Goya's Fight With Cudgels
The wars we
haven't had saved many lives.
An oily sky. Gray plain. Two men, the same
man—doubled or halved, so much alike
are they, facing each other, clubs pulled back
to swing. Sun going down as though the light
despairs. I was eleven. Sampson's
eyes had been gouged out—and did he cry?
I would have cried. He must have. Did men cry?
I'd never seen one. Were they the same
as me? Icicles dripped from the eve. Sampson,
I decided, cried. We were alike:
pain made it so. In Goya now that light
is going out. Those men with clubs pulled back
have given up on hope. No going back,
unless a voice—someone's—utters a cry—
Think what you do!—but who? (Icicle light
is sharp.) I read beside the lamp. The same
two tanks (LIFE magazine, a spread), alike,
faced off: one was ours, one Russian. Sampson
was my alter-ego hero: Sampson
taking and taking it—blind—on his back.
Which tank was which? Our president was Ike—
one's good, he said, one bad. This mimicry,
I thought, made us our enemy: the same
tanks, those men inside the same, the light
around me warm like a kind voice, this light
a balm. Let them not, I thought, blind Sampson:
let him see. And let them see how same
all of us are. May one tank pull back
and may the one inside step out and cry
stop: Russians, Americans, alike
as like can be: don't shoot yourself! I like
the girl I was that afternoon. The light
loved me and loved my light. Our light's a cry
that we must see to hear. I can't save Sampson—
so I thought—but I will love him back.
Now Goya's light's suspended: two men samesame,
who've not yet swung. May yet cry out, step back,
see through Sampson's eyes how same they are,
how scared—and like the light around them.