War Bird: A Journal

By David Gewanter b. 1954 David Gewanter

                      Poets' Anti-War Rally, 12 Feb. 2003

The massed and pillared wings of
the White House never fly—
        whitewashed yearly, they stand

        to metaphor,

to hawk and dove, and red armies
of ants. Only the halting squirrels
        investigate, creeping past the arrowhead
gates to scratch

        the Midas lawns

for treasure—On the street, commentators
wander like boys in a story too simple
        to explain. The political message,
a hat

        punched inside out:

once, the Nazis got word that Churchill
would visit Roosevelt "in Casa Blanca":
        U-Boats bobbed near the Potomac,
waiting for him...

        but Churchill,

as he said, was sailing to Morocco.
Reagan protesters splashed the Pentagon
        walls daily with cow blood—
soldiers waxed

        the plaster, and triremes

of rats licked the bloody grass;
the EPA sent health goons to stomp
        them, and the pacifists, away—
Then rats stormed

        the National Zoo:

urbane, patient inheritors of the earth,
they snapped prairie dogs like wishbones;
        vigilante zookeepers laced the ground
with poison,

        Carthage delenda est,

and killed the hippo. (Here, in the
New World Order, penguin and polar bear
        soak up ozone, and Nation shall
beat them both

        into ploughshares....)

Hawks and fat cats disdained
the White House squirrels, their proconsul
        Chevy Suburban nosed us aside:
we spoke

        against the war,

and for the cameras, spelled our names
on Chinese Radio—Elder poets shrewdly
        loitered at the lobbiest bar,
read first,

        then left us

to the falange of Secret Servicemen,
chatting like critics into their black
        lapels at every bungled line:
this was no

        singing school,

no falcon heard our crows and warbles...
Emily, our modest leader, rapped the gate:
        "Mrs. Bush wanted American poems—
I brought


all against the war. Can you take them?"
Gulping, the pimply guard asked his shirt
        for help; older hands hustled up,
"The Great Oz

        cannot see you..." etc.

Will four and twenty blackbirds fill
a cowboy hat? Bunkered belowdecks,
        the President goes for the burn,
racing the

        cut tongue

of his treadmill to a dead heat.
Even Nixon met the enemy once,
        strode with his staff into a red sea
of hippies—

        they didn't part,

and he burbled about baseball...
from his desk, he liked to watch
        the sightseers through a gap
in the hedges;


learned this and blocked his view,
stood there day and night for years:
        Nixon, nightmare reality shanking
through his eyes,

        knelt with Kissinger:

Henry, he moaned, what do they want?....
Days from now, how many days,
        the Valentine "Woo at the Zoo" begins.
A hand-raised

        falcon bows,

and shares meat with its master....
He bows in turn, and eats;
        both softly whisper ee-chu,

        a duet

heard only on abstract and crumbling
cliffs—if a man were to stand or
        sing there, he'd fall. The master
straps on a

        a falcon feathered

courtesan's hat and turns away—
Flapping wildly, the falcon claws
        the head-shape, squawking,
gyrating to

        hold on,

imperial lunge and lunge,
biting at the skull it fed, as
        semen slowly drips into a
rubber dam.

David Gewanter, "War Bird: A Journal" from Beltway magazine. Copyright © 2006 by David Gewanter. Reprinted by permission of Beltway magazine.

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Poet David Gewanter b. 1954

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

 David  Gewanter


Poet, editor, and essayist David Gewanter was born in New York City to a pathologist and art gallery entrepreneur. He briefly studied medicine at the University of Michigan before majoring in intellectual history. Instead of graduating, he traveled to London for two years, where he read Keats’s manuscripts and was inspired to begin writing poetry. He graduated cum laude from the University of Michigan, where he won the Hopwood . . .

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Poems by David Gewanter

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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