Mudlark Flash No. 40 (2006)

Roger W. Hecht  |  The Rumsfeld Sestina

Roger W. Hecht is the author of two books, LUNCH AT THE TABLE OF OPPOSITES from Red Dancefloor Press, 1997, and THE ERIE CANAL READER from Syracuse University Press, 2003. His poems have appeared in Denver Quarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, and Diagram. He teaches at SUNY, Oneonta.

The Rumsfeld Sestina

                    As you know, you go to war with the army you have,
                    not the army you might want, or wish to have.

                    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

As convinced as we appear to be by the power of evidence,
by facts & objects, by their firm grip on the edges of absence,
our fetal desires blast apart higher thought, as if at war
with reason itself. Secret & not so secret wishes deploy as an army
against common sense. But I’ve never believed in common sense. Just want.
Come on. Give it to me. Gimme what I gotta have.

Things beyond numeration calculated on an abacus of fog, or what have
you. Yes, it’s all out of reach. It’s like the cops bound it up in evidence
tape, then frisked you, cuffed you, left you with nothing to savor but your want.
Like a hot apple pie. Like sex all alone. Like absence
makes a heart go AWOL. Like, where are the M.P.s in this Army
of One? What will they do once they catch you? Their war

on the ground is no match to the battle in my head. Because war,
to me, is a philosopher’s stone. A bunch of geezers who have
doubts about their shlongs. Their sticks measured in megatons. Some army!
I believe at some future point I may regret saying this, but evidence
suggests that I’ve never felt regret, & I’ve only known shame by its absence.
You ask me what I knew and when I knew it. I’ll tell you what I want

to know: that TV singer stripped down to her breasts, didn’t you want
a closer look for just a teeny second? That kind of ratings war
I can sink my teeth into. Hi-jinx of a higher order. Presence measured in bits; absence
in the space between pixels. & all the sordid thoughts that one can have.
Why just the other day, I said, my wife overhearing. By law she can’t give evidence
under compulsion. You can’t make either of us talk. You and what army?

Like my mother, cooking grub enough, she said, to feed the Eighth Army,
(which I never understood since we were only six) always said, what you want
I never understood.
She’s dead now, solid in the ground. Future evidence
to be written into the fossil record. That’s an event to mark your life, like war
abroad & war at home. The neighbor’s flag is bigger than yours. Have
you chucked your patriotism out, or do you just express it through absence?

Remarkably, this is best expressed through images of absence:
A jagged hole in a plaster wall, empty sandals, debris where a bakery was. An army
passed through here; it left no footprint. The bodies, some say, were raptured, or have
simply been carted out of camera range. What do the terrorists want?
I know, I know, says the rumpled man, his vision thickened with glasses. War
& total war. A war designated by years innumerable. Just let me get the evidence.

So he fiddles with his sticks, arranges absence into pieces of evidence,
into innumerable movable targets. We can have all of the enemies we want,
he thinks, & trots out his army of toys. Now, that’s what I call a war.

Copyright © Mudlark 2006
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