It seems appropriate in the Summer of 2010 to turn back and reread James Merrill's 1962 poem "Roger Clay's Proposal," which begins by proposing that "With all due ceremony -- flags unfurled, / Choirs, priests -- the leaders of a sobered world / Should meet, kneel down, and, joining hands, submit / To execution," then develops an even more appalling proposal. -- In 2010, the notion that it could hope for "maximum coverage in the press" seems quaint....
From WATER STREET (1962)
Also in COLLECTED POEMS (2001)
ROGER CLAY'S PROPOSAL
By James Merrill
I may be oversusceptible to news
But what I see in the papers leaves me numb.
The bomb. The ultimatum. Wires hum --
Adult impersonators giving interviews,
As if that helped. What would? I've thought of it.
With all due ceremony -- flags unfurled,
Choirs, priests -- the leaders of a sobered world
Should meet, kneel down, and, joining hands, submit
To execution: say in Rome or Nice --
Towns whose economy depends on crowds.
Ah, but those boys, their heads aren't in the clouds.
They would find reasons not to die for peace.
Damn them. I'd give my life. Each day I meet
Men like me, young, indignant. We're not cranks.
Will some of them step up? That's plenty. Thanks.
Now let's move before we get cold feet.
Music we'll need, and short, clear speeches given
Days of maximum coverage in the press.
We'll emphasize disinterestedness,
Drive the point home that someone could be driven
To do this. Where to go? Why not Japan,
Land of the honorable suicide.
And will the world change heart? Until we've tried,
No one can say it will not. No one can.