Could the beautiful pious wife who married the upright hero
have found something in common with raped-rescued trophy daughter of Zeus?
Could Cassandra, who knew and refused the heedless love of the Gods,
have taught Helen to find her own face in that of the household women?
Could they have talked – these three women? Could they have halted
the burning of Troy?
READING A POEM BY HARVEY SHAPIRO
As the radio reports use of white phosphorus in Fallujah
Coming home from a bombing raid
somewhere over Germany
the pilot breathed easier at the sight of cypresses
then found that a frozen cheese sandwich
heated on the machine gun housing tasted of life
It was that good war - WW II
it took courage as well as testosterone
to conquer the Alps - the Flak - the thin air;
he was a young man who had beaten the odds
on one more run
The women who cleaned up after air raids
would later tell how white phosphorus
stuck to clothes, to the skin, to eyes
you had no chance once it touched you - your body
would burn and shrivel to a black tree stump
For all that I know it might have been he, on that very run
who dropped his payload on the tire factory
by the river where a band of refugees
my father and mother among them
were cowering in the reeds.
My parents, as it turned out,
had a chance and survived – as did the pilot.
His fellow Jews, even then
being ground up in the gears of
Sobibor and Treblinka, had none
It was a necessary war,
even a just war, but not a good war
and somehow I hope what he felt on the run back to base
was also relief at riding the thermals
not bearing death