The farmer of Wichita and the émigrés of Zurich both said the
imperialist war should have never been. History’s mysteries.
Even today the others would drown Jaurès and Luksemburg in
a deluge of red poppies for bars of Sainsbury’s chocolate.
That centenary advert on the tele depicting the 1914 Christmas truce.
I’m the American on Armistice Day, I walk from Cable Street
to the Tower of London, and I feel no loss of innocence,
of Victorian splendor, of Commonwealth comradery. The
anarchist at the squat stops me. Do I have time? Time?
I have all the time in the world. I have empire, I have its
opposite. I’ve been conscripted and independented. I have red
roses, red poppies, Tudor roses, daffodils and thistles,
poinsettias, all the wildflowers of Texas at hand. My father
was a tailor, and he sowed his blue jeans the world over.
We’re gonna take our problem to the United Nations, I said.
To dead anti-imperialists on Armistice Day, Americans and all.
It wasn’t enough, scoffed John Bull, England. You’ll never
understand my loss. You’ll never understand how beautiful it was,
the light that rose at Gravesend, the piercing gabled brilliance
of the highest domestic service of all. Never. Now leave us alone.
And he left, dropping nations behind him like the mangy old mule
kicking off the empty sacks of coal. I ate some fried chicken,
observing the scene. I will always remember that day.