Three Poems

Battle Song

My pajamas are stained again
from creeping through tunnels all night.
Not that every victim is a woman,

but I keep running from The Man
through a chiaroscuro police state,
staining my pajamas again.

Every memo is toxic and my organ
of righteousness is robust. Lately flight
is the only exercise that a woman

can swing, but repetition chafes a person—
feel the blister where my paranoias grate
together. Above this pajama stain,

under these glass ceilings, imagination
should be shadowless, but I crouch in a closet
plotting a coup. I’m a damaged woman

with a nightmare and a mop and a vocation.
They can’t forever. It’s better to fight
than never. My pajamas are stained again
but this is what it means to be a woman.


I fret, as Eton’s Captains do, about good
form. Pirates must cut a figure even though Pan
out-masters every seaman—surely God
prefers that lawless boy, guards him from pain,
cherishes even his baby fangs. I will dream
of them when I have been devoured, my dapper
prosthesis rusted, compass lost, best rum
tippled by fairies. It will hardly matter
that I sharpened my lapels every night,
ironed my boots, polished my mustaches.
Yet somehow, it does. I still believe in neat
cuffs round bloody hands. Painstaking stitches
for hideous wounds. This is my one power:
to keep my motives small, my heart impure.

George W. Bush

When I am angry, gosh, my homilies
spread freedom and democracy: be clear
that I hear your vision of faith-based families
killing at the whim of a hat. I stand for
things, lots of things. When I have to declare
war, though, I’m prone to stammer. Most times I’m
scared of folks. Justice ought to be fair
and I’ll beat those terrorists, but when in Rome
you pray with the Pope and become a dull
boy. Fear makes me tired, is what I’m saying,
and wooly on the details. I can’t deal
with your disappointment, the ensuing
big sky silence. If only God didn’t
appoint me to serve as your president.

—Lesley Wheeler, Lexington, VA