WoodchucksCasual WearAD
Traveling through the DarkBlack and White 


Gassing the woodchucks didn´t turn out right.
The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange
was featured as merciful, quick at the bone
and the case we had against them was airtight,
both exits shoehorned shut with puddingstone,
but they had a sub-sub-basement out of range.
Next morning they turned up again, no worse
for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes
and state-store Scotch, all of us up to scratch.
They brought down the marigolds as a matter of course
and then took over the vegetable patch
nipping the broccoli shoots, beheading the carrots.
The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrilling
to the feel of the .22, the bullets´ neat noses.
I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace
puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing,
now drew a bead on the littlest woodchuck´s face.
He died down in the everbearing roses.
Ten minutes later I dropped the mother. She
flipflopped in the air and fell, her needle teeth
still hooked in a leaf of early Swiss chard.
Another baby next. O one-two-three
the murderer inside me rose up hard,
the hawkeye killer came on stage forthwith.
There´s one chuck left. Old wily fellow, he keeps
me cocked and ready day after day after day.
All night I hunt his humped-up form. I dream
I sight along the barrel in my sleep.
If only they´d all consented to die unseen
gassed underground the quiet Nazi way.

(Maxine Kumin: "Woodchucks" from Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief, Viking Penguin, 1971)


Casual Wear

Your average tourist: Fifty. 2.3
Times married. Dressed, this year, in Ferdi Plinthbower
Originals. Odds 1 to 9
Against her strolling past the Embassy

Today at noon. Your average terrorist:
Twenty-five. Celibate. No use for trends,
At least in clothing. Mark, though, where it ends.
People have come forth made of colored mist

Unsmiling on one hundred million screens
To tell of his prompt phone call to the station,
"Claiming responsibility" - devastation
Signed with a flourish, like the dead wife´s jeans.

(James Merrill: "Casual Wear" from "Topics" in Late Settings, Atheneum Publishers, 1985)



Wanted: Men;
Millions of men are wanted at once in a big new field;
New, tremendous, thrilling, great.
If you´ve ever been a figure in the chamber of horrors,
If you´ve ever escaped from a psychiatric ward,
If you thrill at the thought of throwing poison into wells, have heavenly visions
of people, by the thousands, dying in flames —
You are the very man we want
We mean business and our business is you
Wanted: A race of brand-new men.
Apply: Middle Europe;
No skill needed;
No ambition required; no brains wanted and no character allowed;
Take a permanent job in the coming profession
Wages: Death.

(Kenneth Fearing: "AD" from New and Collected Poems, Indiana University Press, 1956.)


Traveling through the Dark

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.
By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.
My fingers touching her side brought me the reason -
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.
The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.
I thought hard for us all - my only swerving -
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

(William Stafford: "Traveling through the Dark" from Stories That Could Be True, Harper & Row, 1960.)


Black and White

"Rhodesia, sweaty
flank of the world . . ."
i read as quietly
as they lay: "guerillas,"
it went on,
"put here as a lesson . . ."
they lay like a catch
in the plaza sun,
still damp, the eyes
not yet clouded,
the African heat
raising the bellies . . .
"it is the way
of our generals
to count what is theirs,
what is done
in their name,"
the secretary announced . . .
from their circle
photographers stare
and snap at the dead men,
at the keyboard of rifles
above their heads,
at the small town
that leads to
the jungle´s edge —
they snap and freeze
it all, store it
in the silent world
of black and white . . .

(Leonard Adame: reprinted in: The Bedford Introduction to Literature, St. Martin´s Press, 1987)