Dennis Etzel Jr.

from My Secret Wars of 1984

To retrace the remnant pathways to each source of
shattering. To see how the game itself changes to suit
all levels of characters, we need to think of the long-
term game. Topeka meets at the crossroads of
American texts. Transcripts. Transported to a strange
planet by a force from beyond the universe. Twenty-
five years ago and twenty-five years from now
conflicts in the present, tense. Two dangers never
cease threatening in the world: order and disorder.


Visit the Island of Lesbos via Pegasus. Vocabulary
words dumbed to write down. We are taught that
women are ‘natural’ enemies, that solidarity will never
exist between us because we cannot, should not, and
do not bond with another. We can’t allow ourselves
the luxury of making decisions with our hearts. We
circle around, then back untouched.


We delight in our sensuous involvement with the
materials of language, we long to join words to the
world—to close the gap between ourselves and
things, and we suffer from doubt and anxiety as to
our capacity to do so because of the limits of language
itself. We discover the limits of language early, as
children. We have met young America, says Ronald
Reagan. We have met your sons and daughters, says
Ronald Reagan. We have seen the power to end and
begin universes.


We have sufficient time, by acting now, to engineer
thoughtful, long-range solutions instead of quick-fixes
forced upon us out of urgency. We have to look. We
reacted in time. We shouldn’t be dwelling on the past,
or even the present, says Ronald Reagan. We
withdrew because we were no longer able to carry out
the mission for which we had been sent in, says
Ronald Reagan. We, alone, cannot solve all facets of
the problems underlying these quiet crises; but we can
generate a public dialogue which will set machinery in
motion to develop long-term, comprehensive
solutions. We’ll take the proper action at the proper
time, says Ronald Reagan.


Well, what they will say about us 100 years from now
depends on how we keep our rendezvous with
destiny, says Ronald Reagan. We’re no longer in
Kansas. We’ve heard the nation is at risk. We’ve read
the reports chronicling the movement toward
mediocrity in our educational system. We’ve viewed
with alarm the statistics suggesting that the quality of
our schools and the education they provide are being
eroded. What pictures can remain, as it is a time
outside remembering?


[To retrace-Two dangers]

Sentence 2: From Dungeons and Dragons Companion Set: Volume One by Frank Mentzer. Used
with permission from Wizards of the Coast, LLC.

Sentence 5: From Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars written by Jim Shooter. Marvel Super
Heroes Secret Wars © and TM Marvel Entertainment, LLC, and used with permission.

Sentence 7: From “A Rejection of Closure,” by Lyn Hejinian. Used with permission from
the author.

[Visit the Island-We Circle]

Sentence 3: From Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks, p.43. Used with
permission from the author.

Sentence 4: Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars..

[We delight-We have]

Sentences 1 and 2: Hejinian.

Sentences 3 and 4: President Ronald Reagan, Presidential Debate, October 21, 1984 in
Kansas City, Missouri. Public domain.

Sentence 5: Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.

[We have-We’ll take]

Sentences 1 and 6: From Governor John Carlin’s (D, KS) speech to the Kansas Legislature,
January 10, 1984. Public domain.

Sentence 3: Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.

Sentences 4, 5, and 7: Reagan.

[Well, what-What pictures]

Sentence 1: Reagan.

Sentences 3, 4, and 5: Carlin.

Artist’s Statement

My Secret Wars of 1984 is a hybrid-poetic memoir — an alphabetized 366-sentence conceptual collage, using texts from the year 1984 (including Lyn Hejinian, Ronald Johnson, bell hooks, Marvel Comics, Dungeons & Dragons, and President Reagan) with sentences of my own — within the context of political and personal struggles of that time, such as my mother coming out in the midst of living in a Catholic neighborhood, loss of memory due to violence before my mother’s divorce, the threat of nuclear war, and the recession.

Dennis Etzel Jr. lives with Carrie and the boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches at Washburn University. His chapbook The Sum of Two Mothers (ELJ Publications 2013) features work which appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX, and Flint Hills Review. Other conceptual work has appeared in Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, DIAGRAM, and others. Dennis has an MFA from The University of Kansas, and an MA and Graduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies from Kansas State University. He is Managing Editor for Woodley Press, volunteers at the YWCA’s Center for Safety and Empowerment, and hosts the Top City Poetry Reading Series.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis ( is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit ( and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.