“The Pen is mightier than the sword”: A Litany
A pen, when a child I was at play, was weaker than a sword.
A pen of pens I had but fewer printed pages,
yet fewer spoken, yet even harder written words,
but further far distance between my hand
and less distance between history reports and metal sieged swords.
What happened to my home hence? What happened to my world of words?
A pen, when an adult I was at play, was weaker than a sword.
Why read Ezra Pound? They said.
Why read his book he wrote, Cathay? They said.
Why read poetry? They said.
What about some pages,
What about some poet,
What about that manuscript that he addressed to some friends
at world war with a sword,
but a horse and a man fell bloody under a bullet toward
the gut from a gun, now, mightier than the sword; an end to a sour word:
Hero; some thought enough to the ethics of battle, and thought how, in a word,
to level the battle field? We had a new word,
a gun of guns; what of the fodder that topples swords ?
We invent machine guns and another word:
What of Friendly-fire?
And at the fire there were no friends
and at the fire we shared no words?
What at the loss from war?
What at an artist?
What at the news he died fired into by combat?
The gun was mightier than the sword.
The entry wound, we projected, had entered the watermelon
temple of Brzeska, at the head of Brzeska,
a French friend was Brzeska,
a body that resides on a neck of Brzeska!
O the only dirt that he was in
was the only dirt we’d find between his fingers, skin,
at the slate and slack of clay.
And to you, Aldington poet, it is true what did Walter Benjamin say,
“there is no document of civilization
which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.”
The companies and the corporations promoted much less pain delivered than any sword.
What of a Viking sword?
A gallery of words burned by the bomb.
Hark Louvain! A library bombed–
mightier than a gun or a sword
a library had pens and pages of words bombed, fire bombed
by a squad that took to their swords.
There was a radio mightier than the pen. And in the home a wave of words
would dance in an imagination without any sight and the word
and the sound of the word made possible the world and Blue Beard’s sword.
I still hear the drama del radio on weekends in a companion of the prairie
about Minnesota friends, about music, and about words
yet a compendium, compatriot, the radio program, to the volume of stations
when radio was TV in the radio day. The radio sat at the center of living rooms more than cellphones and TV screens.
O lack of anthology and volume of anthology,
as you deprave dear Kleio of cassette! The music company gave up plastique diskette.
O turn tables, turn tables, Vinyls for streaming… But before then,
There was a film beyond pages and waves of sound: an evolution
in one word. There was a photo of a war and the photo was then in motion
and the writer of my younger days was writing his word
into screen plays, let alone radio plays, and the silver screen was mightier than the pen,
then; Motion Pictures turned out Motion Pictures from black and white to a word
in color. Then color bled color till silver was gold and today
the golden picture is mightier than the pen. Whither, ole’ book? Whither, my sword?
The adaptations make a book red in a bank.
Off into a silent word. More of science in my world–the end in the beginning.
Stare into the ray filled retina, burning in a black room, and O the gaiety!
A computer takes over another–the beginning of a new end.
A robotic drone takes to the sky to make the air ways safer to bomb, and then,
the pen is a stylist on a point of service monitor, grown calculated and cold.
There are no paper applications;
There is news cover stories on the end of marginalia.
There is news cover stories on the end of a letter.
From swords to projections,
We lines are projections on projections.
O closed verse on social networks,
It is as Charles Olson said, [but I seek] a-private-soul-at-any public-wall” sic
and sick I cave.
I’ve found in populace plain none, but books of zeros and ones.