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
SHOCK AND AWE
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.