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Sample Poems by Patricia Monaghan


Home Movies, 1954

A Japanese meal has been made,
and sake warmed and sipped, and
the girls dressed up in small kimonos.

The conversation has been
instructive, for the children,
and slightly bawdy, for the rest.

At least one mention has been made
of Panmunjong. There has been
a bilingual dirty song or two.

The daughters now bring out
the wood dolls from Japan and show
how the elaborately dressed hair

can be removed, leaving the head
momentarily bald while another
wig is brought from the case.

As the children grow sleepy
a sheet is tacked against the wall
and the projector taken out.

There is a little game to play
with sake cups, so that
everyone is drunk by the time

the movies begin. Aerial views
of Korean fields, paddies, blue
distant hills. Smoke and flame,

 real war movies. The men drink
and retell the squadron jokes
while the women clear and clean.

The children, holding their dolls,
watch the silent bombs land
on the bed sheet, over and over.


 

Knowing the Bomb So Well

After the nightly news and four martinis
he quietly begins to draw the inner workings

of the bomb, knowing the explosion needed
to ignite fission does not itself comprise

the real event; how compartmentalized the bomb,
of necessity, is, to keep the elements

separate until it impacts on target;
with what care the bomb is timed so that

from the moment of release it proceeds
inexorably to detonation.

It is necessary then to explain his drawing
in detail to the children, before they go to bed.

After a few moments he quizzes them:
What are the proper names of the bombs dropped

on Nagasaki, Hiroshima? Who captained
the Enola Gay? How does a prisoner

of war answer the enemy? The children
do not speak. They know release has occurred,

the elements are colliding, impact is inevitable.
It is always a first-strike situation. Always.


 

Dream Details

She is a child hiding in bamboo,
She does not recognize the soldiers
coming after her, it does not matter

that she knows nothing, she has
never known anything, she sees red fire,
the next time they are above her,

she is running across a field, a tiny
moving target, red on green, she hears
a long whine, over and over she dreams

footprints on her face, floral tattoos,
while across the hall her father
sleeps, groaning with, growing into

the same dreams, same dreams,
the ambush, the betrayal, aerial
surveillance, interrogation, and wakes

with no memory, cannot recall any wound
a Korean girl wore like a blood tattoo,
any child running across bamboo fields alone.
 Shelter

Her bed is built of eighteen
cartons of c-rations. The bookcase:
cartons with wood shelves.

Water jugs line

the closet. The dresser is stuffed
with iodine pills and bandages
and rounds of ammo.

But no guns.

The guns are upstairs, because
there will be time, when the war
begins, to grab them from

walls and closets,

time while the family gathers
in the safety of the shelter.
Time to load the guns

against the neighbors

who will be banging
and pleading at the locked door.
Until the war starts, this

is her room.

Hers to decorate. She hides
the cartons under a red damask
fringed cloth from Japan,

from the war,

and beneath a blue coverlet,
too big for the bed, hanging to the floor.
You can hardly see the bullets stacked

beneath the dolls.