Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Information by Rod McKuen

How will we tell
those dead soldiers
and those men dying now
that the war's been won?

Won at tables
by the old men of both sides,
giving this point-
taking that.
Erasing paragraphs
just as easily as they taught us
how to win lead medals
for erasing lives.

We'll all wake up
as semi-angels
if we wake at all.
The fighting done,
the winning done,
we'll find we chose
the right side after all.
The papers and the radio
will take care
to tell us that.

The other side
has papers, too,
how fortunate that most of us
have just enough equipment
to understand our own tongues only.

I know I should be grateful
to be fighting and God-fearing
on the side of right,
living in one nation
indivisible under God.

But I have known some men
to wonder
though I've never heard one ask
what the enemy believes in.

I think the poet here does a beautiful job of criticizing the glory that can come from war. His poem is very simple, but I think it elaborates a common idea about war in a very persuasive way. Part of this comes from putting the speaker of the poem at more of an objective stance, rather than completely one-sided through lines like: "I know I should be grateful" and "I have known some men to wonder....what the enemy believes in." I feel like these lines with more of a questionable tone to them rather than a blunt tone, make the poem more effective in showing that we are not supposed to ask, it should not occur to us to sympathize with the enemy. I love the parallels in the poem as well like the "erasing paragraphs" and "erasing lives." It paints a nice picture of all the things combined in war, how it stretches from the man behind the desk to the soldiers on the battlefield- they are all responsible. His tone is sarcastic, or satyrical (I'm not sure, I confuse the two) throughout the poem in lines like "how fortunate that most of us/have just enough equipment/to understand our own tongues only." or how he talks about soldiers being "semi-angels" for having killed the enemy. He takes images and words that might be used in a speech by a political official to glorify a war (angels, God-fearing, side of the right) , and puts his own twist on it to show the other side that is left out. Through this he asks is it really glory if we're not acknowledging what the people we're fighting against feel?

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