The problem, of course, is sex.

Here’s what the Trojan war

Did: is Helen, the beautiful Greek,

Kidnap victim or whore?

This is not what peace knows or expects.

When you are too humiliated to speak,

Out come the weapons. The weapons talk, instead—

Weapons invented by the tongue-tied geek

For the brutal male, who loudly counts the dead.

Today’s War of Islam is a simple one:

Lands where the women are more beautiful than the men

Are going to get invaded again and again.

Have you seen women from the Middle East?

Heavens! Even the eyes are a feast.

The Middle East wants to hide its Helen,

Because love is a problem when the woman is a “ten.”

The West is different; its women are not pretty.

Have you seen Sarah Jessica Parker from “Sex in the City?”

The West, short on beauty, promotes sex and freedom.

Modesty? Veils? Allah? The West doesn’t need them.

If the West, which insults Islam, had its women hide all,

The West would never have sex at all.

So pity the West, and its desire;

And the world: aflame with God, and make-up, and pride, and fire.


We hesitated to publish “The Problem, Of Course, Is Sex,” because we felt it would offend—precisely because of the sex problem identified in the poem: the author of the poem is a white male, and, in a look-ist frenzy, perpetuates cruel and fraudulent stereotypes in the poem. Yes, as the author of the poem, we admit on a superficial level, the poem does this, but this is only by way of illustrating what is perhaps the chief problem in the current Muslim crisis—the aggressive Puritanism of Radical Islam—for who doubts the rapacious, misguided morality of the Taliban, in its wounded-pride, religious, purity, is not at the center of the whole, crazed, passionate terrorist grievance? It is the Greeks losing their Helen, a society’s sex-pride massing for war and revenge, and willing to sacrifice their children for it.  Is this not it?  Meanwhile, the war-like, invading, divide-and-conquer, bullying West, casually tossing off shows like “Sex In the City,” celebrates license and freedom—which insults the invaded people’s soul every day. The Islam crisis may ultimately be about oil and geo-political strategy. But we feel it is also about sex. At the very least, sex is what drives the signing up, and blowing up, for the manic, righteous, revenge-of-rape/rape-revenge cause. To reduce geo-political complexity to rape is a poetic trope; poets sometimes understand the crude and simple truth of a very complex issue is, indeed, the truth, despite the complexity of the issue, with its minefield of offenses to polite society, a polite society, in this case, which has smoothly and professionally committed massive wrongs. The insult to Western women in the poem represents more bitter fruit, a furtherance of the revenge-wound. As with the vengeful Hamlet’s madness—once a wrong begins, who knows where it will end?






  1. maryangeladouglas said,

    November 21, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    I love the last line of this poem; it is extraordinary. However, I totally disagree with your arguments in the poem on just about everything. I realize you can’t represent every idea and viewpoint in a poem without the poem becoming not a poem but a catch all awkward piece of luggage with too much in it but I feel offended by this poem because it seems to say that terrorists are protecting, defending the beautiful women in the Mideast. Terrorism is an ego trip. To some extent so are some wars. I believe there are just wars, WWII for example though it should have started and ended much earlier than it did and there would have been more people saved. Possessing is not defending. That’s another thought. And I am an American who is greatly offended on many levels by much of American culture, ESPECIALLY the sex and the city crap, the obsession with sex itself, the outright worship of lust itself I hate with all the passion of my soul. God Bless the Puritans who really felt that way forever. Who is in love with your soul alone is God and Jesus Christ. I love them for that. When the human love encompasses the love of the soul in another person then we will all be free. Until it does, just about everything is terrorism.

    • thomasbrady said,

      November 21, 2015 at 5:55 pm

      Well this was my fear, Mary, that everyone, no matter what their point of view, would find something to offend them in this poem. I have no intention of defending the terrorists—seeking to get inside their head and feelings is not to agree with what one finds there. America was born throwing off the tyranny of the British Empire. I believe in my country but when we act like the British Empire, I believe we are wrong. Thank you for your feedback. Those who hold different views from yourself will probably hate it for contrasting reasons. And I realize that because intellectually I can “defend” myself, I will still be held accountable for the feelings I have unleashed. I’m getting ready for the storm that will never end, the very storm now blowing across the world, since it began. This is why good exists. Because evil does. And this is the debate, isn’t it? What exactly is good? How should it behave? What exactly is bad? How should we behave towards it? Within, and without, the poem.

  2. Surazeus said,

    November 21, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    I prefer our society where women are free agents secure to express their desires and live on their own terms.

    Men are weak who attempt to control the women of their societies, and they attack us because we value our women with loving trust.

    • thomasbrady said,

      November 21, 2015 at 6:15 pm

      I agree with you. Trust, not control. Absolutely.

      But what if the men of our society attack the men of their society?

      Men of one society who attack and pillage the people of another society and then lecture them about sexual morality, or what have you, enter a territory ripe with conflict.

      Maybe what is happening is a violent progress towards making all women free, I don’t know.

      How much force does this take, though? Should we have invaded Iraq to make women free?

      Your view seems to embrace this optimistic view.

      Maybe it is the best view.

      And I suppose you can hold this view and be against invading other nations.

      Surazeus, maybe yours is the enlightened view we need to stick with.

      If it only were that simple!

      America, with all its freedoms, certainly has its problems.

      But sometimes the simple truth is the truth.

    • noochinator said,

      November 21, 2015 at 10:22 pm

      Yeah, you’d think from reading Scarriet that the West never has any right to take up arms. It’s war, Thomas, though you and most of your countrymen are loath to admit it. And by the way, I’ve seen a lot of ugly-to-the-bone Muslim women….

      • thomasbrady said,

        November 21, 2015 at 10:46 pm

        War should be quick, to the point, and not kill innocents. Blockade the Confederacy, march into Richmond. Hang Lee and Davis. Done in 3 months. Long wars are always bad. And leave civilians out of it. Go after the head of the snake.

        • noochinator said,

          November 21, 2015 at 11:08 pm

          You say that 150 years after the war’s end — but I think if Thomas Brady had lived in 1861, he would have been a lot more professorial and even-handed about the South, as he is now about ISIS….

  3. maryangeladouglas said,

    November 21, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    I shouldn’t have said the poem offended me. The poem is what it is supposed to be and I can see above all else you poured yourself into it. And it is so wonderful to hear someone even referencing Helen of Troy in a contemporary poem. I guess my quarrel is with certain ideas, impressions outside of the poem but which the poem referenced. The poem is extremely valuable to me in any case because it did help me by its own clarifications to further reflect on as you say here so beautifully on exactly what is the nature of good and evil. I do not war with the poem in any case. It stands in its own light.

    • thomasbrady said,

      November 21, 2015 at 7:13 pm

      Thank you for saying that, Mary, because I don’t want to give offense, and I was beginning to think people—friends, family—might think the poem is creepy, and I shouldn’t have published it. After all, the idea that women in the Middle East are beautiful and need to be covered up—but isn’t this the fact? Not that they need to be, but that it happens! Perhaps I shouldn’t apologize for this poem. Why shouldn’t we talk about this and confront it? Don’t we talk about everything these days, sexual, and otherwise? I admit I’m having a war with my conscience right now. But isn’t this what the Helen of Troy story is about? And doesn’t its truth still pertain? If it weren’t for the madness of the Paris attacks, I wouldn’t have written this “mad” poem. I admit I’m somewhat ashamed of it. It’s beneath the dignity of a “serious poet.” Or so I fear. I thought that if I offended you, Mary, you, who like my work, I had seriously erred. But you’ve given me hope by what you’ve said, that perhaps my instinct to put it out there was correct. And lastly, Sarah Jessica Parker, please, please forgive me! We all have our ugly days!!

  4. maryangeladouglas said,

    November 21, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    Haha. Thomas Graves I felt the same guilt toward Sara Jessica Parker when I condemned her tv program sex and the city in my comment. I actually like Sara Jessica very much for her love for the ballet. That was her first aspiration and I think I saw her on some program where Suzanne Farrell (my favorite ballerina) was being honored and Sarah looked so glowing and ballet like and was so earnest in her appreciation. Also I read about her hard knocks, poverty stricken life coming up. But I hate that program. You should publish the poems you want to publish. Do not second guess yourself. Anyone who acts crummy toward you because they take issue with your poem doesn’t understand anything. Sadly I have come to realize many times America has been a bully. For a long time I refused to see it. There is something to be said for protecting beauty and I think psychologically speaking we all (men women and children all) have need of many veils. But we also have need of COLOURS and freedom. Reverence for beauty I respect and I do see the need for veils one way or another. We are somehow so irritatingly constantly PUBLIC in America. We none of has have any secrets. There should be secrets (not evil ones). There should be beauty. There should be modesty I wish for it anyway. If there was more modesty perhaps beauty would shine through and not aberrations. See how much your poem has made me consider that I wasn’t considering before and this will be forever now. Don’t worry I don’t mean the comment will be going on forever though I’m sure you might perhaps be beginning to think so. Cheers. from Mary D.

  5. maryangeladouglas said,

    November 21, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    Here’s a poem I just wrote for fun and to deal with stress and after writing it I came to the scary conclusion (or my elf infestedd mind did it for me) that the mind itself can be a terrorist.


    my mind. my thinking is,
    most people say we say it all the time
    I think, my mind’s my own. I think for myself.

    I’m telling you, there’s bad elves in there somewhere.
    some real bad boogers.

    if your mind is yours
    why does it always obsess

    about the one fly in the ointment
    the one gaffe at the party
    or at every birthday, say

    for decades
    remind you of that time
    two people

    gave you the exact same thing.
    is the mind a friend? really?

    why does it bring up in vast array
    at odd moments: every single
    horrible thing that ever happened to you.

    would a friend do that?
    does it ever bring up at odd moments
    the vast array of good things that happened?

    the compliments?
    it throws those in a dungeon
    surrounded by crocodiles.

    good luck getting in there.

    to get it to remind you of the good stuff on its own
    without conscious effort on your part is well nigh

    somebody’s got to say it out loud with a lot of
    pauses between the words so that it sinks in finally
    cause the mind just doesn’t want you to know this.

    your mind is NOT yours. it’s occupied by foreign forces
    marshalling, to the default always set
    like some nightmare librarian,

    data clerk all the records on:
    things you wish you’d never said;
    the grade school days the

    whole class laughed their heads off at you.
    everytime you spilled something on your tie, your dress
    or prounounced something the wrong way

    in broad daylight.
    all the people that ever looked at you weird,
    the cast of thousands. and it’s always,

    going forward, scribbling it all down faster and
    faster like a haywire steongrapher, court reporter.
    did you get that? screams one bad elf to the other

    but not so you can hear. Here’s a new Fear, they chortle.

    why doesn’t the mind ever spontaneously
    bring up things: like dark cherry ice cream, rainbows,
    extra puddings in your lunchbox.

    WHAT’S WRONG WITH IT???????????????????????

    mary angela douglas 21 november 2015

  6. maryangeladouglas said,

    November 21, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    hey now I know who’s making all the typos. its the steongrapher. (stenographer).

  7. thomasbrady said,

    November 21, 2015 at 10:50 pm


    Do we own our minds? Good question.

    Maybe we only own our hearts.

  8. maryangeladouglas said,

    November 21, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    That makes sense. We must be using something other than the mind to get out of the morass. Maybe people have it backwards. Most always it seems they say the heart is confused, but maybe it’s like my Grandmother used to say (from the Bible) listen to the still small voice. Something inside us really is capable of shedding a light on things, on the elves in the mines who stole our jewels and helping us get them back.

    The deeper part of the heart. That sounds silly but I know there is a surface, superficial part of the heart (at least I know I have it) that is just moronic and doesn’t help at all. A friend of mine said, maybe a teacher in grade school it’s good to let the silt sink to the bottom of the river. She would shake up a jar with creek silt and creek water in it (from a creek near the school) and then set it down and tell us to watch it until all the dirt settled and the water was clear.

    I think she was trying to get us to sit down and be quiet and stop driving her crazy but I always loved that visual. Maybe that’s at least one thing that makes us write poetry, or, at least some people. I know I do often write to feel better and clearer and it always makes me feel better even if the poem isn’t perfect. Maybe the poems I like best are the ones written this way.

  9. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    November 22, 2015 at 1:20 am

    Poets should stay out of politics. It makes for bad politics and bad poetry.

    • thomasbrady said,

      November 22, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      Gary, I generally agree.

      But politics is always bad. Where is it good? On the internet? On TV? At a town meeting?

      I agree with you half-way. For You imply politics is sometimes good and poetry makes it bad. No, politics is always bad.

      To give my poem its due, the closing couplet is pretty strong, and where is Middle East Politics good? Are you kidding me? At least in my poem it has some…interest. Who else brings in Helen and Homer? I should get some points for that, at least. It is bad taste, I know, for a poet to defend his poem, and I apologize for that. Scarriet does favor tough criticism, but I fear that in this instance you are being merely splenetic.

      So the question becomes: should poetry deal with what is bad? Death is bad. Love is often bad. Poetry does pretty well with those subjects.

  10. maryangeladouglas said,

    November 22, 2015 at 4:08 am

    Poets like everyone else should do what they feel is right. No offense.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      November 22, 2015 at 4:19 am

      I didn’t mean to sound snippy but I’m glad beyond gladness itself that William Butler Yeats wrote this political poem-

      Easter 1916
      W. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939

      I have met them at close of day
      Coming with vivid faces
      From counter or desk among grey
      Eighteenth-century houses.
      I have passed with a nod of the head
      Or polite meaningless words,
      Or have lingered awhile and said
      Polite meaningless words,
      And thought before I had done
      Of a mocking tale or a gibe
      To please a companion
      Around the fire at the club,
      Being certain that they and I
      But lived where motley is worn:
      All changed, changed utterly:
      A terrible beauty is born.

      That woman’s days were spent
      In ignorant good-will,
      Her nights in argument
      Until her voice grew shrill.
      What voice more sweet than hers
      When, young and beautiful,
      She rode to harriers?
      This man had kept a school
      And rode our wingèd horse;
      This other his helper and friend
      Was coming into his force;
      He might have won fame in the end,
      So sensitive his nature seemed,
      So daring and sweet his thought.
      This other man I had dreamed
      A drunken, vainglorious lout.
      He had done most bitter wrong
      To some who are near my heart,
      Yet I number him in the song;
      He, too, has resigned his part
      In the casual comedy;
      He, too, has been changed in his turn,
      Transformed utterly:
      A terrible beauty is born.

      Hearts with one purpose alone
      Through summer and winter seem
      Enchanted to a stone
      To trouble the living stream.
      The horse that comes from the road,
      The rider, the birds that range
      From cloud to tumbling cloud,
      Minute by minute they change;
      A shadow of cloud on the stream
      Changes minute by minute;
      A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
      And a horse plashes within it;
      The long-legged moor-hens dive,
      And hens to moor-cocks call;
      Minute to minute they live;
      The stone’s in the midst of all.

      Too long a sacrifice
      Can make a stone of the heart.
      O when may it suffice?
      That is Heaven’s part, our part
      To murmur name upon name,
      As a mother names her child
      When sleep at last has come
      On limbs that had run wild.
      What is it but nightfall?
      No, no, not night but death;
      Was it needless death after all?
      For England may keep faith
      For all that is done and said.
      We know their dream; enough
      To know they dreamed and are dead;
      And what if excess of love
      Bewildered them till they died?
      I write it out in a verse —
      MacDonagh and MacBride
      And Connolly and Pearse
      Now and in time to be,
      Wherever green is worn,
      Are changed, changed utterly:
      A terrible beauty is born.

  11. maryangeladouglas said,

    November 22, 2015 at 4:51 pm


    the glass soldiers broke when I was there
    standing in pieces on the ground
    and overhead a droning sound

    and in my heart, a blankness.
    you talk around me in the frozen air
    while my breath clouds the windowpane

    and all your talk of guilt and blame
    rolls down the glass in streaming rains
    and winter dreariness.

    you will say that I broke them on purpose
    when you find me.
    I will lose my chance

    at blackberries for supper;
    an extra scoop of dream.
    do I seem to you that ragged?

    I am a glass soldier too;
    the shards all driven inward.
    what war did I ever start.

    mary angela douglas 22 november 2015

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