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Hayden Carruth

Well I have and in fact
more than one and I’ll
tell you this too

I wrote one against
Algeria that nightmare
and another against

Korea and another
against the one
I was in

and I don’t remember
how many against
the three

when I was a boy
Abyssinia Spain and
Harlan County

and not one
breath was restored
to one

shattered throat
mans womans or childs
not one not

but death went on and on
never looking aside

except now and then
with a furtive half-smile
to make sure I was noticing.


“On Being Asked To Write A Poem Against The War In Vietnam” by Hayden Carruth, which you’ll encounter in his Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991.

“Mortui solum finem belli viderunt”; Plato, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” As Wilfred Owen, perhaps the most famous modern war poet remarked (in a phrase now inscribed above ‘Poets’ Corner’ in Westminster Abbey), ”My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.”

I am, of course, bearing in mind the impeding and it seems inevitable U.S. intervention in Syria. I wish I had gone on the record earlier about this — and at least some of my friends will know what my position was — but I was in favor of a U.S. or multilateral strike on Assad’s armaments in May of last year. I have since changed my mind, as I now think the Obama administration is making a grave mistake in focusing on a narrowly tactical rather than broadly strategic, coalition-based course of action. But then again, the real Catch-22 of the matter stems from Assad’s alliances with Russia and to a lesser degree China, which dictate that no matter what the U.S. decides to do, our actions will not have the official sanction of the UN Security Council. So there’s no workable path which would involve a legally constituted, united coalition, as we had in the First Gulf War.

The above picture is of Hayden Carruth.