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Saturday, September 30, 2017


by Ann Bracken

Time unfurls like a faded banner
and drops me into a world of flim-flam
reasoning where ancient politicians
offer the same centuries-old fleecing techniques
to justify war.

I no longer labor to understand
with its random horrors, permanent scars
on people, on land, on psyches.

Images fuse to my heart
as I watch a few hours of Ken Burns’
latest epic.

An American soldier sits on a river-bank
his feet planted in the deep, black water.
He stares blankly, ignoring the upturned
face of a questioning toddler
who places a small hand on his knee.

And somewhere else in time
a young soldier flicks his Zippo
lighter and sets flame to a hut—
the family cowering on the ground,
covers their eyes and cries for mercy.

Time cleaves open an old lexicon—where
bodies count towards victory
and pacification destroys both hearts and minds.
Shame and powerlessness
burn my soul like napalm.

Ann Bracken is the author of two collections of poetry: The Altar of Innocence and No Barking in the Hallways: Poems from the Classroom. She serves as the deputy editor of Little Patuxent Review and offers writing workshops in schools, community centers, and prisons.