War Games

Enemies were easier to identify
playing war games with my brother.
Stalking the south-side alleys
and back streets, we waged war against
the German and Japanese soldiers
who battled our uncles and neighbors.
When playmates joined us
we took turns as the Americans
or the enemies.
We’d shoot them with our toy guns,
they’d shoot us—
we’d clutch our chests,
writhe on the ground,
get up, dust off our jeans,
ready for more wars.

Playing war was much easier
before fetid jungles,
body bags,
before Ia Drang,
Khe Sanh,

War by Any Other Means

War is not a rational activity,
though supposedly sane people

engage in it across cultures and religions.
Mosque and minaret clashes

with church and steeple.
God is always on the side of the winners.

War is not an extension
of politics by other means,

it is a chosen cultural activity,
but when intelligent nations

fight each other with smart bombs
they have collectively lost their minds.

War is seldom
a dispassionate calculation.

Leaders should reframe the equations,
write open-ended algorithms,

create new multiplication tables,
restring the abaci.

Sign Language

Before hearing aids
my daughters chided me,

“Dad, you can’t hear us.”
I strained to follow words,

tried to read lips but was too proud
to admit my infirmity.

I held out against the inevitable as long as possible
avoided family and friends

because social conversations didn’t come
with closed captions or flashing neon signs.

I finally settled for one hearing aid,
but lost it in the mud and made excuses.

I still couldn’t hear my students,
I still couldn’t hear family and friends.

I finally went back to the audiologist,
got fitted for two powerful hearing aids.

Over the years I upgraded to better technologies,
added closed captions for movies and TV,

but I still struggled to hear my daughters,
understand my sister and my mother.