Three Poems from the Alphabet of Empire
Author note: The three definitions that serve as epigraphs come from the US Department of Defense’s Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (October 17, 2007, edition).
Absolute dud — A nuclear weapon which, when launched at or emplaced on a target, fails to explode
Absence of war : dream state be ours [bow our heads]
what is it to pray for a state of failure
to keep the peace as if understanding
the definition of peace
. intransitive verb
. : to be, become, or keep silent or quiet
the loudness of war following us to the room
down the staircase
into the bunker
dug out with
Heaping the bodies wordlessly into the holes of the earth
and stirring + stirring the soil in their open mouths
the lack of air biting at our bone-weary memories
of a time when this was not the sounds of our lives.
What for the fields of poppies, the strings of poetry
tied around our necks, a prize awarded in monetized
Words, stacked, catalogued, buried, and forgotten.
Gods all around [bow our bodies] to their fury
fermenting the earth : we bend hard
but fail to hold our peace
it drops to the earth and sinks
Minefield lane — A marked lane, unmined or cleared of mines, leading through a minefield
Is that not what makes a god
the ability to lead us
through brimstone and fire
to the promised land?
Who sets it forth
then takes it back?
Here is the path
or perhaps not.
Plant the thing that
trips us up
in a field. Imagine that.
This is what we do.
Take our legs so
we may fall and fail.
Then conjure gods
to walk us through.
Very seriously ill or injured — The casualty status of a person whose illness or injury is classified by medical authority to be of such severity that life is imminently endangered. Also called VSII. See also casualty status.
When do you know you are imminently endangered? The dodo egg so fragile yet able to hold an entire species until the last yolk is licked. Dried head and foot housed in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Include a name tag for casualty status.
How is it in our hardness we push across the earth/whose? There is a thrust in creating. Yet how thin the skin stretched over the life dividing within. What does it mean to authorize injury and/or death in the name of progress and freedom? Prepare a speech.
A space penned for liberty. Take its temperature. Readings will differ widely. Unarmed + shot [how many?] Here is my tally: where in the world are you standing? Beneath an electronic billboard sink a needle deep into an escape valve. Home/job/coin-less:less:less. Build a wall and continue to bomb.
A species that can hold rape as a weapon of war. Ground zero of our existence is where to place the bomb. Casualty status is not divulged. Where are you waging empire? Examine our democracy and report imminently endangered. Repeat overseas and redact. Access the damage and classify. Then sink to your knees and weep.