The gods of war

The gods of war

SistersbyHomsi LensPhotograph of two sisters in Homs, by “Young Homsi Lens“, 6 October 2012.*


Your gods are long all now dead,
only a white dread of sea noise,
grey hair like a cloth of stars
in their slowest motion out there in the night sky
or a cloud of frogspawn, only now
dark tadpoles for the dark stars,
a flicker of dark frequencies from the mud.

Dig deeper and it is darker still,
slime, rock
some force,
a monstrous noise
rushing in the head and ears,
the noise from which we come
the anti-matter of our gods.

We made them, they made us;
we made them then tell us
we thirst for nothing
blood and oil
and the crushing of people who have nothing
save some idea of god

a god they hope, believe, is on their side
if only he would help
every time they pull a trigger.
But all gods are dead
have died a billion times,
dead dead dead all through millennia.


But they might believe,
the smiling children –
two sisters somewhere in Syria –
may still believe in a god.

Look at their smiles
that crop the war from the picture,
that tries make god anew
who yet watches, off-frame,
an oilman check his shares
an arms executive drive his child to school
a ruler worry about how he looks on Facebook.

And also off-frame,
perhaps some blocks away,
a fighter for his god of freedom
rots already.
In another town not far perhaps,
already a tank rolls slow and unheard
over a dead child,
the commander obeying orders
only from Mammon.

Perhaps the older sister knows
already that a god may die.

A brother or uncle has told her
and gave as holy gift
the bullet she now wears as pendant.

When she sees a parent or a sibling
smeared on tarmac by a bomb
she’ll be told all along
when god was mocking her,
it was a test,
that a god’s wisdom is infinite
yet he cannot, cares not to explain
the murder and rape of children.

Who wants to be god of all this?
Or a disciple? Or us?
All of us shuffling in
to a pliant mass,
quiet and respectful
in our churches, in our mosques
of flat-screen TVs
and all the other comforts of oil

that dull the blood,
that leaven the self-loathing
until we can’t care
to care
not even in this verse
we thought were once the enclave of gods

but now given everywhere
to the oily minutiae of our decent, respectable selves
in lines like broken anti-matter
because we cannot
do not
want to bear it any more.

Who wants to rule this tired republic
of shameful verse
and lead our crawl
back from gods
back into mud?
Better never to have been born,

better not to have grown to think,
to build edifices to our minds
so magnificent
they can ignore slaughter and rape
over which men in suits
argue ethics
until their mouths run red

from bloodied thumbs
counting their murderous dollars,
while god dies where he was made
in Syria

but also everywhere
where a commodity begins:
in a mine
where a rock-fall or a shotgun kills god
and a widow grows bitter,
in a micro-chip factory
where young workers stop dreaming
and we bow to the great God Automaton.

What does it matter?


(* Thank you to Young Homsi Lens for permission to use the photograph.)


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