Deep in the Hard Part (2)


By Robert Bové (May 2006)
(Part 1 here. “Them Bones” here.)


Ready, Steady



The story we are in comes

as we go to meet it

in smoke, in dust, in sand,

with nylon ropes lowered

into caves of twisted metal,

into bunkers, tunnels and wells.


So many hands on so many threads,

so little water, so little light.


On the steps down, disappearing behind us,

commerce, luxury, the weary—

up from below, echoing, foot falls.







Clear blue skies released seeds

of perdition, parasites driving



That much is known. This, too:

some here, on the ground, turned

their backs, ran away, back to

news desks, classrooms, film sets,

to concoct prognoses reassuring

to those addicted to constant comfort,

convenient for those predisposed

to contempt.


The sons of perdition find them

open, compatible.

The favor is returned—one virus

shaking hands with another,

a mutual recognition of intellects

grown cold.




With Caesar in Gaul


They are not like us, the ones we face.

No uniforms, no flags, no enlistment centers.

The ground we take today

we took last month.

We race from fire to fire.


Here, no victory is complete—and we know it.

Here, we find no allies—just defectors

rotating in and out of our camps.


The local people face us with uncanny unity,

formed of religion—a mutual understanding,

now weak, now strong, born and reborn,

despite their own quarrels, enmities and betrayals.

Do not read too much into their opposition to one another.




In the School of Hate



In primary class

 walls are papered with

scrawled lines from Koran,

copied by children,

selected by teachers,

and hung with light chains,

student necklaces.


In phys-ed classes

the walls are hung with

sets of heavy chains,

sizes short to long,

and flat knives reserved

for the most special



In chemistry class

fertilizer sits

to be studied not

for agriculture

but for properties

useful to bomb making—

and there are more chains.


Biology class

is reserved for boys

who want to grow up

to be physicians

to the self-flayed

and to the women

who survive beatings.


In Georgraphy

we take up the mosques

of Amsterdam and

minarets of Rome,

of Ile de Paris.

We dream new borders

for Eurabia.


In Media Lab

we are taught to run

Le Monde, Der Spiegel,

The Guardian, and

BBC, for that day

when they plead, weeping,

Take it—don’t hurt us.


Here, in house of hate,

whip a man, and he

will remember his

lessons for a week.

Teach a man to whip

himself and he will

apply his lessons





Quiet, Now, in Brooklyn



To recall what beauty in the world

reflects, if only in a moment—

first frost melting, warm fall morning—

and beauty from beauty

remade with human hands.


To recall what we are

who would project our eyes

our blood outside solar system to see

planets up close, and more stars—

despite those who would blind us.


Sleet now glistens on

maple flowers under lamplight,

morning star unseen

behind overcast—

all under wartime.


If you have enjoyed reading these poems and would like to see more of Robert Bové’s poetry, click here.

Robert Bové contributes regularly to The Iconoclast, our Community Blog. Click here to see all his contributions, on which comments are welcome.



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