Selective Service

We rise from the snow where we've lain on our backs and flown like children, from the imprint of perfect wings and cold gowns, and we stagger together wine-breathed into town where our people are building their armies again, short years after body bags, after burnings. There is a man

I've come to love after thirty, and we have our rituals of coffee, of airports, regret.

After love we smoke and sleep with magazines, two shot glasses and the black and white collapse of hours.

In what time do we live that it is too late to have children? In what place that we consider the various ways to leave?

There is no list long enough for a selective service card shriveling under a match, the prison that comes of it, a flag in the wind eaten from its pole and boys sent back in trash bags. We'll tell you. You were at that time learning fractions. We'll tell you about fractions. Half of us are dead or quiet or lost. Let them speak for themselves We lie down in the fields and leave behind the corpses of angels.

As you can see, Forche weaves the personal — "There is a man / I've come to love" —with the political — "a selective service card shriveling /under a match." What seems to start out as a love poem ends with the poet as bearer of bad news: the loss of yet another American generation.

Future citizens are forewarned.

Unlike Allen Ginsberg, for example, in the passionate but sometimes profane voice of "America," Forche knows that tone is as important as her message. Moreover, it might be said that Ginsberg's diction—the words he used — articulated the rage of his generation in certain poems (he also can be as open and celebratory as Whitman); but he turned off some listeners who otherwise could have learned from his wisdom.

Not so with Forche. Take a pencil and circle the nouns of "Selective Service" to see how her images help shape her inviting voice. Isolate her symbols such as "match" and "angels" and see how she juxtaposes these with others like "trash bags" and "fractions." Note, too, how she welcomes all citizens into the work, even those who might disagree with her agenda. Forche knows that poems endure and thus have a key role in preserving our freedoms.

Now that you are familiar with the three types of political poems, and the craft involved in making them, you should be able to envision your own political ideas.

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