Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2011


by Gary Nelson

On the anniversary, 150 years mostly forgotten,
historians celebrated the first battle of the War Between the States,
the "civil" war. I listened to public radio and heard the news:
Only one man of many died that day, and that a mistake
of an accidentally discharged cannon,
fuse hot-headed as the other side.

My brother and I grew up, separated by a century
from the internal war. Before we did, before we died,
we played with lavishly decorated Revolutionary War soldiers
of cooled-off die-cast molten metal molded,
painted, shipped out, sold tin soldiers.
We were generals on opposing cliffs of the Palisades
like a collar pulled up stiff against the piercing rain.

Like radium wristwatch dial cues in daylight, barely descried,
it turns out all the military figurines made in our time
were bullets of mind-dulling lead,
painted with the same fierce element that
we, unknowing boys, sucked on like colored lollipops, the waylaid
culled out of the strategic game, the sticky dead.

Around the televised world today on opposing banks of centralized rivers,
on opposite sides of rubbled arterials in the holy body of man's habitations,
on continents separated by troubled water joined at the hip by trade,
soldiers are being sucked on,
their juices pulled like pallid sugar cane
by spider generals who serve
the richest families in the world.

But this is no game to involve ourselves in just
because we are all sister/brother Siamese twins.
I speak from my heart, your heart, our central brain.
Please listen this day, a century-and a-half separated from friendship,
when manufactured soldier replica toys are made safe by regulation.

Added: 12.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem


The image of the soldiers as being the toys of generals is good, and we are voyeurs of their/our killing