The Sunday Poem: Richard Vargas... what war?

It is amazing that with three full-time news channels we hear so little about Iraq and Afganistan. Who can name more than one province of either country. Not many of us. And this is after what...six years of being there?

Richard Vargas is the author of two books of poetry: McLife and American Jesus. He is a graduate student at UNM living in Nob Hill.

what war?

he calls to say his 19 yr old nephew
was the only survivor this morning
when the vehicle he was in was
blown apart by an IED somewhere
on an iraqi dirt road and i can vaguely
remember him as the little guy who
showed up at birthday parties and
family picnics on the 4th of july
trying to bust open the piñata
and running with the pack as
the kids played tag and climbed
the playground slide and swings
a little boy just like the rest

i wish i could recall something
specific like a scar or a dimple
then they all start flooding my memory
all the little boys who crossed
my path over the years and they
all look the same goddamnit
just like now in their camouflage
fatigues boots cap
even when i close my eyes
feel the wrinkles on my forehead
scrunch as i try hard to individualize
by name and year but they all
look alike as i tell him i’m sorry
i hope he’s ok but then we
both are silent because
we know what that means
they will patch him up
send him back out for more
instead of home where he should be
chasing his dreams during the week
cruising for chicks on the weekend
doing what we did when we were 19

later i check the internet for news
but there is none to be found
it’s all about the economy
healthcare and an old quarterback
hanging around for one more season
these men
these kids
dying on the other side of the world
aren’t news anymore

i found a website where the number
of deaths for next month is already

shame on us
for what we accept
shame on us
for what we
are willing
to forget

--Richard Vargas

Submissions are most welcome. Email

Views: 40

Comment by Margaret Randall on August 23, 2009 at 10:27am
You've done it again, Richard. Really brings the war(s) home, in the human details... and yes, shame on all of us.
Comment by Merimee Moffitt on August 24, 2009 at 8:17am
Richard, You bring tears to my eyes and shivers that only an excellent poem brings on. This harsh truth is what everything is about: why poets write, why we read, why we breathe. Lack of health care kills more Americans than the wars every year but doesn't even come close to the numbers of mothers and children our bullets and bombs destroy; we still call that collateral as if they are money in the bank. The perpetual front was predicted by Huxley almost 100 yrs ago, but we don't even educate citizens enough to provide classroom discussions. Thank you for your poem which asks just a little more of us than we have been giving.


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