Veteran's Screed

I am a veteran of the apathy war—
a timeless soldier of relentless joy,
and I am listening to liars,
from dawn to dusk—
divided from the cemetery bells,
the tender lilies
of the guilelessly brave,
scratching from inside
the unsubtle grave.
I am the ghost dance,
the phantom stampede
of mustang and bison-
living thunder, drumming
up from the prairie floor.
Oh, America, we were
your open heart before
—as the iron in you aligns
with the planet's whirling core
and the mad world's
machinery is set spinning
in men’s hearts once more—
held gently in the spotted
hands and wavering songs
of the aging children of the
greatest generation,
still glimpsed shining
as newborn revelation
through cherry blossoms
along the Mall. I am the beam
in your brother’s eye, 
and I am the mote in yours.
I am the small voice that trebles
from conflict to conflict,
calling true,
“war is failure,” yet
I never fail you-I am always heard
when doubt is
set in motion by the wings of birds,
I am the random movement
that presses flesh against
other flesh until we are all
the same bodies,
left as memory and darkness
on yet another field of poppies.
I am the voice of poetry from above,
a tender moment declaring boldly that
this is love, love for what must be
scrawled boldly, in and
across eternity:
"Lotus flowers sing
delicately floating
dirges for the dead,"
and "I am as immense as I choose to be." it said
(And I choose to be immense.)
So, wake up each morning
And say these words: Say:
“I am a verse inscribed on the
porcelain hands and
and twisted feet
of the dying God."
Say, “I choose to seal the cracks.
I choose to heal the wounded earth..
I choose to bring the defectors, the
conscientious  objectors, the
bits that don’t quite fit
in the spaces between patriots
and the imperfect-or,"
Say, "I choose to not forget we are one species
and there are glimpses to be caught
between the tragic mistakes,
Glimpses that are ought but light.”
And just for today let’s make it right.
When we are seized by the
incomprehensible need
to stop listening and start shooting,
we’ll meet back here In this place.
Wherever we are in the world,
Whatever stanza of this poem
We’re struggling through—
and know who we are.
Know the size of this tender soul
that trembles as it speaks,
and the virgin reaches
of the mountain peaks, climbing
the naked vertical expanse
of the holy possible
stretching into deliverance.



LK Barrett

LK Barrett lives in Tallahassee, Florida and wakes up in a good mood six of seven days. She is comforted by the fundamental absurdity of the world, the persistence of beauty, and the inexorable finality of justice. She is a Viet Nam era USN veteran, and a student of Ganteng Tulku Rinpoche. She is as yet a marginal Buddhist. She keeps trying. She has written poetry from the age of six, because she has no choice but to do so. The thing that is using her for a voice is fond of mixed meter, slant rhyme, and the Oxford comma.  


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Friday, March 20, 2020 - 19:31