Battle On the Ice: An Open Poem to the President
And we are met as on a darkling plane, where ignorant armies clash by night.
From “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold
Please, before we send anything
to Holy Kiev, or flaming Donetsk,
defensive killing machines,
or Adam and Eva’s boots on the ground,
before we smite the Russ,
before we try that again—
owning the world, I mean,
remember our battles on the ice,
of the Great War,
when Russ came out of the fog,
and buried our boys from Detroit.
Cossacks, Kulaks, murdering monarchs,
White and Red, hating us
over that grim fight in the snow.
Archangel looked down,
a half-remembered nightmare,
with tears that turned to steel and ice.
Long before that,
Alexander marched north, and wisely stopped.
Bonaparte east, to Moscow, to destruction,
Tatars and Teutons, had faced off,
ghosts, not just rattling sabers.
Allemagne had three tries, and millions died.
Hearts heavy for the dead, again, again,
Our mutual fire balls can reach the sky,
Can sweep around the world—
Immediate global warming,
The Bear will only come out of the North
if taunted by the imperial eagle,
clawed by the eagle, ripped and bleeding.
If you taunt her she will fight.
She wants her land even more
than we want her gold.
And this fight will leave no
Prokofiev’s music will be dead.
Will not be heard again.
Nor is there likely to be a
story, this time,
or anyone to read it.
By Jack Burgess