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Waging Peace

Laura Carpenter: Lima Charlie


Dear god in heaven, or wherever,
Perhaps because my humvee rolls through the valleys of the
shadow of death—Tagrab, Jalalabad, Kabul,
Or perhaps because this land looks so much like the picture bible
of my childhood, I look for you in its swirling sands.
Any of these mounts, it seems, could hold a Jesus
Preaching blessings on all that I am not --
the meek, the peacemaker.

I went to three chaplains with my cloven soul.
The first one gave me medals of your saints,
Michael with his sword,
(they’re fond of that one).
The second anointed my head with oil,
But couldn’t tell me why my cup runneth over
When all around me your children die for want of drink,
Their thirsty bodies too weak to scream,
Whispering your name.
The third offered holy water to douse me with,
While just outside two babies were sprinkled
with shrapnel.

From minarets they call out your greatness,
But the explosions drown their prayers, seeming greater still.
Mortars steal children.
Rockets crumble men.
“If any should die before they wake...”
(Well, you know the rest, I’m sure.)
The bombs rain down. Fire from above.
The mines, like geysers. Fire from below.
And in the streets the fires are burning.
We speak of fighting fire with fire,
Of firefights, firepower

Enemy fire and friendly.
I plead with you for cleansing fire.
The candles burning on a million altars,
Smoldering incense, sage, or sweetgrass
Exhaling over the world.

Couldn’t a monk set himself ablaze or something?
(It seems fitting now.)
Or the one I was taught to call the Prince of Peace
Could send his spirit down in tongues of flame.
(A dove would work as well, I suppose, the symbolism lost on
no one.)

The Cherokee and Navajo burn sacred tobacco to find you.
I, for my part, flick my seventeenth cigarette against a bush,
Hoping it may ignite and you might speak.
The brush catches for a moment, crackles, then dissolves into silence.
Like static on a radio:
Agnus Dei, qui tolis Pecata mundi,
Miserere nobis. 
How copy, over?
Agnus Dei, qui tolis pecata mundi,
Miserere nobis.
How copy, Over?
Agnus Dei, qui tolis pecata mundi,
Donna nobis pacem.

The silence on your end thunders in my skull,
So deafeningly
and clear.


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