Going To War

by Patrick Hansel

Graciela Echenique, age 12 ½
Village of Two Rivers, Minnesota
January 6, 1917

Germany hates France, and France
Hates Hungary, and Hungary
Hates Russia, and we’re about
To jump into it and hate everyone down
To the boys we send to become bones.
I wish Wilson was a rat stowed
Away in the steerage of a ship
Crossing the north Atlantic, a mother
Rat cradling its babies and giving
Them suck, in a dark corner
Of the hold, always awake, one eye
Open for a boot or a rod ready
To crush her and her brood. Then
Maybe he’d know the cost, and
Maybe he could count it, before
He sends my brother and my uncle
And a million others off to die
In mud that only matters to sheep
And the young girls who keep them,
Walking from hill to hill, bending
At a stream to drink. It’s always
Night now, and the angels we
Pray to have shed their wings
And put on cloaks, cloaks made
Of darkness and blood and lungs
Racking with gas. Mr. Lincoln
Talked about “the better angels
Of our nature”, but those seraphim
Have returned to their destiny
As serpents, bright as fire, and
Thick as smoke or the words
Of Senators making wounds
In other people’s families. I have
Not killed a man, and I do not
Wish to, although I know that I could
And I know that I would, if
Pushed back into that corner
With nothing to protect me
But my teeth. Whose mouth
Will open the loudest? Whose
Tongue will tell the sweetest lies?
We will give death, to be certain,
And we will take death back,
But we will not be blessed.
We will not own a clean name.

Music / video composition by Victor David Sandiego

Patrick Hansel has published poems in over 20 journals and anthologies, including Hawai’i Pacific Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Passager, The Ilanot Review and The Meadowland Review. He was selected for the 2008-09 Mentor Series in Poetry at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota, and was a 2011 Minnesota State Arts Board Grantee. His novella Searching was serialized in 33 issues of The Alley News.


Excellent! Black and white, sharp and painful.
Steve Hi, Jan 04, 2015
Fabulous, crisp and unforgiving.
Lois, Dec 22, 2014