We need more Martians, they nattered at me all the time,
More monsters–people like to be scared, as if those callow youngsters,
Growing up with their two cars in the garage and three sets at the country club,
Their fraternity mixers at Whittier or Occidental,
Knew the first damn thing about terror.
Still, they wanted me to grind out the harum-scarum hokum
They enjoyed watching two-reelers on Saturday afternoons
While men were doing hard work in Leyte and Manila,
As if the transitory fear of some ghoulish bogeyman
Would last through the thirty-second epics
Featuring some cartoon bear shilling for beer
Or bunnies extolling the virtues of toilet paper.
Let me tell you what fear is, I would say time and again,
It’s a padlocked fence and a smokestack
Which isn’t churning out a damn thing.
It’s the jobs you can’t get because you said something
(And more likely, you didn’t) twenty years ago.
It’s one more envelope from the bank or the phone company
With bold red lettering on the front
That you don’t open because you know what it says
And how it doesn’t matter one bit,
Because you can’t do a damn thing about it
And these promising young men would just look at me
Like I was some poorly made-up extraterrestrial
From one of their Buck Goddamn Rogers potboilers.
Several of my neighbors here were among the men, mostly boys in truth,
Who marched with the 126th New York, taking fire
At Petersburg and The Wilderness, at Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor.
We have spoken about the horrors of war,
The kaleidoscope of confusion and dread,
Where no direction leads to shelter, no road guides the way to home.
They have said that, as frightening as the sound of the minie balls,
Zipping overhead like malevolent flies, and the cannon were,
What they found truly awful was the manner in which those fields,
So like the ones where they had flushed out squirrel and quail as children,
Became foreboding nightmares, containing a dark madness
That they never dreamed could have existed.