Letter From an Island

A young Boston poet who graduated with honors from Tufts and who already has one book, Homeward to America, to his credit, JOHN CIARDI is today a machine-gunner on a B-29, and has looked down on the Japanese homeland from a somewhat hazardous height. — THE EDITOR
I GAVE our difference 10,000 miles.
Land, sea, and air passed under. If we fail
We pass from touch completely as two moles,
Digging the cells of earth that keep our jail.
Remember, miles are nothing. I have come
This distance faster than a memory:
Dawn in the cities, noon in the world’s dome,
And that night’s dark on islands past a sea.
Now on this coral rock behind the world
I pace your image, sleep, feel foolish, eat,
Put back my last near dread, and at a word
Climb, sung by engines, toward the obsolete
Encounter of two corpses still alive.
Miles into sky we function and grow cold.
The rapid art of killing, like new love,
Runs to new spangles but the art is old.
We have our reasons and are reconciled,
Until, the target and the ocean past,
Our engines burn the wake the white ships sailed,
And land us to our solitudes at last.
Then with our war another day away,
The natural man stepped down from the machine
Waits in the desert of his apathy,
Lounges, grows dull, sleeps late, and half obscene,
Halfriven by a hunger deep as flesh,
Beats on the native tropic like a fool,
Eyes the few native women like a fish,
And burns at night, himself the flame and fuel.
I am that natural man and in a haze
I see this tropic down my ancestry,
And with another thought I see our days
Running forever parted on the sea.
What was the poet’s simple solving pun
That pure souls stay as one though worlds divide?
A dressed and fancy notion out of Donne
That all the seas and separate winds deride.
Shall we dream pure and I baptize your mind
To name you more than woman past a sea.?
I need you fleshed and sudden as the wind.
I have no appetite for memory.
Oceans that fail between us not by words,
Open to close us back where we begin:
Only one wish will keep us across worlds —
Stay hungry with my hunger, and we win.