Lest We Forget Who the Monsters Are (a poem)

LEST WE FORGET WHO THE MONSTERS ARE

Even the stars were asleep when they came in the night

splintered oars lapping with the waves.

Only the moon saw the shadows disembark

creeping the streets like soldiers from Troy without honor.

Dog’s warning barks quieted by swift, silent arrow

watchmen bound and fed to the hungry sea.

(And the audience cheers)

It was the unwashed stench that woke the people

as filthy hands ripped them from their sleep.

Screams of terror broke the stillness of the night

sharp blades slicing fleshy throats, swords plunged into bellies

gurgles as unarmed men choked on their own blood

while reaching for weapons.

Tawdry laughter as the invaders stroked the soft skin of a frightened young girl

as one might admire the pelt of a fawn.

Shredded nightgown, bruises—tender, innocent flesh ripped and ripped again

her mother’s cries ignored

until the girl was still, and the beasts turned to the next.

(“More!” cries the audience, rising to their feet. “More!”)

Their expert fingers searched between wooden floorboards

turned over chests and beds

pocketing gold, gems, the silver candlesticks handed down through the ages

nothing sacred, nothing missed.

Boots chased after a woman round with child

heavy hands throwing her to the cobbled ground, lifting skirts

muffling her sobs as they took, and took, and took

then left her in a nest of blood.

In the final act, orange flames rose toward indifferent skies

erasing where children once played and husbands once held their wives

burning away memories of church bells and markets and neighborly greetings

and green gardens that once nourished lives.

Thick, choking smoke smothered all who remained

all who could not run

all who fell, prostrate, crying out for mercy to a god that turned his head

as the invaders loaded their booty, guzzled stolen wine

and sailed away in the dark to some other unsuspecting shore.

(And the audience sings of the thieves. “That’s who I wish to be! That is the life for me!”)

3 responses to “Lest We Forget Who the Monsters Are (a poem)

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