Lost in Translation

She came out of the long winter
With a message I understand.

           —Eric Rawson, “Years Ago the Magpie Journeyed”

When body after body fell in flames the snake writhed
and lashed its tail until the rattling segments blurred
and snapped its dripping fangs at the empty air.

When fear closed its coils upon the world we passed
demure and cautious resolutions, with qualifying statements
of support for our young people in the armed forces.

When every paper sold printed the same lies, thousands
of us spoke the truth and were as invisible as birdcalls
in the rumble of tank treads and armored cars.

When a god who wished us ill manifested itself to our ruler
and whispered obscene instructions with an oiled tongue,
we shouted until our throats rusted shut with tears.

When we saw how little good our votes and wishes did,
we hid our hopes deep underground and began praying
to beings whose ears were less apparent.

When the powerful no longer listen to the desperate,
there is a language that anyone can learn to speak:
crosshairs, a Semetex waistband, boxcutters, fine white dust.

©2003 F.J. Bergmann

"Lost in Translation" appeared on poetsagainstthewar.org and in the Sow’s Ear Review Vol. XIV #2

Next  Poetry  Home