House of the Tomato

If a woman wants to be a poet, she must dwell in the house of the tomato. -- Erica Jong

Regional website for the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, in partnership with the Reader's Loft.


Celebrating, sharing and inspiring poetry throughout Wisconsin.

History Lesson - How To Measure War

Tori, I hope this "shows", more than "tells" and I hope it isn't preachy. It's a fresh write from my free write notes. Does it grab? Educate?


History Lesson – How to Measure War

Secretary of Defense McNamara,
former whiz kid of the auto industry,
measured his worth by objectives,
by production of cars made and sold.

In his new role, how would he measure
the Vietnam war? What was the Objective?
The red scare? Fear?
What could he count on for success?

My brother wrote home about daily sweeps on jungle patrol,
no objective or purpose given by the platoon leader.
What were they trying to accomplish, he wondered?
McNamara measured what he knew, tangibles.

Auto bodies transferred into human bodies.
He counted human lives lost,
the opposite of production, 
a measure of destruction.

Enemy body counts were his highest measure of success.
Our body counts were measured too,
by Walter Cronkite on the evening news.
No wonder my mother was on the verge of hysteria that year.

No wonder students were protesting.
No wonder I walked in a daze on campus then.
Peter was counting down the days,
Mother feared another statistic in our family.

McNamara and President Johnson
with their precise, slick-backed hair
told us progress was being made,
through the common denominator of death,
where every body counts.



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