Poetry / December 2017 (Issue 38)

Two Poems

by Collier Nogues


                              ALL things
being now decided by a general,
we were to correct our reader.

At daybreak we got under weigh
and discovered we were to mark

                                 in a straight line
the centre of the passage:

it was necessary to keep always
to-gether; the required marks
were to teach us our future.

                               We proceeded
at once to mark when shown where.

Next morning we again entered with
our ink smooth as glass:

                                     our certainty
of what to cover advancing,

studded over

with numerous small islands of
safe answer,

a ditch on each side, connected by
a trelliswork of black.

We looked out for               sharply

the appearance of little knives in
the folds of their orders

and denied any knowledge of war.

Was a person to act as though dying
had become mere?

                                              A kill
                        was expected of me.
However great a man appeared

                                   leaping form
                             determined form
                        the clear bright form

the sound running underneath was
the close press of bees
carried out
by the hand of a form the same as his.

During the heat and clouds and dis-
            the centre was formed with
At the same time, was formed by

was formed,

showing the hand more and more un-

         the dark loud movements of war.

I stepped
into the field of movement and began
to turn

                I had stepped into the field.


In front of the house was matter,
suspended. In a central position re-
mained a leg.

There was a suspended hand,

the other hand,

                         the leg upon a post

leaf by leaf, making a form apart from
their movements,

a form themselves

                                            a sum
of men who had leapt into the


                                        I was
the already formed approach of
f          o         r         c         e

the nothing left but



The road at early dawn is still here—

I am in the future.

                             I move my hand
                               to raise its flag
                              in the yard. The

on the surface is breaking

bringing about the form of a person

the nation in

his ear. 


Author's note:

This poem is from a series of erasures about the Pacific War. Each poem begins as a historical document, and I remove most of the words, using the ones that are left to make the poem. This one erases a document chronicling the radical right-wing pro-military movements in Japan in 1936. It has become a poem in the voice of a soldier, recounting what it’s like to be asked to kill for one’s country, and what it’s like to transform into someone capable of doing that. The poem is a response to and a negation of the militarism and greed for power which animated the original document.


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