January in D Flat
The turning of the year begins again,
its sequence of cause and effect
set in motion in an earlier January.
Stillness is poised against machine noises,
suspended over empty sidewalks and congested streets
vibrating with traffic’s infernal hum.
As the year changes, the war goes on.
The President, frozen like a deer in headlights,
announced a desperate plan for its escalation.
The charade continues to its bitter end.
Death stalks faraway ancient cities,
casting its long shadow.
The relentless struggles of the sixties
are immediate yet remote across time and memory.
Nearly fifty years older, are we half a century higher?
The hope of ending war, the shared dream
of transforming society, what does it mean
to a nation militarized for endless war?
The year assumes its new identity like a quick-change artist,
but the numbing drone of war propaganda has not changed.
History is once again doomed to be repeated.
Peace is farther than ever from our grasp.
Wherever I go, I see newborn babies,
pushed along in carriages by their parents.
Were they born to feed a future war machine?
Now is the time to save them from the military State.
Henry Miller said to me after turning eighty,
“I’m glad I’m at the end of my life.
I wouldn’t want to live in the world
you young people are going to have to live in.”
Now, thirty years later, I awaken troubled
by the fate of a nation that devours its young,
nurtured on fantasies of high-tech destruction.
Coffee’s bitter darkness sets the tone for this poem,
illuminated by the slow burn of a distant sun,
when shifting clouds morph against wintry blue,
minor modes in cut time, January in D flat,
the saddest of all the keys.