PRAVDA

If I was in Russia I
would have no problem
finding a title for this poem
for it would be The Last.

I would write that I mourn
the children, men, and women
sacrificed to assuage his
warped need for domination.

I would write that I detest
his disregard of truth,
supplanting it with his lies
to justify his megalomania.

I would write that I stand
with the people of Ukraine
and for that I would pay with
my words, and perhaps my life.

VICTOR

In our time
of never-ending war,
punctured by the briefest
lulls we now call peace,
someone, someones
more likely, will talk
about whom will be
the victor, to whom
shall go the spoils.
Bierce, that perpetual
cynic, reminded us
that peace was a period
of cheating between
two periods of fighting.
But no one pauses
to consider that
in any war there are
no true victors
only the victims
unwillingly offered up
in sacrifice to delusion.

First appeared in Jimson Weed, Volume XLI, New Series Vol. 25, Number 2, Fall 2022
https://view.publitas.com/university-of-virginias-college-at-wise/jimson-weed-fall-2022/

RETURN

He arrived today
although none saw him coming.
He had been here before,
been quickly ignored,
despite his pleas and prayers,
they twisted his words
to suit their venal desires,
his message forever lost in translation.
They were not ready,
and in their hate fueled world,
they might never be.

WE FIND OURSELVES

We are wholly innocent
we are wracked with guilt.
There is nothing we did,
but what is there that we
did not do, that we
should have done, that we
might have said so it would
never have happened, or
happened less, or happened
despite everything we did?

We carry our innocence
as a badge, we wear our guilt
as an albatross around our neck,
dragging us, slowing us,
forcing us to acknowledge
our guilt, plead our innocence.

In the streets of Ukraine
the war, the destruction continues
as we, the innocent, the guilty
can only watch in horror.

WE WANT, AGAIN

We want to cry out,
but we have no words.

We want to scream
but all we give is silence.

We want to curse the invader
but cannot be heard
over the tanks, bombs
and rockets.

We want to mourn
but there are so many
innocents, where
do we begin?

We want to act,
but we are incapable
and can offer
only silent prayer.

AND PEACE?

Santayana said, “Only the dead
have seen the end of the war.”
We have grown adept at wars,
no longer global in scope, but
ubiquitous in frequency.

Mine was fought in the rice
paddies of Vietnam, and on the
campus where we struggled
valiantly and vainly to protest,
and when that failed, in the heat
of Texas, marching about, going
thankfully nowhere, shipped
to Niagara Falls when the Air Force
could think of nothing better
to do with the likes of me.

I didn’t die, know several who did
and sadly know Santayana was right
for Bierce said it best, “In international
affairs, a period of cheating
between two periods of fighting.”

KYIV

From the moment it began, we knew, it was
obvious that peace and freedom were under assault,
Russia had thrown societal norms to the wind.

Under gunmetal gray skies they attacked by air,
killing women, children, destroying hospitals, homes
raining hell on the innocents with nowhere to turn.
All we could do was watch, pray and offer paltry aid
in the hope that this proud nation could hold out,
negotiate some peace, maintain their freedom,
emerge like the phoenix slowly rising from the rubble.

PERHAPS, OR NOT

It is certain that they are coming,
and you assume or hope it is for me,
but what if they are coming for you?

You think that they will not find you
but they know where you are,
so where will you try to hide?

You think that you will be safe,
that they will ignore you, that you
can hide, but if they find you
what will happen, at what cost?

Will you be ready, will you stand
and oppose them or reluctantly
welcome them when they refuse
to leave, demand more, demand all?

Perhaps it is me they will come for
and you need not worry, perhaps
they will stop now and not come, but
can you live in a world of perhaps?

LACKLAND

They marched us to the middle
of nowhere, sweat running down
our backs, our olive drab uniforms
now three shades darker.

They handed us a rifle, an M-16
they told us in class, with a 5.56
round, it would tumble after
it hit its target, good for killing.

We lay on the ground, shouldered
the weapon, aimed it at the
target, a bottomless torso and as
instructed, gently pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened, which is what
the Air Force wanted this day
for we were here to know our gun
to befriend it, to cradle it.

Another day we would come back
to the range, take our weapon, assume
the firing position and hopefully watch
the round tear a hole in the target.

And on this day, our sergeant said
we had finally become warriors, then
he quickly took the weapon away,
never for most of us, to be touched again.

First Published in Half Hour To Kill, August 2022
https://halfhourtokill.com/home/lackland-by-louis-faber

CURFEW

We sat in the cramped kitchen
huddled around the stove
the open oven door spreading
a faint warmth that barely
slid through the winter chill.
The bare bulb in the ceiling
strained and flickered
fighting to hold as the generators
were shut down, and darkness
enveloped our small world.
The sky was lit by the flares
and the odor of exploding shells
seeped through the towel
sealed windows covered
in the tattered bedsheets
too thin to afford warmth.
Ibrahim had been gone two weeks
sneaking out of the city
to join his brothers in Gorazde
or Tuzla, or wherever it was
that they were struggling
to save what little was left.
We huddled under the small table
and dreamed of the taste
of fresh bread, or even pork.
In the morning he would run
among the craters in the streets
in search of the convoy
and the handouts, which we
would raven as the sun set
over our war torn hell.

First published in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. XXX, No. 1 & 2, 2006