Zumwalt Poems Online

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There is no “i” in Phalanx

There is no “i” in Phalanx

Across calescent karstic plains,
attentive, observant, at walking pace,
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
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;
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
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,
chalked up or not,
is ultimately and permanently erasable.

— Zumwalt (2011)

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