Occupied Territory

poem by Ken Holmes, Winter 2010


No one knows when this war began
Prior to beast and prior to man
Man kind and not so kind, no matter
The battle that seemed endless
At last is deemed an epitaph to meaninglessness.

Occupied like an airplane toilet
No sooner one out than another in
A stifling place of dirtying and cleaning
No let-up from the background drone
An interminable voyage to an unknown home,
The mind is occupied and pre-occupied
With a battle for meaning that can never be won
For the troops are thoughts and thoughts are warriors
Unequipped to either take or enjoy the ultimate prize
So they pillage and rape in endless thirst
For illusory territories.

In this theatre of war, wherever you stare,
Fresh or faded corpses lie everywhere
Fallen in the cause of finding love or truth or both
Their ghosts hover as passing things
Glimpsed from a corner of the eye
Eyeing the mud and the daisies, crows and skylarks.

Leaving the medalled jacket and well-worn boots
In an unlocked locker in some nondescript hole
I left for the other country, unoccupied,
Where no one speaks at all
Of all this war or of all the new land's peace.