My friend Roland Flint (1934-2001) was outraged by the Persian Gulf War. He wrote a poem about it set at this very moment in the season -- late winter, early spring -- that still has shocking relevance today. The poem is simply called "Seasonal, 1991," and it appears in his outstanding final book, Easy (1999).

The last freezing rain of winter

or the first bona fide spring rain

pittering its intermittent music

on the roof and copper gutters

is what you wake to a few days

after the killing has almost

stopped, in the Gulf. It is a sound

filled with cleansing new shingles

wet and black, with crocuses,

and, just behind them, forsythia,

tulips, azaleas -- spring. But it doesn't

wash away last night's news, one

hundred and fifty thousand Iraqis dead,

mostly from our bombing: not

the Elite Guards, but less loyal

Muslims, Kurds, and Christian Assyrians,

driven out to and trapped on

the front lines of policies

for which they did not vote or elect

to die, these weeks black rain fell

down, in light or dark, day in,

night out, a bloody, percussive

anthem to our great victory over

Saddam and the inhuman poor.

Now, while the lisping patter

genially wakens our house in

a birdsung Maryland suburb,

in Baghdad a season of heat and winds

of cholera and typhus begins.

"Seasonal, 1991" is exemplary in the way it exhibits a strong double consciousness; the poet scrupulously observes the natural world outside his suburban Maryland home, even as he tries to wrap his mind around the human and political realities of what our country is doing halfway around the world.

Roland Flint taught at Georgetown University for almost 30 years, but he never forgot that he had grown up on a small potato farm in North Dakota, which taught him something about caring for the land, and something about hardship. Here is a poem that he wrote for his 57th birthday. The poem, a return to origins, is structured as a letter to his mother, but it now also takes on the retrospective shine of a self-elegy.

2-26-91 Well, mother, tomorrow night

I will be born, if this were 57

years ago, and you were 29.

Twenty-nine! How young you

would be to me now, mother!

A girl. Were you still

a girl at 29? -- having your

fourth baby, your first after

the miscarriage, me?

If I'm thinking of you more,

am I getting ready to be born

again or do I miss you

from reading Juan Rulfo,

who lets the dead

son and mother talk

the way we did so long,

a month before you died,

seven years, 5 months

and 8 days ago, almost 50

years after that night

we beat the doctor

by 25 minutes or so.

Remember? I don't, but

you remembered it to me.

Now I remember to you,

everything, the 40 watt bulb,

the winter, your holding me

aside till the doctor

came to cut the cord. (Roland Flint's poems "Seasonal, 1991" and "2-26-91" appear in his collection "Easy." Louisiana State University Press. Copyright © 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 by Roland Flint.)