Poets Against War continues the tradition of socially engaged poetry by creating venues for poetry as a voice against war, tyranny and oppression.
56 years old
Antler is the author of Factory (City Lights, 1980), Last Words (Ballantine, 1986) and Antler: The Selected Poems (Soft Skull, 2000). He won the 1987 Witter Bynner Prize awarded annually. "to an outstanding younger poet" by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in New York City, and the 1985 Walt Whitman Award, given by the Whitman Association of Camden, New Jersey to an author "whose contribution best reveals the continuing presence of Walt Whitman in American poetry." Allen Ginsberg called Antler "one of Whitman's 'poets and orators to come'." Antler was chosen to be Milwaukee's poet laureate during 2002-03.
Not standing when Star-Spangled Banner played by Milwaukee Symphony in outdoor amphitheater beside Lake Michigan near downtown Milwaukee before the Beethoven's Ninth Concert, Everyone else standing, everyone else singing, Putting my head in one hand as it plays so heroic, Thinking of all the Persian Gulf War dead, Iraqi soldiers buried alive in trenches or strafed as they retreated, women and children bombed in Baghdad airraidshelter, the 20-year-old from Wauwatosa killed by "friendly fire" on my birthday, Thinking of My Lai, Wounded Knee, Dresden, Nagasaki, Thinking back to Washington Park bandshell 20 years ago Vietnam War era One summer eve the Star-Spangled Banner played before Pagliacci And not standing then, everyone standing, not singing then, everyone singing, Remembering the hateful threats and curses whispered behind me. Now no curses or threats, only singing sadly and sweetly: Mothers and fathers whose voices seem soft-spoken and sorrowful too as if they think me Vietnam Veteran remembering his bestfriend killed there and remember their bestfriend killed in World War II or Korea, No tone of defiant patriotism to my ears, No growl of rage in the melody Only a sound of many melancholy voices trying to sound cheerful, hopeful, trying to believe we still are the great nation we were taught we were and thought we were in gradeschool, No tone of hate or scorn--as if they understand why I will never stand for the Star-Spangled Banner or the American Flag again.
America became Ecotopia and Ecotopia's flag is the Wilderness and Ecotopia's national anthem is the wind. America loved itself so much it became Ecotopia after all. Now we play no national anthem And need no symphony or amphitheater or downtown or Milwaukee As we sit and listen to crickets and watch fireflies as it gets dark in hot July along the pure fresh-water shores of Great Lake Michigan.
Draft-Dodgers vs. Poetry Dodgers
Rather than fulfilling their military obligation, fulfilling their poetry obligation-- After all, what's more fulfilling, learning how to kill or love? Those who become soldiers are evading the Poetry Service-- dodging the Poetry Draft. Isn't it their duty to their Country more to become a poet than a brainwashed murder robot? When the young contemplate what branch of the Service to join, They should know they can contemplate joining Poetry, That Poetry is a Service that serves the realization of Utopia more than becoming skilled at killing. Too long it was thought the young were needed to go to war, Now the young are needed to go to peace. Now the young are needed to go to poetry.
Pretending to be Dead
How many boys who loved playing army, Who loved pretending to be shot tumbling down summer hills, Who loved pretending to be dead as their bestfriend checked to make sure, Or who loved pretending to deliver their last-words soliloquy wincing in imagined pain or lost and dreamy, Find themselves years later trapped on the battlefield Hearing the voices of enemy soldiers Searching for corpses to mutilate or wounded to torture to death?
What man remembers those idyllic boyhood days then As he lies still as possible Trying not even to breathe, hoping beyond hope the enemy will pass him by, Knowing if he's discovered they'll cut off his cock and balls and stuff them in his screaming mouth. And then, before cutting off his head, disembowel him before his eyes?
Ah, thousands of boys and men have met this end, Millions perhaps by now, so many people so many wars. Do they go to a special heaven set aside for all who die like this? Restored to the bodies they had, The memory erased of that insane end to the story of their lives?
Do they still get a chance to play army with joy And pretend to be shot and pretend to die After they meet this end? Do they still get to thrill in pretending to be dead after they die? After this hideous inhuman end will they laugh and wrestle their bestfriend again?