Mudlark Flash No. 30 (2005)

Brad Buchanan

Sometimes | A Photograph from Northern Iraq

Brad Buchanan teaches Modern British and American Literature and Creative Writing at California State University, Sacramento. His work has appeared in the U.S. in American Poets and Poetry, The Comstock Review, Confrontation, The Connecticut Poetry Review, Illuminations, Northeast, The Notre Dame Review, Peregrine, The Portland Review, RE: AL, The Seattle Review, The South Dakota Review, and Whetstone, for example. In Canada, where he is from, his work has appeared in such journals as The Antigonish Review, Canadian Literature, Contemporary Verse 2, The Dalhousie Review, Descant, Event, The Fiddlehead, Grain, The Wascana Review, and The Windsor Review.


Sometimes the self-hating face of love
is American. Sometimes it serves
a deeper need than we realize.
Sometimes the language of sudden displays
of happiness and relief may choose
an accent too familiar to praise.
Sometimes a sad girl who hates to lose
at Scrabble, who throws her shoes at the wall,
can lean on her elbow and totally smile.
Sometimes good things can come from ill will
and dreams from politicians with small
impervious minds. Sometimes a fight
over stupid details that goes on too late
and makes the neighbors think we’re going
to kill each other is almost worth having
because we realize what went wrong
and why, and call it Vietnam
or the Bay of Pigs. Sometimes freedom shrugs
and says “No trouble.” Sometimes death eggs
us on. Sometimes we win the war
and vote out the people who brought victory
because sometimes we attend the formal
celebrations and mourn anyway.

A Photograph from Northern Iraq

The hills at night hold mysterious promise,
and call for an artist’s expertise.
Any fool with a camera can take pictures
of dead Iraqis with passionate eyes,
but I pause over the composition
of this image: a fighter from Kurdistan
resting wakefully as the evening
aims at dark night, expecting the bombing
to start just far enough off to be fatal
to neighboring enemies, whose sleep is futile,
a one-sided cease-fire that airplanes startle,
terrorize, then annihilate. Peace is replete
with landscapes, but few have such sweeping power
to evoke the eternal conditions of war.
A neutral planet makes us admire
its indifference to us, wherever we fight,
and whatever art asks us to become traitors.
The dust of convoys, the ambush heat
has settled in treelines to wait for this hour.
The fading light spreads an absolute cover
of darkness that leads the dead wrong to defeat,
and yet we prolong the sunset and wonder
what dreams might conquer this holy dirt.

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