Poets Against War continues the tradition of socially engaged poetry by creating venues for poetry as a voice against war, tyranny and oppression.

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Antler 

56 years old
Milwaukee, WI

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.


Anthem

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.  


July 1991


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?


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