Jonathan Holden, GULF
JANUARY 17, 1991


Ah, love, let us be true

To one another!
-- Matthew Arnold

And didn't our love seem almost a political act,
to turn away from the footage of the F-15s
following each other in single file
along a slow assembly-line as if on parade,
toy after toy, each copy being lifted, smoking
off the scorched belt, then the next
and the next being mass-produced into an industrial sky.
As we kissed, and kissed more deeply, trying
to make the picture go away, to deny this, I saw

that what we had been watching, what so fascinated us
was only another kind of factory, that it was inevitable
the activity we call "war" be conducted in round-the-clock shifts,
that military bases and state penitentiaries
are designed to manufacture identical deaths
as heartlessly as a commercial egg factory
where the lights are kept on to get the hens
to produce eggs faster than is natural. The men
all in the same sand-and-spinach uniform
were as similar as hens. Even the General strutting
like a fat rooster had donned those funny pajamas
like a surgeon's gown, a carpenter's apron;
what boys wear when they put on
the frightening costumes of efficiency,
roll up their sleeves and get ready to get down
to business, to be men. Wasn't it Spengler
who said it takes about twenty years for hens to forget,
for a generation to be bred ignorant of the shop floor,
enough time for new men who,
because they don't know any better, are willing
to put on the killing pajamas, the aprons again
and, like their grandfathers, earnestly go to work?
Isn't it twenty years since I used to watch, rapt,
with field glasses, the fleas circling
the hive of Alameda Naval Air Station,
the carrier like a slate, shelved landform
that would appear overnight, a grey grandmother,
to babysit the skyline for a week,
then go back to work in Asia. Ah, Love,
didn't it seem subversive to turn off the t.v.,
how we followed each other wordless, deep
into the immediate truth of the next kiss.
And the next. And decided then and there
we would take our costumes off for the afternoon,
we would not go to work that day
or the next. Or the next.