Spring 2020, Volume 28

Poetry by Doug Anderson

Good Friday

When I came back from the war I hated
I talked to a priest, a friend of my mother,
not for any consultation, but merely because
we were visiting, and for some reason
began to talk about the war. I needed to vent
but didn’t know it and thus erupted.
I couldn’t help but speak of the men
I’d treated in the field, could not save
or who were mutilated beyond ever
having a young man’s good life, like the man
who’d stepped on a mine and lost his genitals
along with his legs and had the misfortune to live.
The good man went into his library
and came back with a drawing from World War I,
a young man, naked, wrapped in barbed wire
and gazing toward heaven like so many depictions
of Jesus who, at that moment, is reciting
the twenty second Psalm, Oh God
why has thou forsaken me. The priest
was saying to me everyone
who is in torment and despair
is Christ on the Cross. I’ve never known
a more precise exegesis of that moment.
I was for a moment a believer
although I’d let go of religion and get lost
in the sensuality of the nineteen sixties
as my balm against the pain of knowing myself.
On my seventy-seventh birthday, which
this year fell on Good Friday
I remembered this, spliced it into
the whole of my life from discarded
footage on the cutting room floor.
Today is Easter Sunday, 2020 and we are
suffering a plague. Thousands are dying
slow deaths, trying to breathe, some hanging on
and coming through and for them the stone
shall be rolled away, the burial wrappings
left on the hospital floor. Who chooses
who lives seems so arbitrary,
more like the Greek Zeus than the God
embodied in the gentle Jew we’d come to know,
who’d be so misunderstood, fought over
like the last scrap or meaning in a darkening world.

 

 

 

BIO: Doug Andersonís first book of poems, The Moon Reflected Fire, from Alice James Books, won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and his second, Blues for Unemployed Secret Police, a grant from the Academy of American Poets. His memoir, Keep Your Head Down, was published by W.W. Norton in 2009. His most recent book of poems is Horse Medicine, from Barrow Street Books. He has also written plays, film scripts, journalism and fiction. His play, Short Timers, was produced at Theater for the New City in New York. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, the Southern Review, Poetry, Field, the Massachusetts Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review and many other journals and magazines. His grants and awards include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Poets & Writers, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and other funding organizations. He teaches in the MFA Program at Western New England University.