16 pages 32 minutes read

Dunya Mikhail

The War Works Hard

Nonfiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 2005

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The Omnipresence of War

Because the war is so “eager / and efficient!” (Lines 2-3) in sowing the seeds of chaos and misery in the unnamed country of “The War Works Hard”, it manages to affect every aspect of life for its human victims: physical, emotional, political, and social.

In a physical sense, the war brings death to some, injury to others, and pain to everyone. In imagery describing the war as “swing[ing] corpses through the air / [and] roll[ing] stretchers to the wounded” (Lines 8-9) the speaker alludes to the way in which bombardments and shootings either rob victims of life or damage their bodies, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently. The reference to “coffin makers” and “grave diggers” (Lines 46 & 47) emphasize war’s ultimate price: the end of life itself. Emotionally, no one escapes unscathed, as the speaker describes the power war has as it “summons rain / from the eyes of mothers” (Lines 10-11) who are crying over the loss of their children, while also splitting couples and families apart: it “teaches lovers to write letters” and “accustoms young women to waiting” (Lines 40-41). It disrupts the normal cycles of life through enforced separation.

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By Dunya Mikhail

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