William Leo Coakley

Disturbed Earth

Beside the emptied houses, the earth is disturbed

By war's glut; death's victory is complete.

Our rooms gape roofless, eat the sun. We’ve not curbed

Man's tribal madness—Look, weeds, not wheat,

Triumph in the fields. In the thawed earth

One boot kicks free—Dig round it with your hands:

The hunched, stiff bodies will mimic our hapless birth.

Snowdrops, too, lie of the spring—No one understands

Our crazed returning. Terror’s shadows reveal,

From the air, history’s secret. Our story has been told

Time and again: The wounds scab and heal.

Winter’s starlings, we survive and shine in the cold

On memory’s crumbs. Don’t ask me to count the killed again—

We are the fools who come back, who forget, who build again.


Like soldiers they come, but for food,

Crawling the stone floor, enemies.

I crush them calmly with my thumb

and at their dying do not even go mad:

the biggest leap out of their skin,

spoiling the white squares with their blood.

In the air, bombers look at men

and feel as little when they press down:

a brief confusion to be left behind—

but the shadows burn to the stone.

If you would learn how to kill,

it is easiest to kill what is small.

Last Words

The call to action

Brought us together at last

In the main square, the seat of power.

As we knew, the guns were ready.

If we die defiantly, foolishly,

If guts run in the gutters again

(When will bloody man ever learn?),

Let the new world remember us

By not repeating the old sins.

William Leo Coakley © 2014