Battle of the Bands By Mike Wilson

The Four Immeasurables*
are a Motown quartet singing between seams
of appearance as tanks roll over swollen plains
and mortars demolish labor of centuries


Be Kind, ye minds who zip-tie hands, fire bullets
in backs of skulls, who turkey shoot babushkas
and rape mothers in front of their toddlers


Be Calm, ye children who tremble behind doors
too thin to muffle cascading explosions of scores
of missiles and gunfire’s stalking warble


the flag under which no war can be waged, a view
immune to rage, the old lesson for the new age:
The happiness of every creature is my happiness


to a beat that dances past revenge and retribution
in the ambulance of love, the Red Cross of all loss:
The suffering of every creature is my suffering.


I’m the lead singer
in a garage band watching CNN, responding to alerts
on my phone. I challenge the Four Immeasurables
to a soul-searching battle of the bands


Butbutbut war criminals should be punished!
I deserve to destroy two cities of theirs
for each one of mine they level!


My hyenas and hellhounds howling are harbingers
of justice! My fist is doubled to whack-a-mole evil
with eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth truth!


I have a right to slaughter whomever shelters
beneath a bully’s banner or a thief’s coat of arms.
Spite makes right my bloody, dirty wrath.


The Four Immeasurables appear for an encore
dressed in leisure suits of perfect patience.

They snap fingers to the beat of moving mind
and dance in the harmony of cooperation.

Although the crowd cheers louder for my garage band
I hear the truthred eyes of anger are always blind. 

To break chain letters of hate we must surrender
unconditionally to the only true peace, a wish: 

May all sentient beings be free from needless suffering.

*The Four Immeasurables in Buddhism are loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

Mike Wilson is author of Arranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic (Rabbit House Press, 2020), political poetry for a post-truth world. He’s a past winner of Kentucky State Poetry Society’s Chaffin/Kash Prize. His work has appeared in many small magazines, including Amsterdam Quarterly, Mud Season Review, The London Reader, and The Ocotillo Review. Mike lives in Lexington, Kentucky.