This Is Cactus Land

by Sam Rasnake

              We are children of our age,
's a political age.
Wisława Szymborska, "Children of Our Age"


There's a wind that won't quit.
Sand, given time, levels everything.
Something slips away from us
in the night.

Smoke in Rumaila.

Fedayeen. Madina. Screaming Eagle.

Fox News: Are you apprehensive
Are you apprehensive
Are you apprehensive
Are you

A British body here, American there,
Iraqi, Iraqi Iraqi…

Meanwhile, the professor studies
Jewish law, looks out his window
across the Seine, thinking
of a German fable in the line
from Goethe: “I cannot,
I cannot regain my balance” —
making all connections.

Silence is the great and lonely enterprise.

section break
Soundbites. Telewriter. The press
directs the war. And the general,
seasoned in linguistics and
his Pocket Aristotle, explains
the difference between
tactical and operational.

Under sand, the war head looms
in tie and western suit.

There is no school today.
There's no building today.
No child.

section break 
Alert: Orange. And oil for food.

“War in Iraq
And no one gets us closer than CNN
Stay informed”

We love the soundtrack.
The commercial for trucks,
fat burners, and Footlocker,
that's our favorite.
A chance for the refrigerator run.

section break
Kane, his feet on the desk, his shirt,
showing the day at cuff and collar,
presses clanking behind him, says,
“You provide the prose poems.
I'll provide the war.

No question about the outcome.
We're gonna get ‘em.”

section break
And lemurs, steady in deep foliage,
eyes to the one trail,
wait for darkness on their limb.

This is the way the world ends—:
Not a bang, no whimper,
but with a streaming ticker
at the bottom of our screens,
telling us who we are.

       — originally published in Poetry Changes People