The Peaceable Kingdom A Painting by Edward Hicks, 1780– 1849, hung in the Brooklyn Museum
Marge Piercy in Circles on the Water
Creamcheese babies square and downy as bolsters
in nursery clothing nestle among curly lions and lowing cattle,
a wolf of scythe and ashes, a bear smiling in sleep
The paw of a leopard with eyes of headlights
rests near calf and vanilla child.
In the background under the yellow autumn tree
Indians and settlers sign a fair treaty.
The mist of dream cools the lake.
On the first floor of the museum Indian remains
are artfully displayed. Today is August sixth, Hiroshima
Man eats man with sauces of newsprint.
The vision of that kingdom of satisfaction
where all bellies are round with sweet grasses
blows on my face pleasantly
though I have eaten five of those animals.
All the rich flat black land,
the wide swirlmarked browngreen rivers,
leafy wheat baking tawny, corns silky spikes,
sun bright kettles of steel and crackling wires, turn into
infinite shining weapons that scorch the earth.
The pride of our hive
packed into hoards of murderous sleek bombs.
We glitter and spark righteousness.
We are blinding as a new car in the sunshine.
Gasoline rains from our fluffy clouds
Everywhere our evil froths polluting the waters-
in what stream on what mountain do you miss
the telltale brown sludge and rim of suds?
Peace: the word lies like a smooth turd
on the tongues of politicians ordering
the sweet flesh seared on the staring bone.
Guilt is added to the municipal water
guilt is deposited in the marrow and teeth.
In my name they are stealing from people with nothing
their slim bodies. When did I hire these assassins?
My mild friend no longer paints mysteries of doors and mirrors.
On her walls the screams of burning children coagulate.
The mathematician with his webspangled language
of shadow and substance half spun
sits in an attic playing the flute all summer.
for fear of his own brain, for fear that the baroque
arabesque of his joy will be turned to a weapon.
Three A.M. in Brooklyn: night all over my country.
Watch the smoke of guilt drift out of dreams.
When did I hire these killers? one day in anger,
in seaslime hatred at the duplicity of flesh?
Eating steak in a suave restaurant, did I give the sign?
Sweating like a melon in bed, did I murmur consent?
Did I contract it in Indiana for a teaching job?
Was it something I signed for a passport or a loan?
Now in my name blood burns like oil day and night.
This nation is founded on blood like a city on swamps
yet its dream has been beautiful and sometimes just
that now grows brutal and heavy as a burned out star
Photo Credit: The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks in Widipedia