Agent Orange, see Defoliants


This poem needs some front loading. The prompt at NaPoWriMo today was to write an index poem. Yes, a poem from the index of a book. My piece uses almost every letter of the alphabet (no Q or X) in order. I used the index from a book called “Shooting War – Photography and the American Experience of Combat,” by Susan D. Moeller. Before you get to the end of the piece let me tell you who the Z is, as I looked him up in the book.

“The effect of Agent Orange . . . was dramatic; trees were stripped of leaves,” recalled Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Jr., commander of the American in-country naval forces, responsible for the spraying of Agent Orange around navy-patrolled waterways, “thick jungle growth was reduced to twigs, the ground was barren of grass.”   (p. 343 Moeller)

Agent Orange, see Defoliants

American soldiers:
fear and,
personal equipment of,
views of enemy among,

Atrocities :
by Americans,
by the enemy,
faked stories of,

Battle fatigue, see Casualties, psychiatric

among civilians,
guidelines on images of,

Dead Americans, images of,

Dead enemy, images of:
with American soldiers,
as piled bodies,
in posed photographs,

images of moment of,


Ethics, see Morality of war
Glory of war

Horrors of war:
depictions of,

Information, Journalists, Kodak camera

Life and death:
juxtaposition of images of,

Morality of war:
guerrilla tactics and,
killing of civilians and,
poison gas and,
shooting of prisoners and,
unconventional weapons and,

Napalm & Objectivity

addiction to war as motivation for,
compassion and,
sense of responsibility in,

Sounds & smells of battles
Trench warfare
“Urgent Fury”
Volunteer Weaponry

Yellow journalism:
images of the dead and,

Zumwalt, Elmo, Jr.

Agent Orange, see defoliants

Brenda Warren 2016


Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington D.C.  4/16  –  bwarren


Last Chance Stampede and Fair

Invisible in this heat,
our breath threads through the air
and we expect pillars of salt to rise,
casting shadows where our shoes
melt against gravity’s pavement
connecting us to history’s
sweaty landscape of fry bread and
Ferris wheels.

Fresh horseshit sends us
a breeze of sweet pungency, and
our eyes connect in smiles
as we sense our plan’s fruition,
then head to the barn to breed.

We take this last chance before war
fetches you again, like a dog
lays claim to its bone.

Brenda Warren 2013

Note: Every summer of my youth, I attended The Last Chance Stampede and Fair in my hometown. Other than the title, the piece is fiction. It started surreal, and worked its way into something else. As our poet friend Catherine McGregor says, sometimes poems have minds of their own. Indeed they do.

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Fields of Forever

Thundering jets,
hooves spew fountains of dirt
as arrows arc from rider’s bows
into rows of Saladin’s Ayyubid army,
lances forward,
fighting on fields of forever.

Silver shimmers on hilts spilling blood
slashing as swords clash and clang,
amputating hands, answering God’s mighty call.
Knights Templar wield their holy swords
warring for Jerusalem,
an unfolding jihad.

Overhead a crow caws,
a tether rippling from its talons
as it scans the warring hordes.
A page of history rises like a status update
while the black bird circles the two Gods’ fighting yard,
an unholy park of steel and flesh—
spilling blood for a city,
spilling blood to prove which God is just:
Allah or Yahweh,
Allah or Our Father.

Horses step and scream.
Chinks in chain mail armor open,
as Ayyubid spears thrust through warrior chests.
Knights Templar rise and fall.

Neither side rests
unable to curb adrenaline’s slice
until death does them part
fervently falling into fields of forever.

Brenda Warren 2013


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Process Notes: Salah ad-Din, or Saladin lead an army called the Ayyubid army (I did some searching to find that name, as I wanted to be historically accurate). He captured Jerusalem, defeating the Knights Templar in 1187. I’ve been steeping myself in medieval movies, and watched Arn twice yesterday on Netflix. It is also a six episode series on Netflix. The series goes into far more detail. Both or either are worthy of watching. Arn is a Knight Templar. War in the name of God seems contradictory, yet it is common.

war’s screaming night

Sky roils its clouds into ragged pillows
spitting jagged blades of light
to reveal a rusted-out river
mirroring rolling flashes of sky.

Foreign soil stretches
under years of rubble
as she mans her position
surveying shattered landscapes
that haunt her dreams
every chance she sleeps.

Straighten up and fly right,
her father used to say.
Straighten up and fly right,
face the light of day.

A bridge under siege
reignites broken connections.

Beneath its girders,
she listens to the cadence
of lightning and bombs.

A bridge under siege
shakes her foundations
drags up beginnings
takes her to a nod
when her father said,
Straighten up and fly right,
face the light of day.

Vengeance softens over bridges home,
forgetting for a moment
the killing
forgetting for a moment
the look in a soldier’s eye,
frosting her present with memories past.

Straighten up and fly right.
She straightens her spine and she smiles.

At that moment, a hand covers her mouth
and pulls her head back to eyes glazed dark with victory .
A blade cuts the width of her throat,
spilling her life in soil
a million miles from home.

Her memories fade into the quiet of war’s screaming night.

Brenda Warren 2011

This week’s Sunday Whirl words were pulled from The End and the Beginning by Wislawa Szymborska. His piece discusses the idea that someone needs to be there to clean up the messes wars create in a landscape that eventually grows over and is forgotten. Directly after reading Szymborska’s piece and pulling the words on Friday night I wrote “war’s screaming night.”

The ending of this piece was born from a need to use the word “blade” in the wordle. It shocked me when it came, but I left it there through three editings.  It leaves me uneasy.