Selective Service

By Carolyn Forché b. 1950 Carolyn Forche
We rise from the snow where we’ve
lain on our backs and flown like children,
from the imprint of perfect wings and cold gowns,   
and we stagger together wine-breathed into town   
where our people are building
their armies again, short years after
body bags, after burnings. There is a man
I’ve come to love after thirty, and we have   
our rituals of coffee, of airports, regret.   
After love we smoke and sleep
with magazines, two shot glasses
and the black and white collapse of hours.   
In what time do we live that it is too late   
to have children? In what place
that we consider the various ways to leave?   
There is no list long enough
for a selective service card shriveling   
under a match, the prison that comes of it,   
a flag in the wind eaten from its pole   
and boys sent back in trash bags.
We’ll tell you. You were at that time   
learning fractions. We’ll tell you
about fractions. Half of us are dead or quiet   
or lost. Let them speak for themselves.
We lie down in the fields and leave behind   
the corpses of angels.

Carolyn Forché, “Selective Service” from The Country Between Us. Copyright © 1981 by Carolyn Forché. Reprinted with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: The Country Between Us (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1982)

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Poet Carolyn Forché b. 1950

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects War & Conflict, Relationships, Love, Social Commentaries, Realistic & Complicated

 Carolyn  Forché


Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1950, poet, teacher and activist Carolyn Forché has witnessed, thought about, and put into poetry some of the most devastating events of twentieth-century world history. According to Joyce Carol Oates in the New York Times Book Review, Forché’s ability to wed the “political” with the “personal” places her in the company of such poets as Pablo Neruda, Philip Levine, and Denise Levertov.

An articulate . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT War & Conflict, Relationships, Love, Social Commentaries, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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