Warning [Writing]

A dense column of smoke rises By Marion Doss via Flickr

A dense column of smoke rises By Marion Doss via Flickr

Previews of Poetry are Disabled … The Verse Must Flow

Warning

When I was young, before the war, I knew nothing of the things in store.
For when the cold war began to boil, and everyone began to toil.
Making neutron bombs and M-16’s, and a thousand other deadly things.
Mustard gas and fighter planes, the MX and hand grenades.
And the little red button that could change the score
And the little red button that could end the war.

One night I woke to a midnight dawn, and heard cries of “they dropped the bomb”.
Listened to the MinuteMen fly overhead, then I knew not whether I was live or dead.
They had pushed the little red button that could change the score.
They had pushed the little red button that could end the war.

So look ’round this land, girls and boys
and see what Men did with their terrible toys.
See the desert’s blue glow at night, and the half-men who squabble and fight.
See the forgotten, twisted skyscraper, and the pages of an old newspaper.
And the little red button that’s filled with mirth
And the little red button that destroyed the earth.

– HEX


Author’s Postmortem: my own analysis of my work, some folks prefer not to know, so spoilers ahead.

This is one of my oldest living poems, the rest from the earliest years have all gone. I’m not sure why I mentioned 1994 in the teaser title, since it’s circa 1984/85 actually age 13 or 14.

The last verse came first, with the “So look … newspaper” lines setting an immediate end scenario in place. The last refrain came next, with “the little red button” becoming an active protagonist and the “mirth .. earth” section first humanizes it then provides a scope or scale for it’s actions.

I wrote the first verse within a few days of the spasm that produced the third verse, and it flowed almost as quickly. Looking back on the jumble of “war products” listed it seems very convoluted, but it actually came together smoothly, mostly by breaking “moon .. spoon .. june” rhythms in a fairly natural language way that I really don’t think reads as cumbersome. This refrain also came together well, and I’m very happy with how it sets up the power inherent in what’s really a very small and impersonal part of any war machine. The reference that this insignificant thing can “change the score .. end the war” draws an investiture of power in the object.

You’ve heard the sweet, now the slime. Ye gods of Muse and fickle Brain Spasms, why didst thou forsake me? Seriously, I had the absolutely hardest time with the second verse and only slightly less with the refrain. Four or five grueling days letting it roams front to back, in pieces and whole in my mind. In the end I like the simplicity of the verse, two lines that get the whole event on a scale you can empathize with. Definitely my least favorite section is the “and heard .. bomb”, it always struck me as a stupid way of hearing of a nuclear war, but I console myself with the thought that it doesn’t have to be neighbors turned madmen running amok in the streets. Hell it could be the radio… The refrain makes the point that what we have come to expect from the first has happened, and as such is pretty much assumed knowledge and could of perhaps been used to better advantage.

All in all one of my best for a certain concept, and the flaws don’t kill it’s overall format and experience.

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