Gulf War News Sign-Off, with Video Tricks
Today's war ended the way yesterday's war ended:
a Star-Spangled Banner duet
scored for Mount Rushmore and F-16.
It's two shots of tequila past midnight.
The F-16's wings hallucinate —
through the spotting scope of my twenty inch Zenith —
into sky-calipers, measuring the gap
between Lincoln's eye and ear.
So the warplane is catapulted full-grown
from the democracy-god's stone forehead?
— or does it plunge in, a myth-sized re-enactment
of the first time this country tried to murder itself,
with a stage actor's derringer, in a suburban theater?
In the granite brain, F-16's fuselage fades,
not like bullet fragments but like tissue in a skull X-ray.
Then Lincoln dissolves like the ice in my drink,
and F-16 warps back, this time even stranger —
its wingtips join Washington's lips to Jefferson's lips,
and Rushmore dissolves
like a sugar cube on a president's tongue.
In the video war of my fortieth year,
I stared through the smart-bomb lens.
It was not like Slim Pickens in Doctor Strangelove,
whooping, waving his cowboy hat as he rides the Bomb
like a Brahma bull down on Russia,
but claustrophobic, like being stuffed
in the iron lung I dreaded as a boy and falling
headfirst, with my face as detonator.
It was feeling my atoms crushed and fused anew
inside something the size of a sea lion
closing in, steel-skinned and unswerving, for the kill.
Chair pulled close to midnight's television,
I sat with the sound off, as the white beam
translated me into an optic weapon.
Over and over the smart bomb guided me
down into Iraqi hangars, convoy trucks, air-raid shelters.
For days afterward — while oil wells incandesced
and made black pillars for the sky-altar,
while the desert burned like a sacrificial bull,
horn, hoof and hide, on which the human dead,
tiny as ticks, swelled and blackened and burst —
I walked around dissonant, disembodied,
New England winter locked in my head-up display.
My neighbor's icicled barn
where he restored English race cars;
a Chevy Caprice coughing exhaust in the graveyard
as its owner wiped snow off plastic geraniums in an urn;
the Mobil station fluorescing in sleety darkness
while the bright steel vessels sucked at
its inexhaustible pumps, then roared back out
on Route 9: whatever I looked at hard
froze in my regard, was reduced to a gray-scale image
in my winter screen, and a bright little x,
blinking like a computer cursor,
flew out of the corner of my eye and vaporized it.
And now midnight's Maine sunrise,
midnight's Big Sur sunset: x and x and x,
soft-porn orgasms of hydrogen and oxygen and carbon
dissolving in F-16's smoke exhale,
what it sky-writes in a lyric contrail
in the thousand square pixels of my television,
Was it good for you?
F-16 loves America the way Zeus loved Greece,
ready to missile-fuck any mortal thing
that makes a wrong move in its striking range,
and America, at the anthem end of the broadcast day,
loves F-16 like a miracle-Icarus
able to fly straight at any lesser empire's sun
and melt it, with a laser-guided kiss,
into post-midnight video static
when we are as close to heaven
as the big granite fathers are to serious kissing.
America the black pillow, rock glass full
of high-octane fumes and transcendence,
America the black personal remote:
some nights after the brass band finishes off
in my rec room and the male-voiced machine
announces its visions are concluded,
tequila-slugged, I slouch in the dark, controller
in my hand still aimed into a black snow of fragments
my eyes fly through, still armed with x
after x after x, into the static cloud of the kill.