, ,

A poem by by Thom Tammaro:

“Lao Tzu, I think of you at the gates of Chou near Han Ku Pass, twenty-five hundred years ago, saddened by the citizens of your country, weary of heart and without hope, writing down these words for the hopeful gatekeeper:

If you rejoice in victory, then you delight in killing:
If you delight in killing, you cannot fulfill yourself

When many people are being killed,
They should be mourned in heartfelt sorrow.
That is why victory must be observed like a funeral.

Lao Tzu, I am sorry to report that we are still waiting for the generals to light the candles.  We are still waiting for the victorious soldiers to carry the coffins of the enemy through the city gates.  We have been praying for the dead when we should have been saving our prayers for the living.  We have yet to learn how to celebrate victory.  Coffin handles are still being carved from the hand bones of the dead.”

Lao Tzu 2


by Thom Tammaro
in After the Storm
eds Jay Meek and F.D. Reeve


After the Storm is a 1992 selection of brief poems about war by some 66 published poets, names such as Robert Bly and Philip Levine, Denise Levertov and Maura Stanton. Some of the poems were written in response to the Gulf War of Aug, 1990 – Feb, 1991, but many were not. All, as the editors tell us, push back against the language of war euphemism, poems ‘that will not tell lies.’

The parenthesis around (Persian Gulf) is mine. Tammaro was writing after the Gulf War; Lao Tzu for the ages.

As is my custom, I kept the book on a chair near the door and sat to read and think about one poem each day before I entered the hurly-burly outside. Somedays I went out reflective, others mournful, others with the prick of anger. This has been a good practice for me and this a good book for any to have, and from which to read — reminding us of wars, and the loss they bring, which we too soon forget.