Words on war

Nearly two hundred years ago, English poet Percy Bysshe Shelly ventured the opinion that poets were “the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

Carole Oles (pictured) is a much-respected poet. She directs the Creative Writing Program at Chico State. She has written five books of poetry: The Deed, Stunts, Night-watches: Inventions on the Life of Mariah Mitchell, Quarry and The Loneliness Factor.

In the early days of the war in Iraq, she wrote the following poem, reprinted here with her permission.


coal it ion ton on tan ali con tic clit lit loon lot not nit tin loin tao nil coat loci lint loan toil colt tonal coot cool tool loot coon a an clan can talc act action in on

“Coalition” aircraft have bombed Baghdad again.
Two-thousand-pound bombs lit the night sky,
fires leaving a talc over hair and bare loins.
A rival clan will loot the city. Why not?

Tin merchants’ shops the loci of precision
action gone wrong. Survivors toil
through the lot for a chunk of coal,
a can of beans. Ali calls like a loon
to his son. Nil. Not even a coat.
Just an ion in the tonal silence.

Tao for the people:
   Bombs are failure’s tool, “liberation” its con.