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The speaker opens the poem on an ironic note, sarcastically praising the war for “How eager / and efficient!” it is (Lines 2-3). With these arresting opening lines, the speaker introduces the reader to the poem’s most prominent theme: what an omnipresent and tireless force the war is and how it has managed to reshape every aspect of society in this unnamed country. The speaker describes the war as making its mark at the beginning of every new day, as it “wakes up the sirens / and dispatches ambulances” (Lines 5-6) to scenes of recent bombings and/or shootings to collect the dead and wounded. The speaker then briefly alludes to the human toll of these casualties, describing how the war “summons rain / from the eyes of mothers” (Lines 10-11) who are grieving the deaths of their children.
Due to the relentless destruction the war brings, much of the country is filled with rubble from former buildings. The war “digs into the earth / dislodging many things” (Lines 12-13) from under the wreckage, although it becomes clear in the following lines that these “things” are not mere things at all but human beings who were caught in the crossfire: “some are lifeless and glistening / others are pale and still throbbing” (Lines 15-16).
By Dunya Mikhail