Zumwalt Poems Online

There is no “i” in Phalanx

Across calescent karstic plains,
attentive, observant, at walking pace,
searching
for a more than suitable place
to play these noble and momentous games,

purposely, resolutely stopping at this very ground
we converge and then assemble in formation
deliberately
aligning and establishing our corresponding location
shields brought up and eyes directed all around.

There is no certified start to victory.
There is no established end to self-defeat.
There is no single push that doesn’t come down to shove,
after which we hold, advance or consider our retreat.

The battle starts and shields meet shields
as outer layer on outer layer peels off and drops;
advancing
forward with counter-jabs and counter-blocks,
the winning forces shed more blood as the losing army yields.

There is no I in Phalanx.
There is no me in attack.
There is no volition in my ammunition
but there is no heading back.

As victor forces scatter defeated ranks
fallen bodies insist on being active players
incidentally
tripping up their remaining slayers
prolonging this conflict with mutilated arms, twisted torsos and lifeless shanks.

There may be stop but there is no end
and some sense of quiet but never peace.
There is some faint attempt to circumvent
but there is no means to cease.

And two thousand years later
archeologists dig for artifacts
and scour the settled ground
in which is conceivably found
the trace of the last impact.

This is what was left behind
and not much more
but then, what will be left again
when two thousand more years occur
and someone else digs around
excavating some hint of a sign
of those that previously searched these dusty mounds?

At some future moment this is all totally untraceable,
the conclusion of which is particularly inescapable:
no matter the plan or materiel,
all efforts are unavoidably replaceable
but much more to the point,
everything,
chalked up or not,
is ultimately and permanently erasable.

— Zumwalt (2011)

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Comments on: "There is no “i” in Phalanx" (12)

  1. Love this one! I just happened to be listening to “Across the Burren” by Michele McLaughlin on her album A Celtic Dream and it fit the prose magnificently! Thank you.

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  2. When the centuries are decimated and the centurion’s tunic is found there be bones to pick but no blood on the ground! ..Please excuse me but I just loved the way you played with words great poem! xx

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    • Like the poetry in your comment: “When the centuries are decimated and the centurion’s tunic is found there be bones to pick but no blood on the ground!” Really gets to the heart of the meaning in the poem very concisely and elegantly!

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  3. I love this… a reference to Phalanx and unity in battle, a great poem, bows (~_~) humble

    Art~

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  4. ‘Across calescent karstic plains,’ a full body blow of an opening line. An excellent progression of thought follows through to your argute conclusion.

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  5. I was interested all the way through to the end. This was both entertaining and educational. I love this line “There may be stop but there is no end”. Well written 🙂

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  6. i’ m with anna – a heluva opening line and a powerful closure..everything,
    chalked up or not,
    is ultimately and permanently erasable.. gave me shivers…a masterfully woven piece..

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  7. zendictive, Anna, Poetry & Icecream and claudia,

    Thanks so much for your wonderful comments!

    Something of interest to me is the rhyme scheme in the first, second, fourth and sixth stanzas: A, B, X, B, A — and then the schemes for the last three stanzas.

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  8. I love what archaeology digs up here and there and shows us a little glimpse of a countries past glory. I find it totally fascinating.
    Lovely, intricate piece from you.

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  9. This imagery is superb. Your work is truly captivating. So clever and urgent. “As victor forces scatter defeated ranks
    fallen bodies insist on being active players
    incidentally
    tripping up their remaining slayers
    prolonging this conflict with mutilated arms, twisted torsos and lifeless shanks.”
    Those lines are so rich and vivid…I can feel it as if I were there in a physical sense–the metaphors are strong. You have great talent, my friend

    Liked by 1 person

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