SHOCK AND AWE

   not thinking    collateral damage               I want to win this war             

 

sleek gleam of sidewinder missiles          in the way of grain silos,

manned missions to Mars—               they keep morale high

 

 from a silver platform                                 practically anesthetic

waves drones                        into formations, battalions

 

sometimes I too                            (not in a jumpsuit,

but maneuvering thumb sticks                          fragging enemy marines)

      aware of the human                                 on the other console,

         head snapping back                   I squeeze the plastic trigger

 

     I don’t get the hard-on                              for entrails

               bomb-torn mosques                                  but being alive

(at game over)—                                     carjacked once in a parking lot

    behind a Harris Teeter                    I mean to complain to everyone

 

who hasn’t had a gun in their face: you have not heard the low rumble

of your own life coming from your own throat.

 

every action—                                         handing over the keys

    digging out my wallet                pressing my cheek against the still-warm asphalt—

        performed as though                             the hundredth curtain call              

       of a play rehearsed                                    my whole life           

  a confidence      a precision                         a calm swelling in the presumption

           

            I would end in the dark, the fresnels extinguished, the curtain fallen

so far its velvet would bunch into red pools. 

 

Any of us could end up face-down in one of those pools,

six bullets in the back. 

 

   not thinking    collateral damage               I love this war             

its implements                 its columns                                    of tanks

   rocket-propelled grenades                         F-16s    surface-to-air missiles

    much as I love the suggestion                     we’re not at war

 

     we spray tear gas                                   swing riot batons (if)

      when we find out                                           we were in the wrong

 

(if) when there are more foreign incursions, let them be for oil, for diamond,

for transnational trade, but don’t try to convince me that we’re reluctant

when we load the Gatlings.                         

 

    the only insurgency is conscience     we will put the insurgents down

Ross White is the author of How We Came Upon the Colony (Unicorn Press, 2014) and The Polite Society (Unicorn Press, 2017). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Best New Poets 2012, New England Review, Poetry Daily, and The Southern Review, among others. He teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.

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