The Night of the Bulldozers

By Nathaniel Smith, March 4, 2024

Written 3/19/03

In a room with rain on the wooden roof
we wait for the shooting to start
it is not our own children who carry the arms
nor our own children against whom arms will be carried

The man who holds his finger on the trigger
is adjusting the aim of his cannons this evening
is honing the edge of his bombers’ wings
bringing his friends to heel in the palm of his hand

Elsewhere people holding the bulldozers back from the homes
were assured they were safe but a woman
among them yesterday kneeling was bulldozed
crushed on the sand by a man with his hand on the wheel

Over our thin roof roar thunderclaps or airplanes
the rain beating down doesn’t let us know which
they could be resounding from the hands of the gods
or from the men who have their fingers on the bombs

A couple of big little boys strut their boots on the sand
their shiny toys gleam in the high sun over there
closer to each other down the old streets they swagger
where soon they will meet in the dust of the dawn

Others try to hold the bombers back with their bodies
to find out if the man with the biggest arms in his hands
will bulldoze his own into a valley carved in the sand
piling more on the others bulldozed there before

Through our roof in the rain sirens sound
police are chasing or ambulances racing
far away sirens will sound shrill and long in the night
of the bulldozers the night of the bombs

The men with the big toys bestride a tired land
the moment nears in the dust of the sand
down the main street of the world they strut
hands poised on their overflowing holsters

We wait you knit we rotate the dial
so the voice of the man with the bombs in his heart
will not wash over the music of the strings
the voice of the dove mourning in the evening garden

Why are the big ones who strut never struck down
by the thunderbolt of a god by the hands of the good
by the tearing apart of their heart
before their guns can speak

With raindrops on the roof in the streets
on the waves of the ocean
we make our peace as we can
peace with our own minds

There is no more to be done but to wait
for the killing which has not started to end
for the day of the patient restorers the feeders of children
to return once again once again

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