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Poem-a-Day

That Particular Village

THAT PARTICULAR VILLAGE

"On October 22nd and 23rd, 2002, U.S. warplanes strafed the farming village of Chowkar-Karez, twenty-five miles north of Kandahar, killing at least ninety-three civilians. When asked about the incident at Chowkar, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, 'I cannot deal with that particular village...'"

Look, here's the thing. I can deal with that
particular village about as well today
as I could deal with it yesterday, which is
to say, I cannot deal with that particular
village at all. Other villages I can deal with,
have dealt with and will deal with in the future,
but not that particular village. Look, think
of the situation I'm in like this: I'm a tightrope
walker in a circus tent in a prairie town in 1911.
I perform with my wife and without a net.
Unbeknownst to me my wife, who happens
to be a very beautiful woman, has fallen
in love with the tiger tamer. On this night,
while walking the tightrope towards her
where she stands on the platform, I see
she has a big pair of golden garden shears
and she's preparing to cut the rope. Tell me,
what do I do? If I start to scream,
she'll cut the rope. If I say nothing,
she'll cut the rope. I can't deal with that
village in particular because I really
have to try and focus on sinking this
putt. I can't deal with it today because
tomorrow I'm flying to Chicago to participate
in the Associated Writing Programs Conference.
I've been invited to appear on a panel called:
“Tangled Umbilical: What We Can Learn
From Paying Attention to Syntax in Political
Discourse and How We Can Use It to Write Better
Flash Fiction.” I can't deal with that particular
village because I was born in 1932. I cannot
deal with it today or yesterday because
my senior thesis at Princeton was entitled
“The Steel Seizure Case of 1952 and Its Effect
on Presidential Powers.” I can't deal with it
because I have three children and six grand
children none of whom will have to go
to the holy wars. I can't deal with that village,
that particular village, right now because I live
in Mount Misery, the former plantation
house where a young Frederick Douglass
was sent to have his teen spirit broken
by the brutal slaveholder Edward Covey.
I can't because one day, after being beaten
many times by his master, Douglass fought
off Covey's cousin and then Covey himself
in the very yard where my wife grows camellias.
I can't because Douglass was never assaulted
by Covey again. I can't deal with that particular
village in this life nor shall I be made to answer for
what happened there in the next. Certain things
about my past make it impossible for me
to deal with it: when I was little I was an Eagle
Scout, I wrestled in high school, I didn't graduate
from Georgetown Law. Nixon called me
a ruthless little bastard. I sold the company
I was CEO of to Monsanto for $12 million.
I cannot deal with that particular village.
I can't deal with it because once upon a time
I delivered a few pistols, some medieval
spiked hammers, and a pair of golden cowboy
boots to Saddam Hussein on behalf of
President Reagan. I can't deal with it because
a few years ago I had to make a special trip
to Abu Graib to personally turn the volume
of a Bach symphony up to make a man's ears
bleed more profusely. I can't deal because
on the afternoon of September 11th an aide
scribbled down in shorthand what I was
saying on the phone: “Best info fast —
Judge whether good enough hit Saddam
at same time — not only Bin Laden —
Need to move swiftly — Near term target
needs — go massive — sweep it all up
— Things related and not.” I can't...Look...
That particular village? That particular one.
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