(For Art Ignacio, on his leaving for Iraq the 2nd time)
Today is the small hours of the morning of our thanksgiving day,
In Los Angeles as well as in Temple where you think of wars,
Yours as well as ours, citizens or those who dream of homeland
Safe from the rhetoric of self-righteousness and kingdom-come.
There is a good omen in this going to war the second time
Even as you invite me for a short visit, unwind from it all,
This vision of salvation and its absence, war or no war, verse
Of strange truths sometimes, hard truths we sometimes deny.
It is not easy going back to the frontlines. It is not easy
Seizing the poem, the feel of sounds, the pulsing of phrases,
The beat of rhythms ringing relentless in the high winds
As we take over the pages, blank like the world in Fallouja
And this verse that bursts into blooms, red on pavements,
Silver and more silver on the grey night, the brown of flesh
On ancient walls witnessing all this masquerade, this end
To all that is silent and holy, the sacrament of the ages.
Even as I did not come to rush to the appointed time
Of coming and then going again to say, "Your take care,"
I think of the exchanges that will cement the distances
Between us all, poets and prophets of lost, wayward words.
I do not know which is better: your going home to heal
The wound on your memory or this second leaving to wage
A fierce campaign of victory, this one for democracy,
This one for a land as old as time and beyond time,
This biblical valley and plain and dessert of bloodletting
This borderland of resurrection and ritual murdering
As if the act is collective, as if the memory is lost
On the dust of the earth, as if a psalm has not been said.
Go, go then, go to this war of your own calling.
Go to fulfill the destiny of your sad searching.
The war song is your benediction, the drum's echoes
The urgings of your redemption in the ambush of a poem.
Aurelio S. Agcaoili
Nov. 25, 2004