David Biespiel’s Poetry Wire: The Love Poems of David Petraeus


Poetry Wire has learned of the existence of secret love poems by former CIA director David Petraeus. Good readers would have noticed these poems embedded in Mr. Petraeus’ opening statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the occasion of his confirmation hearing on June 23, 2011. They are published here for the first time.

Oh, Paula

You question whether I will be able
To grade my own love
And ensure involvement
In your endeavors.

Let me reassure you:
If I am ever in the Situation Room
I will be dreaming
Of your wild biographical eyes.

I will always represent
The Agency position,
And remain keenly aware
That I am the leader

Of your intelligence agency.
Oh, Paula,
That I were your
Policy maker, too.

First Time

May our goal in uniform
Be the same out of uniform,
My gentle far away one.

May we always convey forthrightness
To each other, and that our positive
Assessments always be kept bedded

Inside the draft box
Of our shared secret
Gmail account.

And let that not change significantly
Following the cutoff date
Of our love —

Though typically when I issue
A cutoff date
It takes some 6-8 weeks

Prior to the date
Of assessment for it to be
Reviewed by the President.

But we will skip that
This lovesome,
Centcom-some night,

Military Kisses

You say you have concerns
About the militarization
Of our intelligence
In general and in particular.

But I have no plans
Under this silver moonlight
To bring my military brain trust
With me into your agency.

I look forward to interacting
With you, my one-ness.
Oh, that I could populate my office
With only vigorous debate and discussion,

But, you are my true outside advisor,
My sweet directed telescope,
My honey-combed backchannel.
It is my privilege to command.

Kiss me, kiss me, a thousand and one times,
So that we can recognize that there does
Have to be some hierarchy,
And that, at a certain point, some decisions

Have to be made with our lips,
Have to be finalized,
Oh kiss me, oh judgments
That have to be rendered.

Courtship Sonnet

Tell me you too are also keenly aware
Of the need to maintain close ties
With the Congress of our affection.
By all reports, we have done
A remarkable job in this regard,
And I know keeping our two
Committees fully and completely
Informed is imperative.

If you confirm your love,
I will keep on the same trajectory
It has been following in this regard;
Indeed, I look forward to furthering
Our relationship — indeed partnership —
That was built on our watch together.

Committee of Love

We know well the regional and functional
Issues on which we need to focus, my love.

We are so heavily engaged
On our front lines.

Needless to say, important progress
Has been made. I will assure you

That I intend to maintain relentless pressure
On you if you maintain

Relentless pressure on me.
Let us support continuing cooperation,

Maintain sensitivity, examine each of these areas
Closely, and support all of our initiatives.

May your assets be confirmed with my assets,
My dove, and let us remember always

The importance of conducting covert operations.
They are of enormous importance to us

And our country. Let us devote
Considerable attention to ensuring

Our activities are properly conducted,
Resourced, and coordinated. Let us not

Send e-mails! Oh, let us not!

Failed Love: Cyber Threats

My turtledove, I share your concern
About cyber security, and if our love lasts,
I will ensure that we continue to work closely
To identify and counter risks, threats,
And adversaries within our networks
And against threats from outside attackers.

But you have failed to conduct and coordinate
Intelligence — your only interest is
Examining progress of so-called ‘hard targets’
And inventorying threats of initiatives
Against it. Farewell, I can no longer align
Our effort as required (and still remain
A good steward of our Nation’s tax dollars).

Farewell as Dismissal

It has been an enormous privilege to be your
Secret Agency Director and to serve with,
Represent, lead,
And be an advocate for your love,
What with your world-class knowledge,
Expertise, courage, initiative, and commitment.

Despite quest for acclaim, you are
The best and the brightest woman
Who voluntarily undertook
Some of the most difficult tasks.
We have served (ah!) closely.
Thank you very much.

Mrs. Petraeus

She is here with me today.
As you have noted, she is

No stranger to public service.
She is an army daughter, wife,

Mother, bright, nice, small,
And a pit bull.

I have been blessed to have her
In my corner for 37 years

And 23 moves.
And now, yes, I recognize her.


Poetry Wire Bids Farewell to Jack Gilbert: Jack Gilbert, the iconoclast love poet of Pittsburgh and, occasionally the islands of Greece (and lately Northampton, MA, and most recently Berkeley, CA), died this week at the age of 87. Long disdainful of the American po-biz scene, Gilbert maintained long absences from America despite his poems having been afforded wide-spread affection, praise, and literary commendation. David Orr reviewed Gilbert’s recently published Collected Poems a couple of Sundays back in The Times. John Penner published a beautiful profile of Gilbert just yesterday in the Los Angeles Times. Yesterday, on Slate, David Haglund had this obit and notice, as well. In 1995 I reviewed Gilbert’s The Great Fires in the San Francisco Chronicle. A few years later we met for the first time when he visited Portland. For a poet known for avoiding the review-fauna of American poetry, he knew my take on his book better than I would have expected. Well enough, in fact, to complain unprompted, that my generally laudatory review wasn’t laudatory enough. To the sentence that began — “On the other hand, the dozen or more beautiful poems in this book, especially the elegies for his late wife and the poem “To See if Something Comes Next,” show that what continues to make Gilbert’s poetry distinctive and original is the manner in which he arranges events in his poems, not as events, but as moods” — he groused “only a dozen?” Adding, “not that one cares about such things. No. Not one.” (FWIW: Poery Wire’s favorite Gilbert poem from that book is “Alone,” which you can find on several personal blog on the Internet by googling “Jack Gilbert” and “Alone.”)

David Biespiel is a poet, literary critic, memoirist, and contributing writer at American Poetry Review, New Republic, New York Times, Poetry, Politico, The Rumpus, and Slate, among other publications. He is the author of numerous books, most recently The Education of a Young Poet, which was selected a Best Books for Writers by Poets & Writers, A Long High Whistle, which received the 2016 Oregon Book Award for General Nonfiction, and The Book of Men and Women, which was chosen for Best Books of the Year by the Poetry Foundation and received the 2011 Oregon Book Award for Poetry. More from this author →