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Sunday, March 27, 2016


by George Held

The Swedish authorities have filed criminal charges against a Syrian man who is suspected of having participated in the mass killing of captured Syrian soldiers in 2012. The police arrested the man, Haisam Omar Sakhanh, on Friday, in the town of Karlskoga, Sweden, and charged him with a crime against international law. —NY Times, March 14, 2016

It is a late-winter day, chilly,
so the nine standing men wear a jacket
or a vest, and seven, two with masks,
point AK-47s at their targets

on the ground in front of them: seven
young men, torsos stripped bare, five
with their foreheads pressed to the ground—
two with hands bound behind their back,

three with hands restrained below the waist,
and two with hands free, one of whom rests
his forehead on a bare right arm, while
the other, at the extreme right, lies legs

spread, his chin on his left fist, his eyebrows
and nose visible for his last picture.
We can only guess at their last thoughts
and prayers, but each one knows

that any second a bullet will crash
into the back of his skull, and he will be dead.
The standing man at the extreme right
holds a pistol and looks down the rocky field,

maybe for a signal to begin shooting.
He will soon start the execution, firing
the first shot into his helpless victim.
The other armed men follow suit; all the bare-

backed men are now dead, and maybe so
are some of the rebels. Life is violent,
brutish and short for men at war, especially
a civil war, and usually it is better

to be a man with a Kalashnikov than one
stripped, prone, and waiting . . .

George Held, a regular contributor to The New Verse News, has a new book out from Muddy River Books, Bleak Splendor.