Please help me with an analysis of the poem "Storming the Desert" by John Tomlin.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Reading "Storming the Desert," by John Tomlin, I get the distinct impression that technology has far surpassed the intelligence—and value—of human beings.

In the presence of battle, the bones—which once made up people—are without intelligence because it has become easy to kill and impossible to avoid death in war. Technology has devised bombs that are "heat-seeking" in nature, so that when fired, they search for signs of life and take out all life: including the women and children.

The fact that the poem refers to "dumb" victims is sarcastic, harsh satire, the oxymoron or contradiction of terms found in "smart bomb."


"we produce smart

ones now"

intelligent enough

to round corners

wait at red lights

enter shelters


dumb women

dumb children

dumb men

dumb elders


and burn to

steaming tar

their totally



The bombs are not smarter, as the poem might personify them. Bombs are the result of the labors of mankind: as mankind takes strides in improving medicine, computers, communication, etc., unfortunately, it also finds ways to make "dealers of death" so much more effective than ever before. Humanity is ignored in the development of these bombs, and humanity is erased with their use—the victims are not dumb. The bombs have no ability to care. The creators do their job without apology, and innocents are destroyed.

There seems irony, impossible to ignore, that what is considered progress is really a more sophisticated way to cause death: something man has been working to perfect for thousands of years. Our sense of humanity cannot, it seems, compete with our need to find better ways to take human life.

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