THE WARTIME ISSUE

M.A. Schaffner

 

FIELD OF OPERATIONS

Jesus Christ was innocent, too.
                                    - Jaroslav Hasek

That September 11th I went up,
through the hysteria, to the roof of my building
and saw that just the one plane had come down.
The slow-motion smoke looked like thunder landed
at the base of the Monument, though I knew
it was a river away.  My knees fluttered.
After a few days of shock it became
National Self-Pity Day, so heart-felt
it seemed any likely villain would do.
I called my friend at the Joint Chiefs of Staff
that evening.  He seemed surprised—didn't I know
he worked on the other side of the building?
I didn't, or that an Assistant I'd danced with
at a Christmas party ten years before
had risen to become a Budget Analyst
in an office on the side that was hit.
I only learned after we invaded.
And still later, I asked him how it ends.
Like Vietnam, he says. We declare victory
then clear the hell out. But it's got to look
credible. That's what everyone's dying for now.
As bad as it sounds, that's the way it goes.
You know it's not our worst, most useless war.

 

 

M.A. Schaffner's credits include Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, Fine Madness, Agni, The Rialto (UK), Poetry Ireland, Poetry Wales, and Poetry Salzburg, as well as the collection, The Good Opinion of Squirrels, a novel, War Boys, and School of the Clerk, a guide to military administration for Civil War reenactors. When not writing, he works as a civil servant in Washington, tries to keep his old house from falling down, and conducts field experiments with 19th century office technology.

 

Published in Volume 7, Number 2, Spring 2006.

 

To read more by this author:
M.A. Schaffner
M.A. Schaffner: The Whitman Issue
Schaffner on Ambrose Bierce: Forebears Issue
M.A. Schaffner: Museum Issue
M.A. Schaffner: Poets in Federal Government Issue