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?

Copyright © 2014 by Jericho Brown. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on March 21, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.