* Note: Updated to “forty hundred” when the number of dead American servicemen officially doubled to 4,000 sometime in early 2008.

Metrics for Measure
(Dedicated to Cindy Sheehan)

The pricking of his thumbs begins to sting
As something wicked comes his way unsought:
The awful truth about the play as thing
Wherein the conscience of the prince is caught

Now Isabella camps outside his ranch
Her silent supplication real not fake
Her rude requests for justice make him blanch
Her simple power poised to grab and shake

Her time, down in a roadside ditch, she bides
With twenty*-hundred crosses witness mute
While safe within his bubble he resides
The gashes in the dead his lies confute

His thought no counsel credible informs
So on he stumbles, mouthing scripted rhyme
Upon the gibbet’s scaffold he performs
For his allotted fifteen minutes’ time

An angry ape with glassy essence clear
Before high heaven trotting out his trick
Afraid of nothing quite so much as fear
Which makes splenetic angels laugh till sick

Assured of his own ignorance he pressed
To have himself informed of what he knew
In little brief authority he dressed
So as to mask his nakedness from view

His counselor, the clown, roved here and there
Professing, like Rasputin, cures to know
For royal hemophilia laid bare
As turds that blossom on the frozen snow

But still the would-be great no greatness had
They thus could only mock the small who sobbed
Until disrobed, in disrepute unclad,
Their perfidy showed clear to those they’d robbed

But Gandalf once to Frodo Baggins said,
In telling him his uncle Bilbo’s tale,
That even small ones lost in fear and dread
Can turn the blast of fortune’s greatest gale

For Bilbo spared the vicious Gollum’s good
In pity of one long so lonely lost
And would not strike him even though he could
Which in the end saved all great evil’s cost

No doubt some live who maybe ought to die
And some that die deserve to live instead
But who shall make of his own life a lie
Who deals out death in judgment of the dead?

And as the wizard might have said at length
What Isabella did, a court to sway:
How excellent to have a giant’s strength
But tyrannous to use it in that way

For even very wise ones cannot see
The end to all the mischief that ensues
From feckless fights and their mad misery
As complex as a rainbow’s many hues

And as such smallish suitors might combine
Soliciting compassion as their cause
They plead for pity in a single line
That pelting petty officers might pause

For making thunder just to hear the noise
And lightning just to see the awe and shock
If overused by adolescent boys
Will look more like the chicken than the hawk

They like it well enough when first they think
That all will go exactly as they dream
But soon enough they shun the fetid stink
That clogs the nose and gags them till they scream

Those wise who hold great power in reserve
And do not waste it in a foolish deed
Have moral power more which well will serve
When faced with future’s grave and greater need

Thus Isabella Baggins now implores
The one who can to pity those who serve
And bring them home from bloody foreign shores
To reap the future lives that they deserve

We only ask for metrics we can use
To measure what is often promised glib
By bureaucrats who went and lit the fuse
And now can only hedge, and stall, and fib

Yet once more he reiterates his lies
He now commands no love from him that dies
With shoulders of a dwarfish thief he tries
To wear a giant’s robe above his size

Michael Murry, "The Misfortune Teller," Copyright 2009