John Stanizzi

Small Axe

Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession
Proverbs 28:10

Whosoever diggeth a pit
Shall bury in it – shall bury in it.
Bob Marley –  Small Axe
 

moon set dawn
when I heard those words
the first time

weapons of mass destruction
imminent and threatening

the morning’s
blessings beaten by
arrogance

and everything became a
metaphor for dementia

Jesus had
become fictional
the big lie

my father’s brain was shattered
but he would force the pieces

John McCain
World War I hero
was his man

he would end this war right now
one dropped bomb to clean up house

a message
to the world about
U.S.A.!

silver and gray rain hit the
windshield – the sound of running–

fleeing a
bully or gunfire—
maybe both

grainy satellite photos
tiny gray objects circled

this is the
way the brain must look
unfocused

grainy bits of memory
in a field of gray chaos

dialogue?
out of context words
this is proof?

in the end Elektra knew
that she had not gained a thing

the black dawn
was deepened by clouds
haughtiness

the wind banged against our homes—
a sound of desperation

no measure
of compliance would
be enough

what chilling egotism
to forget the taste of fear

to shrug off
the rising voices
with a smirk

to give an ultimatum
you’re either with us or them

missiles filled
the air that first day
of springtime

and it needed to be named
a pro-wrestling kind of phrase

to erase
the line between truth
and fiction

Showdown with Saddam: Target
Iraq. Smackdown! Game of Thrones!

half-mast flags
and hero ghosts rose
from the bush

liberation and freedom
a lexicon for the blind

the thumbnail
of the moon was bruised
behind clouds

a photographer of war
took close up shots of the dead

if we saw
what war does close up
we might stop

propaganda custom made
to be acted on a ship

we waxed ‘em
mission accomplished
haji dead

there are no large solutions
truths are momentary things

and sadly
flags were raised half staff
in the rain

optimistic confidence
the General’s abstraction

casket rows
draped with stars and stripes
disappeared

as if we weren’t aware that
illusion is illusion

the crocus
pushed up through the snow
tiny prayers

not some shady sleight of hand
that everyone knew was fixed

they were there
actual flowers
air of spring

bittersweet crept through the heart
of everything that could grow

and this too
would become the past
way back there

setting at O-dark-thirty
too late to begin again

too early
to quit though 10 years
have gone by

10 years watching my father
erasing his own body

10 years of
telling myself that
every thought

is a thing to be recalled
the lies the bombs the coffins

even the
aphasia with its
empathy
 

John L. Stanizzi is the author of Ecstasy Among Ghosts, now in its fourth printing, Sleepwalking, and Windows. His poems have appeared in The New York Quarterly,
Tar River Poetry, Rattle, Freshwater, Passages North, The Spoon River Quarterly, Poet Lore, The Connecticut River Review, and many other publications. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, in 1998 Stanizzi was named The New England Poet of the Year by The New England Association of Teachers of English. He teaches English at Manchester Community College and Bacon Academy, where he also directed the theatre program for fifteen years. He lives with his wife, Carol, in Coventry, Connecticut.

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