Philip Fried


Philip Fried has published five books of poetry, the most recent being Early/Late: New and Selected Poems (Salmon, 2011). Publishers Weekly called this book “skillful and memorable,” and Tim Liardet, writing in The Warwick Review, said it reflected Fried’s “deeply subversive intelligence.” In the fall of 2013, Salmon will bring out Interrogating Water and Other Poems, from which “Words at War” comes.

Words at War

Everyday words, recruited from city and town,
strive to be all that they can be. Take Corner,
who loitered with no intent at the intersection
of surfaces and angles, occupying
a small space with pure vacancy.

Nondescript bit of language, ennobled by
a mission … but first he must eliminate
the bad guys in a training session. The set up—
a simulated Afghan village, complete
with mud—is computerized and run by remote.

Honed by terror to an adrenalin edge,
he calculates threats from every angle—no innocent
intersections—as mannequins on swivels
leap out at him. He’s taught to never back into
himself, distracted by old dreams of the street.

Soon all the highly-trained Corners, shipped to the four
corners of the globe, become a force
multiplier, and the war itself
is turning a corner, as Corner morphs to a miracle
weapon, The Corner Shot ®, that kills at an angle

of 60-odd degrees, around a corner.
How far he has come, our idler, who now makes any
wall a shield between a soldier and danger,
how far from vagrancy who’s now equipped
with purpose, laser illuminator, and silencer.

Interrogating Water and Other Poems, the manuscript from which ‘Words at War’ comes, focuses on the national security state and its ‘shadow wars.’ This poem explores, in semi-allegorical fashion, the role of language in such conflicts. Reading about a new type of gun that could shoot around corners was the inspirational trigger for the poem.