Sending in the Troops

“How long would authority and private property exist, if not for the willingness of the mass to become soldiers, policemen, jailers and hangmen?—Emma Goldman

Photos arriving on the wire.

Soldiers boarding planes,

dressed for success:

designer helmets, makeup and Kevlar vests;

leaden boots and M-16’s slick as Hollywood.

Bodies taut as cocked weapons,

their hearts will become as hollow

as the discarded shells.


They will bomb the square

where elders gather to tell stories,

tear-gas the laughter

that rides the perfumed winds of desert nights,

and pillage the secrets of lovers.

They will make orphans of the future,

mutilate the past–

rape and rub wounds with salt.

These are humanity’s hangmen.


I stare at the faces.

They could be waiting to board a bus,

or standing in a movie line.

Is this the face

once caressed by a mother?

–once stroked by a lover?

Are the cheeks soft?


How many of these faces

will return to applause, college degrees,

and a home behind a rose-wrapped fence?

How many will lose their minds

or drink themselves to death,

spare-changing between veteran’s appointments?


Don’t you know, soldier, that you are nothing?

You with the patriotic baby blues,

you with your family in the ghetto,

you with the dark skin at the front of the line,

or you who wanted to show them

your parents don’t have to speak the language

for you to belong,

your president cares about you

less than last year’s hottest car model.

You are like a little boy

whose dreams are too small

and whose boots are far too big–

talking tough, terrorizing the playground

so no one will notice

you trembling as you take aim against those

who have more in common with you

than do the billionaires

your weapon protects.

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