The war was all over my hands.
I held the war and I watched them
die in high-definition. I could watch
anyone die, but I looked away. Still,
I wore the war on my back. I put it
on every morning. I walked the dogs
and they too wore the war. The sky
overhead was clear or it was cloudy
or it rained or it snowed, and I was rarely
afraid of what would fall from it. I worried
about what to do with my car, or how
much I could send my great-aunt this month
and the next. I ate my hamburger, I ate
my pizza, I ate a salad or lentil soup,
and this too was the war.
At times I was able to forget that I
was on the wrong side of the war,
my money and my typing and sleeping
sound at night. I never learned how
to get free. I never learned how
not to have anyone’s blood
on my own soft hands.
Copyright © 2019 by Donika Kelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
They sat on the dresser like anything I put in my pocket before leaving The house. I even saw a few tiny ones Tilted against the window of my living Room, little metal threats with splinters For handles. They leaned like those Teenage boys at the corner who might Not be teenage boys because they ask For dollars in the middle Of the April day and because they knock At 10 a.m. Do I need help lifting some- Thing heavy? Yard work? I wondered If only I saw the hammers. The teenage Boys visiting seemed not to care that They lay on the floor lit by the TV. I’d have covered them up with rugs, With dry towels and linen, but their claw And sledge and ball-peen heads shone In the dark, which is, at least, a view In the dark. And their handles meant My hands, striking surfaces, getting Shelves up, finally. One stayed In my tub, slowing the drain. I found Another propped near the bulb In the refrigerator. Wasn’t I hungry? Why have them there if I could not Use them, if I could not look at my own Reflection in the mirror and take one To the temple and knock myself out?