Morning News

Marilyn Hacker

 
Spring wafts up the smell of bus exhaust, of bread
and fried potatoes, tips green on the branches,
repeats old news: arrogance, ignorance, war.
A cinder-block wall shared by two houses
is new rubble. On one side was a kitchen
sink and a cupboard, on the other was
a bed, a bookshelf, three framed photographs.
Glass is shattered across the photographs;
two half-circles of hardened pocket bread
sit on the cupboard. There provisionally was
shelter, a plastic truck under the branches
of a fig tree. A knife flashed in the kitchen,
merely dicing garlic. Engines of war
move inexorably toward certain houses
while citizens sit safe in other houses
reading the newspaper, whose photographs
make sanitized excuses for the war.
There are innumerable kinds of bread
brought up from bakeries, baked in the kitchen:
the date, the latitude, tell which one was
dropped by a child beneath the bloodied branches.
The uncontrolled and multifurcate branches
of possibility infiltrate houses'
walls, windowframes, ceilings. Where there was
a tower, a town: ash and burnt wires, a graph
on a distant computer screen. Elsewhere, a kitchen
table's setting gapes, where children bred
to branch into new lives were culled for war.
Who wore this starched smocked cotton dress? Who wore
this jersey blazoned for the local branch
of the district soccer team? Who left this black bread
and this flat gold bread in their abandoned houses?
Whose father begged for mercy in the kitchen?
Whose memory will frame the photograph
and use the memory for what it was
never meant for by this girl, that old man, who was
caught on a ball field, near a window: war,
exhorted through the grief a photograph
revives. (Or was the team a covert branch
of a banned group; were maps drawn in the kitchen,
a bomb thrust in a hollowed loaf of bread?)
What did the old men pray for in their houses
of prayer, the teachers teach in schoolhouses
between blackouts and blasts, when each word was
flensed by new censure, books exchanged for bread,
both hostage to the happenstance of war?
Sometimes the only schoolroom is a kitchen.
Outside the window, black strokes on a graph
of broken glass, birds line up on bare branches.
"This letter curves, this one spreads its branches
like friends holding hands outside their houses."
Was the lesson stopped by gunfire? Was
there panic, silence? Does a torn photograph
still gather children in the teacher's kitchen?
Are they there meticulously learning war-
time lessons with the signs for house, book, bread?
 
From Desesperanto by Marilyn Hacker. Copyright © 2003 by Marilyn Hacker. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

Against Elegies by Marilyn Hacker
James has cancer. Catherine has cancer
Cleis by Marilyn Hacker
For K. J., Leaving and Coming Back by Marilyn Hacker
August First: it was a year ago
Headaches by Marilyn Hacker
Wine again. The downside of any evening’s
Iva's Pantoum by Marilyn Hacker
We pace each other for a long time.
Nearly a Valediction by Marilyn Hacker
You happened to me. I was happened to
Syria Renga by Marilyn Hacker


Further Reading

Related Poems
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by Arthur Sze
The News from M—
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by John Keats
The Winter's Tale Act IV, Scene II [When daffodils begin to peer]
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A Blessing
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After dark vapors have oppress'd our plains
by John Keats
Alcove
by John Ashbery
Another Attempt at Rescue
by M. L. Smoker
Birds Again
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Black Petal
by Li-Young Lee
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by Tina Cane
Chansons Innocentes: I
by E. E. Cummings
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by Federico García Lorca
Diary [Surface]
by Rachel Zucker
Each year
by Dora Malech
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by William Shakespeare
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by Carl Phillips
In cold spring air
by Reginald Gibbons
In the Memphis Airport
by Timothy Steele
Lines Written in Early Spring
by William Wordsworth
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by Oscar Wilde
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Prologue of the Earthly Paradise
by William Morris
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by Edna St. Vincent Millay
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by William Carlos Williams
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spring love noise and all [excerpt]
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Spring Song
by Sherwood Anderson
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by D. H. Lawrence
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[O were my love yon Lilac fair]
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