Poetry and the National Defense

Ten years after 9/11, Washington, D.C. still holds its defensive crouch. All too quickly, we got used to increased security in downtown buildings, and seeing reports on Homeland Security broadcast from the sweet spot overlooking the Capitol on the top floor of the Newseum. How could we help but find this subject creeping into our literature?

Here are two poems about the post-9/11 world written by a couple of terrific D.C. poets looking for a return to sanity and a happier ending. Both poems are reprinted from Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and are offered in the spirit of solace.

by Kathi Morrison-Taylor

In downtown Washington
just blocks from the White House
you can still buy a Bomb Pop --
its red, white, and blue
warhead portrait displayed
on the Good Humor cart
next to Fudgsicles and Sundae Cones;
its novelty rocket of cherry,
lemon and raspberry
a bestseller in this no-fly zone.

Last Friday, a bomb threat
cleared the monuments,
closed Constitution
and Independence for hours.
Trapped on the mall, a tourist dad
stopped to cool off with a Bomb Pop,
licked those memories --
Cold War, fallout shelters,
brain freeze -- basking
in Homeland Security.

Forgive me, but I suspect
someone's filming me
as I ask for one,
as I'm pointing,
as the vendor's reaching
into his silo.

by Holly Karapetkova

If love were a dirty bomb, you could set
it off in Washington and it would spread
into the suburbs unseen, contaminate
the air and water. People would breathe it, feed

on it unknowingly and slowly love
would infiltrate their lungs, make their fingers burn.
In a week, you'd see them start to pair up, leave
the office early for lunch and not return;

even the evangelists are born again --
this time to love -- they grab the nearest nun,
and scientists are too involved to look
for cures, not that anyone cares. Attack

on US, the foreign press reports
with real concern, seeing the SUVs
abandoned on the interstates, the airports
unguarded, army generals on their knees.

Don't they know love is always like that,
tearing you out of the spaces you once thought
meant something, making you forget each
last defense, the guns rusting along the beach.