How to Talk to Adults about War

Approach the mic with gravitas.

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Make the words seem profound, even
if you have nothing to say. Mention
something azure and something cerulean —
these are the colours of poetry.

Assume a passion if you have none.
Wear profundity as a cloak for insipid ideas.

Don’t mention war, unless it is the battle
between your soul and your flesh.
No one wants to hear of naked aggression
at the border. They will grow bored
hearing of children under accelerating bombs.

You must ignore the hunger of the victims,
and the wandering of the dispossessed.
You didn’t actually see the blood, after all,
and your nostrils never knew the smell
of sizzling flesh in a hospital that is now a target.

You aren’t self-important enough to assume
you have anything to impart to your audience
regarding either sudden violence or slow starvation
in a conflict concocted by megalomaniacs who regard
human lives as poker chips in an evening show of bravado.

Money is on the table, and your listeners will know,
by God, that you have had a sleepless night.

Epistemic Certainty in Times of War

In the age of the hyperreal, it is impossible to distinguish something from its copies, until

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shrapnel rips your material flesh and your own tears salt the wounds. As hunger rises and terror builds, suffering is epistemic certainty. Disinformation is in the air; but immutable conviction lives on the ground. Movie stars line up to join an imaginary battle for justice only to die or flee the bullets of confirmation.

This information has been verified by the independent flesh and bone of children dying in the rubble of hospitals and schools. Sometimes there’s a moment when you realise, when the judgment hits you like a ton of bricks, that all flags are false.

Poem: A Contemplation on War and Visions of Peace*

Some young professionals were sitting in a diner talking about their visions
for the future. Once they made enough money, they’d buy a farm somewhere
and finally find some peace. One would open a yoga studio.
Another would build a Zen sanctuary and retreat.

A redneck in the corner overheard and shouted,
“You don’t know shit about peace. You don’t know
the first God-damned thing about peace.”

They objected, of course, that they read
Thich Nhat Hanh and D T Suzuki.
In the country quiet, they averred,
they could meditate on universal truths.

The redneck philosopher snapped back,
“You think it’s quiet in the country?
That only means you never lived one damned day in the country. “

But these professionals spent many holidays in the fresh air,
hiking, biking, camping, and learning to appreciate the outdoor
wonders the universe offers to those who can see.

In a blind fury, this hick shouted,
“I don’t give a good God damn if you walked a thousand miles in the desert.
If you can’t find peace wherever you are, if you don’t take peace with you,
you can never find it. Can’t you see that? Can’t you fucking see?”

With that, this veteran
picked up his duffle bag and
shuffled into the street.

*Based on a Buddhist parable.

Photo by Mehmet Suat Gunerli on

Support the Troops (Remembrance Day Poem)

A farmer working in a field with his children formed

A bucolic scene in the countryside, maybe.Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 06.23.15

An older man crashed his bicycle and

Injured his leg, or so it would seem.


On the first tour, these scenes did not

Seem so ambiguous. The world

Had not given over to chaos then.

A soldier might still pass with a sense of purpose.


On the second tour, doubt set in,

And the soldiers sometimes faltered

In indecision–perhaps the wedding

Party was filled with combatants.


On the third tour, everyone is

A combatant. Everyone must die.

The universe is infinite and absolute

Hostility, death the only possible escape.


He asked whether I thought US soldiers

May have committed atrocities.

I asked whether he had support

For his mental health needs.


He answered only with

A desperate, pleading smile.