January 23, 2014 / Creative Writing
This poem compares the martyrdom of Emmett Till to St. Moses the Ethiopian, the patron saint of Africa; both saints share the same feast day.
July 3, 2012
She had no time to admire
how the jets, pirouetting
above the snowy ridge,
caught the morning sun just so,
enflamed in dazzling white
like twin homing doves.
So sudden and dreadful
was their arrival, she failed
to appreciate how their
deliberate curve recalled
another morning sky, two planes,
a pillar of smoke ascending.
There was time enough only
for a mother to turn, to run toward
as they plunged, each panting step
affording a closer view of falling
ordnance and the bright new blossom
where stood, till then, a home.
Unable to enter, she saw
there was now no need.
On the cracked, thawing
valley floor lay evidence
of things unhoped for:
an arm, half a foot, an ear.
If you speak Pashto, perhaps
you can translate what words—
try “rights,” “justice,” or
“democracy”—might be solid
enough to bear a child’s
Tell her, if she—if you—
can endure it, what we
intended, how even noble
efforts may stray, fall misdirected,
no matter how pure one’s intent
to kill only what is necessary.
Tonight, as she keens a husband,
long missing, and now
a daughter, liberty’s latest casualty,
kindly deconstruct her grief,
discourse on raison d’état.
That will make all the difference.
Brian Volck is a pediatrician in Cincinnati, Ohio. He received his MFA in creative nonfiction from Seattle Pacific University and is researching a book on health, history, culture, and the Navajo people.