When I Was a Child, I Lived as a Child, I Said to My Dad

Saint Paul was a jackass, my father muttered,
keystroking his tank into position in “The Mother

Of All Tank Battles.”  I turned back to the screen,
maneuvering pixilated tanks.  Each arrow key

altered trajectory, each cursor tap a tank blast.  Fast-
forward two decades: in a cubicle outside Vegas,

Jonah joysticks his Predator above Afghanistan,
drone jockey hovering above a house on computer screen.

He knows someone’s inside.  Is it his target?  Who else
inside—cooking, crawling—will not outrun his digital will?

He is cross-hairs and shaking frame.  Stone implosion.
He watches the collapse replay onscreen, then

heads home.  Pizza.  Diaper rash.  Removes a thumb
from his toddler’s sleeping mouth.  Again, no sleep….
                                                                                          Our game’s

quaintly obsolete.  On mailboxes around our neighborhood,
our beagle would sign his line of piss, which said: it’s good

to be alive and eating meat.  He was adding to the map
that we can’t see, liquid notations on our suburban escape.

At Great Lakes Naval Base, my father imagined permutations
of disaster.  We were Region Five.  Coordinates run,

scenarios conceived, New Madrid fault lines, the possible
flood of Des Plaines, a tornado’s blinding spiral

rolling its dozer across the plain.  No preparing for it,
just to pick up what remained.  If a nuclear bomb hit

Chicago, the epicenter here, he’d draw concentric circles
radiating, a pebble disturbing the mirror of a lake.  Each circle

meant a slower death.  Between us and them, the Wall
was a mirror reflecting us and nothing beyond.  The whole

world was what the mirror hung upon.  He showed me how
to hold a blade, how to watch my reflection for every nick, how

to cut my face without bleeding.  I bled.  I hooked my glasses
over teenaged ears.  Outside, the blur of lawn became grass,

each blade stabbing upward to light.  I thought I knew
we see as through a glass, darkly….   My frames have narrowed

to lenses eye-sized.  My myopia grows.  To see
what’s happening, I open a laptop, lean into the screen:


Philip Metres has written a number of books and chapbooks, most recently A Concordance of Leaves (Diode 2013), abu ghraib arias (Flying Guillotine 2011), winner of the 2012 Arab American Book Award in poetry, To See the Earth (Cleveland State 2008), and Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since 1941 (University of Iowa 2007).   His work has appeared in Best American Poetry, and Inclined to Speak: Contemporary Arab American Poetry, and has garnered two NEA fellowships, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, four Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Anne Halley Prize, the Arab American Book Award, and the Cleveland Arts Prize.  He teaches literature and creative writing at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.  See http://www.philipmetres.com and http://behindthelinespoetry.blogspot.com for more information.


  1. Pingback: Issue One, May 1st, 2013 | Matter
  2. Pingback: War Poetry: Philip Metres’ Sand Opera | Time Now

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s