A Poem In The Modern Style
Hemingway’s passage about men drinking together
on the eve of battle during The Spanish Civil War
describes two men comparing pistols
the length of the barrels
the size of the bullets.
This is always taught in college as a discussion
of dick sizes. Oh, sorry, I meant a macho
discussion of phallic symbols
a display of penis envy
among real men.
This literary interpretation is glaringly wrong,
and I have always wanted
to write this wrong.
The Professors of English Lit who light
our precious children mostly don’t
know of war. I do
know of war.
Hemingway had experience, an ear for dialogue
an eye for the color of stress, for the things
men say when they go to kill other men.
It is good to drink and get blind before battle
but everyone must know who has which
weapon when the dying starts.
Larger bullets and longer barrels mean death
from greater ranges and better chances
of killing quick close up.
Those of us who are better killers will take
guns and bullets and will know
from the muzzle length
from the bullet size
the killing abilities
of your choices.
I know that you will die, and after
dirt paintings of your blood
harden with the sun,
I will take your bullets and use them,
killing others with your gift.
When Hemingway meant phallic, there were women in the picture.