CB Follett












After American tanks buried alive                               The Pentagon said yesterday that a « gap in the laws

thousands of Iraqi soldiers, one witness                    governing warfare made it legally permissible during

cried, And there were arms and things                       the gulf war for U.S. tanks to bury alive thousands of

still sticking up everywhere.                                          Iraqi troops in their trenches…”

                       (AP News)                                                                                            (AP News two weeks later)



Planted in native soil,

their haphazard stalks reach up

across raw sky, as the blade

advances, caressing

the soil over them,

filling their mouths with dirt.


Who could plow along such trenches,

where soldiers — fierce, timid, scared —

wish the years of war were over,

yearn to be home with children,

hot food, and the warm breasts of women?


Coming down the sands is their death,

with a bull-blade and traction treads

driven by an unseen boy,

a boy, who hopes no one will know

there were soldiers who cowered

in trenches when he lowered his plow,

that men threw up their hands

against the crushing – their conversion

into land.


Where does he look, as men drop

all pretense of bravery;  lost

before they can breathe back in,


and arms poke from the ground, a new forest

of leafless barbs stuck in the earth,

into the hearts of young soldiers

from the U.S. of A:  drawing not blood

but corrosion.


Believe me, young soldiers, believe me,

you will never forget it – those arms –

those sticks of men you sowed in the desert.









There’s a line in every city where streets

turn mean once you’ve crossed it,

where the air pulls tighter and people

carry an edge with their careful eyes,

where you adjust from a lope

to a determined stride that says

Don’t mess with me.


You’ll know when you reach it,

the dividing of a city, wide as a river,

narrow as a white line down the center,

and when you cross it, the things

you wouldn’t notice behind

now seem to color the places ahead,


and the people coming toward you

are no longer your neighbors.

They are loosely held together; circumstances

have nudged them left of center.  They are


walking toward the line you just crossed

but they won’t – no more comfortable with comfort

than you are with dis-comfort.  And though

there are things you are after, places you

will go in this other country, you don’t know


the idioms spoken here. You are traveling

on a foreign passport in your home streets

where people you might have grown up with

have gone to ground on the other side of a line.

Every city has one and when you come to it,

you must will yourself to cross.







My Dear,


Every day I look at the news and see

your country torn open. I see you

in what’s left of your house, your children

hollow-eyed around you, uncovered

against the cold. I see lines at the food stalls


that any moment may explode. I see

those few coins tied in the corner of your

kerchief and wonder when and how

you will get more. I see your eyes

hungry and suspicious. The dirt


on your arms means there is no water today.

If I knew your name, if you had an address

I would send you warm clothes. I would

send you peaches; paper and pencils

for the children. But I see only soldiers


with guns and thick boots. I see the corners

where snipers hide. I see your face and wish

I could hold you, lift you from the fallen

stones, take you where beds are covered

with clean sheets. Where the noises


in the nights are owls, not gunshots.

If I could I would build you a road

out of town, with a cart and donkey to

carry the children. You could take your

last pot and your grandmother’s quilt.


If I could I would cleanse you

of the splatters of fear, give your children

books and hope. If I could, I would plant

you a garden, knit your sons sweaters,

brush your daughters’ hair free of tangles.


Rain would come down again into your

barrels, candles would never burn out.

Somewhere together we would find your

husband, bring him, safe and strong, back to you.

The soldiers who shoot and rape would instead

rebuild your walls. We’d make a roof again.

I would learn your songs and we

would sing. The children would sing.

The rivers would run clean and horses

would again come down to drink.







The Jackdaws Come at Noon


Swoop over our heads threatening

our skin, our skulls, as they used

to sweep over the corpses of our fathers

and brothers; who could not get away;

who were seized from our houses,

dragged into the streets, lined up

in front of our windows and shot.


who worked the fields, or repaired

the water pumps; our young sons

and brothers grown an inch

too tall, barely a darkening

on their chins; their faces

innocent but their eyes old,

so old – and now

we are a village of women. The corpses

are bones under the dirt and the crows

flap black and uncivil to protect

their own young.

When I was a child,

my grandfather would put a piece of tape

on the nail of his right pointer, another

on the nail of his left, and recite some little

silliness about crows: ‘Fly away jack. Fly away

jill. Come back jack, Come back jill”

The farmers shot

the crows in the field.  They had no corn

to share and no clothes to spare for

Straw Toms to prop up in the rapeseed

and they didn’t scare the crows, not for long.

And now we are

our own farmers, tiny plots of vegetables

in houses we can’t maintain against rain

and the jacks build their nests in our

stunted trees or our chimneys, and treat us

as the poor relations.

Some men have come

back from the fighting, and there are now

small boys playing jacks, hopping over rocks.

A threadbare woman has started a school

in the old barn and some of the children

go when they can, when they are not sick,

or too hungry to sleep.







Words to the Mother Whose Son Killed My Son


He’s just as dead,

killed by your son, or someone else;

muddy where they dragged him

through the jungle, bruised

when they tossed him over the compound wall

while blood was still doing its work,

rushing to protect, cushion, heal

a boy already dead

ready to stiffen and cool.


It could as easily been your son, chilling

in moist soil, awaiting the carrion beetles:

left behind by my son

as he high-fived his buddies.


The truth is, I would have killed

your son that day to save mine.

We who once sat grateful for no news;

we did not choose this for our sons.


I have no need of your country,

where my son trespassed under orders

from shoulders with bars and oak leaves.

Your country endlessly trying to edge free

from invaders; each more technocratic,

with improved death,

with the sear of napalm

that kills people as well as land.


We were no match for your sons

defending their crops, their villages.

They knew each hill and sightline,

each beetle and snake;

were willing to lie among them, dig

into them to quiet and wait.


My son, used to sidewalks

and one apple tree in spring,

was good on his feet, quick of eye,

but not acclimated to yellow light

flicking through thick forests,

where vines move in heat waves

languid as the enemy.

His eyes blurred from straining to see

what was leaf

and what was not.


I mourn for my son,

for his quick laugh,

his perfect spiral pass,

delicate touch with fly and reel,

and his big size twelve feet.

My son is lost forever,

and in ways perhaps more powerful

and corroding, you have also

lost yours.







Falling Into Rank


No one knows how they started

or why, like a river of slurry

picks up silt along the route

thickening the flow.


An endless millipede of Sudanese boys

straggles over ridges, down gullies,

along the dust path before them.

They walk because others are walking.


All are hungry, some

want education.  Others

out in the dry cattle fields watched

as troops killed entire villages.

When a file of boys crested the rise,

they dropped their staffs and walked.


If one of us falls, we dig a grave,

bury him by the roadside;

we don’t even know him – only

that he was a piece of us we leave here

to mark our passing through.
Their skins are the color of dust,

a parched color.


Boys rise up

from their villages, their mothers,

and fall into rank beside others

they’ve never seen before.


They walk to be part of something,

to be going toward something

even if what and where have no answers.



(Boys from Sudan, some as young as 4, walked for six years and over 1000 miles, riss-crossing several countries. Thousands died of starvation, sickness, and gunfire. Others were mauled by lions or drowned in rivers they couldn’t swim.  11,000 of them made it to Kenya.)











CB Follett is an artist and the author of 9 books of poems, the most recent Of Gravity and Tides (2013), and several chapbooks, most recent is Wind Rose (2014). At the Turning of the Light won the 2001 National Poetry Book Award. She is Editor/Publisher and general dogsbody of Arctos Press, was publisher and co-editor (with Susan Terris) of RUNES, a Review of Poetry (2001-2008). Follett has numerous nominations for Pushcart Prizes for individual poems, as well as eight nominations as a individual poet; a Marin Arts Council Grant for Poetry; awards and honors and been widely published both nationally and internationally. Follett was Poet Laureate of Marin County, CA, USA. (2010-2013).

With prize winning photographer-activist, Ginna Fleming, she has published DUET: A Conversation of Words and Images (2014), photographs and poems relating to each other on the pages.

Articles similaires