Heilige Nacht

Some are living on against their will.

Some are afflicted with anger

As if they had been born to be irate

To condemn and to find fault

To whittle others down to nothing

Like soap.

Then, because I grieve

For the fallen

And I am burdened with sin

Make of me a soap seal

That flays herself with her fins.

That is what I am

Made of boiled ash,

Whose ash I know not—

A tattered and torn flag

On the memorial day for fallen

sons, the soft bodies crushed by war

Shipped home in the flag-draped coffins

And the mule deer,  black blood

From their mouths, faltering in the trees

On the foolish green grass of Normandy

Where the headstones chatter on to themselves

The bones play knock knock

The tide sucks at the shore

And pulls back and back

The sea stars divide and multiply

They came in their spangled pride

and walked in to the shore

And fell to their knees, their chests

Bursting open with red wet valor.

They lay in the bruised and mothering sea

They were patched up, their arms

At their sides their mouths sewn

Shut, coins on their eyes

Our dead, our brave.  We hid them away

We said their stories were follies

We danced in the moonlight

We plotted the next war and the next

We trained our children to be turret gunners

We said there were MIGs with Japs in them

We slept with the butterflies and got them

With child

And the butterflies lingered, calling to us

Stumbling in the foam with bound feet

And then we bombed the butterflies

And their children

That bore our blood—

We want to be forgiven;

We want to believe

But at dusk, at everyman’s Ramadan

We slaughter the lamb of history

And bleed the lamb’s blood into a chalice

And we call this God

And we say that God loves our wars

In the night our children

Weep over their imperfections

With the powers and foresight of the young

They see we are doomed

Our species gone down into ruin

The sun runs away with the moon

The clouds fall into the sea

We soldier on

Our sins pressing us beneath the waves

Yet we say that no one among us

Has unreasonably exulted, sung forth the battle hymn

with star spangled gusto

Or drowned in a beautiful blue lie.