July 19, 2016

War has no Context Here. {Poem}

 Jeff Papas Photography, provided by author with permission

Penn Station, 3 a.m.

In Cambodia there are no bison,
Somalia has no government
Rwandans have never seen snow.
Those things are out of context there
Although war has left behind
An interminable strain
Some can still sense
Like storm in the air.

That thing is out of context here
Even though a nightmare recurred, leaving tremors
like ferry wake in the Acheron,
It passed. The months when Blackhawks circled the Hudson,
And we were cloaked in that fog
Were as fleeting as the lifespan of a mayfly
When measured against the history
Of unrest in the world

And so long before morning
when the passengers sit
in the ill lit train station waiting room
slit eyed, tired, abiding
Their resolve flitting
Like moths
And the television, the loudspeaker
Churns out war smut,
Warning of the dangers
Of abandoned suitcases, lost identification
of Terrorists, of drug sniffing dogs,
Tinny, incriminating,
Stickpin threats
They do not understand.

Although they have never been completely absolved
Of bare knuckled indignity
Accompanying public travel
Of policemen hovering alongside
Or having to flash tickets, or smuggle wine
In lidded coffee cups
War is not real.
It’s the smeared headline of a newspaper
They never read.

The passengers sit there then,
spent, silent, resigning
themselves to this purposeless ritual,
As the room disassembles
They begin to resemble
Time travelers, toting that same luggage
They used two decades ago
Especially that brown skinned elder
Traveling to that same church retreat
One hand clutching her shawl against
The air conditioning assault
the trill of nighttime construction workers
Pushing jackhammers through concrete;
the other hand resting on the travel bag in her lap containing only

A bible, an apricot jam sandwich, a scuzzy clay bowl.
Unastonished, tolerating
As she always has, discrimination
History, Gods love unrequited.


Author: Danielle Wolffe

Image: Jeff Pappas Photography, Wikimedia Commons

Apprentice Editor: Sarah Crosky; Editor: Catherine Monkman


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