Beautiful War

Maggie Anderson

March-September 2003

Photographs     painted, cropped, rearranged
          into smoke     soldier     tank     desert sky
red on red
horizon line of dreamed landscape

so that it does not look like war—
wounded Marines, no blood—
                                   no detonations, conflagrations
only the white onion tops of minarets, billowing black clothes
on the screen     digitalized     e-mailed     unsigned.

How photogenic the desert is!
The black and whites, uncaptioned, could be
Ansel Adams     moon over desert
quiet     clean     lucky
I collect the pictures from The New York Times.
This is the least I can do:
               to remember what happens.

March 2003     in Paris     I saw the blue peace sign
hanging from the fourth floor apartment window
          in the Ninth Arrondissement,
hurried back to my small hotel     between Pigalle and St. Georges
          watched the news in French on the tiny black and white TV
          bolted to the ceiling above the bed.
The first clippings I saved were from Le Figaro and Paris Match.

In West Virginia in April I cut and pasted, full-page,
full-color     Jessica Lynch,
     girl from my own country of mud road and canebrake,
filth by the highway     loud and steamy in summer,
low white high school building at the edge of the forest
     her silent friends stand in a straight row—
She was my best good friend
     they answer the reporters’ questions,
country polite     they say     yes ma’am     no, sir

I have filled five books so far     stacked them
under the window that faces the maple turning
          red in late September.
Still clipping and pasting     my hands
smudged black with newsprint     gummy with rubber cement,
my painless war wounds.
Little enough to do     to remember what happens,
to remember the war in my books.

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