Blackwater
Listen: Blackwater (12:20)

For gifts beguile men’s minds and their deeds as well.
      —The Returns, Fragment 5, tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White

The Nostoi, the lost Greek epic of vets come home,
is only still around in what someone worked
to save.  Some summary, a line or two.  
For gifts beguile men’s minds and their deeds as well:
one shred kept out of five lost volumes, words
distilled from our whole huge history of heroes, minds
and deeds, our whole idea of home.  These days 
we need some whole ideas. The ground around
us shifts for female veterans, fighter drones,
black ops, defense contractors, other pairs
of words we haven’t reconciled yet.
So many now returning from so much.  
Even Blackwater’s founder—Erik Prince!
his name as hard to believe as his Hitler bangs—
says his employees aren’t mercenaries, they’re
loyal Americans.  Forget the fact
that sometimes they’re from Chile, Bosnia,
wherever.  Look at “mercenary.”  From
the Latin merces:  payment, reward, cost.
From mercenarius,  or “hireling” in 
King James’ Gospel of John:  The shepherd or 
the hireling, who should we choose to watch over the sheep? 
Back out of all this now too much for us 
there was a river, cool and slow and stained 
with spruce and hemlock.  Blackwater River, Great 
Dismal Swamp.  And Prince bought the land, and took
the name.  Perfect: you can’t make this stuff up.  
For gifts beguile men’s minds and their deeds as well:
so many tried to warn us, give us this gift 
clear as black water, as minds and deeds and home.

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