red mist of the first gulf war

red lights in the far trees on fire to the sky
double red on white furling in the wind
warm ottawa mid-winter night
by the cathedral the lights are ether deep
blue a tonal shift two steps from darkness
the days trick in and out of ice
gray painting over the sunlit sky
at night red christmas lights are breaths
of red mist on the winter trees
distant white lights the frost of silent speech

would you forget the red mist of the gulf war
rising in the distant heat the sand dust and blood
lives of men emerging from the trenches
falling back in sand, climbed by others
until red veils of air held them in a blaze
of her dancing in the sun
asking us to death while
young aggressors at the guns
panned the horizon heavy air with this
ongoing red mist rising sonorous static
tick-tocking its die now

the heart was destroyed to this service
wheat gone from the prairies grass from the plains
orchards stark gullies dry
canada served america for this desert storm
for a share of corporate wealth
but who among us would choose to slaughter
and who would make soldiers this way
and who would trade their innocence for pay
or place such bounty on their children’s lives
may the guilty find forgiveness or lose their way
and the innocent make a better home

John Bart Gerald began writing poetry, fiction and journalism in the 1960s. Currently he lives in Montreal and writes the website nightslantern.ca. Read other articles by J. B..