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Worlds Apart


patrotic                          number games

for the duration               one-year tours

war                                            lottery

to conquer                          body counts

snows confetti                     rains spittle

on parade                              in protest

heroes                                     invisible

benefits                                 forgotten

R&R                                              PhD

- John Horváth

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HHOBBYIST

I collect them. 
My hobby: memory. 
In this beercan paradise 
      three stories a night 
      pass through the crowd. 
Sometimes the streetwalkers 
      tell me some Joe just wanted 
      to talk and the businessmen 
      overlook their profit margins. 
Me, I collect them 
      in this booth next 
      to the window not 
      washed since when. 
Each night a few. 
Word by word, 
      they escape 
      into the crowd.

- John Horváth

 

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DC

   Keep off the grass 
   and move along 
   if someone pushes 
   let him pass 

   Ain't that Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 
   ain't that Gary Indiana 
   ain't that Pueblo Colorado 
   where they kept the mills 
   of steel and iron running? 

   Says some over-aging hippie 
   to his one-arm bandit brother 
   God, I know that Frisco cop 
   ain't that some Crescent pig 
   ain't that a Philly flatfoot 
   ain't that Joe Palooka's rig? 

   In the line with buttered popcorn 
   hear a too young 'hero' tell his teeny - 
   bopper girlfriend of his heroism ribbons 
   and she stares back at him blankly, 
   ain't that killin jus' like murder? 
   ain't it murder on newsreels? 
   it ain't  movies, guy, 
   the camera moves, 
   a dummy's put down 
   where they fall -- 
   these do not rise again 
   and play another role. 

   Well, mr. corporation dandy, 
   when you're snortin' with your sugar 
   and you're shuckin' ads for candy 
   at a luncheon with the big guy 
   swallow steak or maybe sushi 
   then some guy who made it knows of dying. 

   It's their beaten dreams that serve us, 
   cater to us and caress us, 
   make uneasy and surround us; 
   it's their surrender to the hatred 
   all around us. It's got us cold 
   and got us nervous. 

   There's vets in rehab in Rehoboth; 
   and in remake down in Houston; 
   or on the streetlife of Seattle 
   where they sometimes hold a hand out 
   with that finger searched for buggers 
   or the palm that passed your sugar. 
   There're veterans down 
   in Tampa triple-X theaters, 
   in Oakland with the Bikers, 
   They're Juneau alkies in the bottle, 
   they all struggle 'gainst tomorrow 
   they just died again today 
   as they hadn't years ago. 
   It's their crimes and it's their killin 
   come back to our streets for hauntin'. 

   It's their beaten dreams that serve us, 
   cater to us and caress us, 
   make uneasy and surround us; 
   it's their beaten dreams that hate us. 

   It's blackfaced minstrel Bubba 
   and his Mrs. Bones a Baba 
   upside the head of Something-stein 
   at the order of some Anglo 
   who calls the marchin' cadence 
   to a whole new different drummer 
   who gives 'em marching papers 
   or sends 'em up for murder. 

   Not a coward there among 'em, 
   not a sissy sashays in the lot. 
   Look beyond the tattered clothing 
   look beyond unshaven faces 
   get beyond their mess-up drawers 
   get beyond their stench of rot. 

   They still have something 
   good and gracious, 
   neither senator nor congress cat, 
   among 'em; no Park Avenuer snot 
   gets his name carved in the wall 
   they don't give it up for God and country 
   call a VA quack the "doc". 

   Come rub your hands across it; 
   it's a moment to erase -- 
   these vets may have died together 
   lonely in lonely damned embrace. 

   For their families 
   for their sweeties 
   for their mamas 
   and their babes. 

   We can kiss this soft soft marble. 
   We can kiss their left behind. 

   Cause we like to call 'em homeless 
   belabor how some vets just won't work at all 
   but they've worked their way through jungle 
   and up from endless beaches 

   while we charged the golden master 
   and up the platinum visa 
   and plastic bankamericard 

   Vets learn that dessert's sweet stuff 
   and the desert's full o' sand 
   while we celebrated superbowl 
   sweated over backyard charcoal 
   on our super powered gas grills 

   but Vets live like kings in weekend Hiltons 
   take free rides on post-shock downers 

   so what's the goddamn crying 
   ain't vets just a little crazy 
   ain't vets just a wee ungrateful 
   to be so goddamn lazy 

   Glory Honor for them Screwballs? 
   some get their names on police blotters 
   when they've just "been passin' through" 
   and some might be even neighbors 
   scares the hell out to think it through 
   maybe Sunday next he'll load his mauser 
   or a b-b gun or two, take a potshot 
   at an Audi, mar Beemers bought brand new. 

   They never said surrender 
   they just didn't follow through 
   didn't use the talents given 
   or the skills as taught to do. 
   Took some hills or killed too many, 
   Didn't drive up to Khomeini, 
   these vets just cannot follow through. 

   Take their dreams, 
   their nightmare slaughters, 
   Take their excuses for failure too. 
   But when vets fall along the roadside 
   hold 'em high upon our shoulders 
   cause it's the cross we're nailed to - 

   it's the pusher and the baker 
   it's the cop and it's the robber 
   it's the worker and the beggar 
   it's the kid with manic father 
   it's the crazy classroom teacher 
   and the preacher on the corner 
   it's the work-for-food guy at the grocer 
   and all that momentary torture 
   that wakes and screams beside us 

   it's their dreams that serve us 
   their emptiness and horror 
   cater to us and caress us 
   it's their dreams all all around us 
   dreams that blankly look upon us 

   but thank God they're slowly dying 
   should all be dead real soon 
   and the movie-camera's shifting 
   to the enemy inside us 
   in the privacy of home 

   Do you think we've killed the monster? 
   But we teach that being human 
   is Belief in something Greater 
   -- that's nation, skin, or dollar. 

   There are threats to keep from borders 
   there are threats far from this place 
   there are villagers to murder 
   there is time for more disgrace 

   keep adding to the blackstone 
   give it flags and statue soldiers 
   leave it gifts and small mementos 
   leave them honors at the blackstone 
   til we learn there's no surrender 
   and no such thing as winning war 

   cause it's all of us now dying 
   from the shrapnel in our soul 

-- John Horváth

 

 

 

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