I think
you ought to have made a disease
transmitted by self-righteous hatred–
I guess you did; we call it “patriotism”
or “politics”, sometimes “religion.”
We may die of that. Even I,
who know so many people to love,
have noticed a great many others;
I hear you need them to make a world
but I fail to see the necessity
when they drive by with radios pounding;
there are other things people do
that probably do not justify
my wishing they were dead, or living elsewhere
(We could improve this place immensely
with only a little mass-murder
though I’m not supposed to mention
things like that;
we know there are little things
I do that no-doubt annoy
some people into almost-murderous rage.)
I am glad to be here tonight,
awakened by chronic anxiety
to write this poem, and listen
to drunken voices yelling:
“Wake up! Wake up! Har har har!”
I believe you mean me well; I’ve been told
that, and I really do believe it.
If I were good, I could call you “Daddy”
and fear nothing, in this world or any.
If I could talk to you, and trust you
like a friend, undistracted
by your power to maim, torture, or worse
life would be so much easier.
Meanwhile, I think of chess pieces
put in their box, and I
wonder if I want what’s good for me
and of course
I thank you for this poem.
Forrest Curo (~1983)