That health directives such as wearing masks and getting vaccinated have become battlefields in a cultural war against science has made for a continuing stream of headlines and analysis in the news media. Fighting (a term I use figuratively to connote political activism of all sorts, but not actual combat) the anti-science idiots is something that we shouldn’t have to be doing. Just like we shouldn’t have to be spending energy and resources fighting to preserve voting rights; establish and re-establish civil rights for racial, ethnic and sexual minorities; prevent police brutality; end sales of assault weapons; and the other no-brainer social positions that people in a free secular republic should be taking for granted, instead of battling to preserve or establish against the irrational ignoramuses of contemporary cultural conservatism. The effort to overcome the right-wing’s anti-scientific and racist lunacies is costly, time-consuming and heroic. 


And it’s all a distraction.


Meanwhile, the wars continue. Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria. U.S. troops in 150 counties.


Meanwhile the cost of war continues. More than $700 billion a year wasted by the United States—as much as the next 12 countries combined!—for troops, weapons, supplies, equipment, fuel and training in killing other human beings. Included in that $700 billion are billions to develop new nuclear weapons and robot weapons that will operate without the direction or intervention of humans. 


Meanwhile, the number of victims of war grow. The most obvious victims of war, of course, are the innocent people that soldiers kill, maim, and drive from their homes into refugee status. But soldiers are also victims—of physical injuries and emotional scars that often never fully heal. And so are their families, who first have to fret constantly while their beloved soldiers are in war zones, and then pick up the pieces when war-broken men and women return home. Moreover, the vicissitudes of war can force soldiers, the civilians they are supposed to hurt, and the families they leave at home into uncomfortable moral compromises. My poem, “Maya,” which one can find in my first collection of poetry, Music from Words, is about the emotional and moral cost at home of wars on foreign shores.




Afterwards my gloom observes you

gather floor-strewn tumulus of clothes.

The bathroom light reveals a passing wraith,

spectral furnishings and photographs that knit

at once to shaft of light, compress to darkness.

Muffled water arrows pound an unseen slurry.

What lie this time—long lines, wrong turn?

Will he smell me on your body? 

Will he lacerate your qualms with blissful chatter

when you push his wheelchair, spoon him soup,

climb inside the chores of cleaning up a war?

I am sieve you comb through sand in search 

of tender, vital jinnis. And at that fragile burst,

in that isogloss between conceived and real,

mist of golden pooling in your lap,

swan-dive open wing enflaming overhead,

were you with me or with him

with someone else or by yourself?

The water stops, the door unlocks unsettled light

like a man who’s run away from thoughts.


Marc Jampole

Originally published in Music from Words (Bellday Books, 2007)


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