What Is (War)

by Joanna Klink

Joanna Klink

And if all those who meet or even
hear of you become witness to what you are—

a white country of blight beneath the last snows of
spring. Could we remain quiet on earth

and bear it, the war we make inside
what is—it’s a long time to be here, to be still,

to feel the rot inside now—bone-scrap, char, sheets of stars
at the edge of a field where we are once again

taken from ourselves. Could we remain here,
witness to grief, one last bright dire call-and-reply,

each birdsong or siren extinguished where some
trueness abides, some portion we have lost our right

to claim or know. It comes into any mind that would
perceive it, leaf-rot, speech-rot, the deliberate ribcage

of the deer, these abrupt chalk cliffs over which
the confused animals fling themselves, and you,

obscure, receive no response that is not suffered
as the days grow long and distortions

come to seem the natural course of things—
what trees whose creatures stray into space—

and they find they cannot land though the eyelid
struggles open—no answer, no resolution—

a window opened to the mute green world,
weedy and driftless, a wind drilling rain, dirt,

the parameters of uncertainty, of hope,
what we might be against what we have done,

bees crawling through the lips of the one
who would say the earth turned into sour flesh—

What strange rooms, what soundless movement of sky
over desert where the flesh again is beaten

and the emptiness extends itself while some old man
looks on, a raptor in waiting, the sand-field

around them blown thinly toward sun—no longer
ourselves in the afternoons, evenings,

weak, vague, clutched at the mouth—
because we did nothing, because we lost count.

Last updated October 12, 2022