I had begun to write this poem in April 2012 when I cannibalized the topic for a Listening Post essay. I later came back to it, the subject not leaving me alone until I did.
Bells and Cannon
The first cannon were temple bells, a thousand years ago.
Only tons of bronze could contain the fury of charcoal,
saltpeter, sulfur–the alchemical birth-brew of the modern age.
The bronze has recycled back and forth, bell into cannon,
cannon into bell, forged and reforged, cast anew in sand,
as church or state required. Hauled from belfry to armory,
then back to belfry again. Is the metal good or evil? No–
only mutable, like water, taking the shape of whatever
design contains it, until cooling, it freezes into form.
Just as we are mutable–one day fired up to belligerence,
one day called forth to penitence. It’s an open question
which one–bell or cannon–has wrought greater rue.