Bob Herz

February 25, 2022: War


Every word now an intrusion,

Like a child’s bodiless voice at night.


The word says: War,

Seen on a million smart phones,


Bluster v bullets and prayers,

Tic-toc confusion of “moral support,”


As what is lost announces itself

As having never been yours.


There is no charity this morning, only

Breakfast coldness, death-counts.


What is there to weep for? Yet

You feel a need to hide and weep.


All day the old questions repeat.

Answers come as corpses, bullets, tactical nukes,


As cities in ruin, as continued bombing,

Brave amateurs against professionals


(But they hold, they hold). Look now:

Shadows in the rubble. Blood slashed


Across the black and white photos

Of weddings, vacations, happier times with friends, lovers.


The space between the seconds closes,

The month bends against itself,


Life centering on the next few minutes, few hours.

My neighbor asks, And just whose fault…?


And I want to say, Lies and truth always

Protect each other, until one becomes as good as the other,


It’s the necessary relation, don’t you understand,

It’s how the world works,


To say, Don’t speak now— Truth is insult.

To say—Give it up—Love is death. Death is love.


Listen to the crying in the streets.

Listen to how Money protects war.


How oil protects money. How nations protect oil.

The man looks at the woman. Each word,


Each banal word and phrase used today—

“Good morning,” “How are you?” “Did you sleep?”


May be their last, and they know it,

And they go out anyway, with unfamiliar rifles,


On unfamiliar streets, smelling the stench of old corpses,

The stench of dead children, stench of shit and urine.


This is a story about Death, only about Death,

About Death as it is, as victor and judge,


Not Death as the glorious gesture, careless bravery,

The selfless act.


It’s an old story, the same story Death tells, over and over.

It never ends well, because it can never


Count the victims fast enough, or define any other success

Than having the several versions of its name


Spoken everywhere, without recourse, now and forever.


The Poem of Inordinate Cruelty


It was pinpricks of light in the bloody stage curtain of the nations.

It was the musty smell and creak of boards as invisible players strutted behind it.

It was our life, but for a lucky sidestep.


It was tears for the memory of happier days of peace and promises.

It was streets flooded by heavy rains, stalled cars, and cries of refugees and their bloody children.


It was the bad theater of leadership, full of counterfeit emotion and cliche.

It was how every word they spoke sounded like the coming of war.

It was the applause that came after as if gratitude was the proper response to nothing.


It was prayers among the bombings and the scurry of assassins’ feet.

It was how the daily talk of killings and arms shipments and cities on fire became normal.


It was prayers for someone to come and forgive us all and make the world whole again.

It was how I wrote this confession of inordinate cruelty because no one ever came.