Between Scylla and Charybdis they cower amidst the ruins fearful to look skyward lest they encourage the rains of hell.
Now and then they visit the corpses, hastily buried grief drowned by the sound of the laugh of the gunner peering down from the hills. It is always night for the soul and lookout must be kept for Charon, who rides silently along the rivers of blood, that flow through her streets.
In the great halls, far removed from the horror, self-professed wise men exchange maps lines randomly drawn, scythes slicing a people. They trade in lives as chattel, reaping a bitter harvest, praying there may only be but seven lean years.
They offer a sop to Cerberus, three villages straddling the river, but the army of the hills knows they will take that and more and waits patiently for the winter when the odor of sanctity no longer arises out of the city to assail their nostrils and Shadrach is no more than a ghost.
First Appeared in Living Poets (UK), Vol. 2, No. 1, 2000.
A millennium ago the army of the lord dressed in mail and rode proud steeds across barren lands, swords flashing in a red roasting sun washed in the blood of the infidels. They stopped for prayer blessing the bodies left along the dirt track left by their hooves, a common grave for common faces differing only in the color of skin and hair.
In this millennium the army of the lord slouches outside the mall rubbing hands against the chill, the bell bleating against the night, a barren moon reflects off the red kettle. As they locked the doors he pulled the flask from his hip pocket and thought of the bodies passing by, swerving to avoid him, and the forty dollars he would get would warm his frozen skin.
First Appeared in Lullwater Review, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1998. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005.
You can take my sight, but my mind will still see what it must, and my fingers will become eyes. You can take my hearing, I will imagine what I must, and my eyes will become ears. You can take my tongue, but my body will shout what I must, and my hands will speak volumes. The only thing you cannot take is my words, for without them my prison would be complete and I would be rendered mute, deaf and blind, and that is a fate from which I could never hope to emerge.
I have yet to wander the medieval battlefields of Europe and it increasingly seems I never will. I have visited my share of castles in Ireland and Scotland, but the acoustics there are not good, and I did not hear the anguished cry of soldiers falling in battle,
I have seen rivers, quiet now, where the blood of the vanquished must have flowed in this war and that, for Europe is a place of wars, the perpetual gameboard for the greedy and those who imagine themselves emperors.
I come from a distant place, where three wars on its soil was deemed sufficient, but who will freely give others the wars they have grown altogether too used to fighting, and we gladly offer up our sons to aid in the combat so long as we only receive their bodies in the dark of night.
And perhaps that is our failing, for we know war well, but we keep ourselves clean, and marvel at the destruction we will never know first hand.
Each morning we stood as the Principal intoned the Pledge of Allegiance over the tinny PA system. One morning as we rose, hands over hearts, we noticed someone had put up the Canadian flag in the holder over the door. The Principal threatened to call all of our parents unless the guilty party came forward, and we struggled vainly to swallow our giggles. No one came forward and they found the Stars and Stripes stuck in a large mixing bowl in the kitchen. The Principal scheduled an assembly to remind us of our need to honor the flag and the country, because it stood for all that was good, for all that we had and that everyone else wanted, but we were under our desks in the painful tuck position we would assume if they ever dropped the bomb. They didn’t tell us that if we were close enough to ground zero the position would let us leave a neater shadow on the floor. Some days we sang My Country ‘Tis of Thee all except for Larry who preferred God Save the Queen until the Principal told him it was sacrilege, since we created it and the Brits stole it. Years later, outside the Federal Building the Principal, now retired and girding for battle with Social Security, saw me, protest sign in hand, flag sewn across the seat of my jeans. He stared, then looked away ashamed at still another failure, not like his two sons who lay in eternal repose in the Federal cemetery on the Island of Oahu.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press, (2008)