Poem: Infinite Regress of War

 

myla-sklarew-harmless-infinite-regress-war

for Sinan Antoon born in Baghdad

In the mirror of infinite regress
go back. Go back to Vietnam. To a man
who can spot a trip wire fine as a hair,

thread to explosives, who keeps his body
close to an escape route. Only Dante
can help him find his words. In the infinite

regress of war, start anywhere. Try Rwanda,
Baghdad, the Persian Gulf. Try
Phnom Penh: a man left an eye

in a jungle there. Try Korea. Or a man
shot down over Germany. We welcomed
back the parts of him that survived. Sepulchre

of repeated images. Won’t someone shatter
the pure reflection of glass? Here
comes the poet who sees a mother

weaving a shroud–not Penelope
staving off her suitors for Ulysses’s
eventual return–but a shroud

for another war. A shroud for the dead man
still in her womb. Poet, if I put your words
inside my poem, have we not crossed over

into one another? Escaped the endless
hierarchy of war? Or must we stumble
against the mirror at noon?

From Harmless (Mayapple Press 2010). Used by permission.

Myra Sklarew‘s numerous collections of poetry include Lithuania: New & Selected Poems, The Witness TreesHarmless, and If You Want to Live Forever. She is co-editor of The Junk Dealer’s DaughterThe Journey of Child Development, and has a forthcoming book: A Survivor Named Trauma: Holocaust and the Construction of Memory. Her poems are housed in the Contemporary Poets Archive at the Library of Congress. Honors include the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award and the National Jewish Book Council Award in Poetry. Sklarew was the founding director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at American University and is professor emerita of literature. From 1987 to 1991, she served as president of the Yaddo artist community. She is a founding board member of The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, and currently serves on the advisory board of Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University and The Center for Israeli Studies at American University. She is also a key organizer of “A Splendid Wake,” a documentation project of poets and poetry activities in DC from 1900 to the present.