Jul/Aug 2003 Poetry

Two Poems

by Oswald LeWinter


Dear John

The chopper with the mail barely made it
to the valley firebase where VC bursts
blossomed like red poppies from the bush,
to bring old news from home and take back
wounded and, if space allowed, the dead.

I have a letter, not too thick, postmarked
March. But this is May, almost June,
and it's the first from home since Christmas.
It begins with dear and ends with sorry,
please forgive, and blames the stupid war.

Why should I blame the war? The war
did not betray my trust. I never trusted it.
The war did not forsake my bed. We never slept
together more than minutes in a hole, mud
and fleas huddled in with me, threesome of dread.

I had carried an old vision in my head of home,
of soft breasts, thighs parting, after brimming eyes
greeted me as I filled the doorway of the house,
returned at last, to love, a shared life of years
among books, symphonies, laughter and talk,

a war that seized me with peremptory legalities,
had interrupted. Nine thousand miles
from the low bungalow encroaching on the river,
rage held me in a vise. Twisting, I sought enemies
but found none I could blame for any sin at all.


Recollections in Turmoil

Here I sit, an old spider, patiently placing word
after word, hoping the whole will hold some meaning,
some basic revelation, some eternal certainty
and the accident of perfection that is finally each life.

All metaphors are caskets in which to bury half-
known feelings we attempt to name, rages intuited,
or loves that ripened slowly like soft cheese we desired
to feast on, despite its bouquet of decay.

I have not lived peacefully! Why should I then be
tranquil when I write poems; pretend the words
I confiscate from abstract decoys in order to possess and
brand them as my own with immediate joy, immediate

despair, and the laughter of a man about to hang,
leave me cool and distant as a star whose light reaches us
long after it has died. No, they are something else,
if you like, dancing partners held with fiercest passion,

and uncertainty as well. Bitch Goddess! I am
your suitor in hand-me-down trousers, your ugly frog
who wishes nothing more than to be changed into the blond
prince of my Jewish dreams by your prized kiss.

I know full well that I may end stiffly spurned, holding
nothing but myself in tired and arthritic hands, on a hard bench
in the ghetto of old age, and yet I keep on rising
every time the quartet in the mind strikes up another tune.


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