Happening upon Ashoka,
Buddhist king of Mauryan India,
surprise: in a culture caring little
for this world, he had a flair
for advertising.

Ashoka told his story everywhere:
on rocks, pillars, iron columns,
and what he wrote startles even now.
Waging war, he admitted,
was a mistake.

He conquered Kalinga,
gorgeous land of green paddies
and quiet villages; looking now
from a temple-crowned hill,
no river runs red.

Since then, Ashoka wrote,
he’d had a change of heart,
learned righteousness, conquered
violence. Warfare, he said, means death
and deportation.

He turned to public works:
planting trees, raising inns
for travelers, buying medicines
for men and beasts (better too
for the treasury).

Happening upon Ashoka,
Emperor of Mauryan India,
one can’t help wanting to tell
kings, dictators, presidents:
missiles are mistakes.