by Devon Moore

My father, who preferred the couch to his bed
because the TV helped him escape his helicopter-mind’s noise,
said he didn’t want me learning about war. But I wanted
to understand him & why he cried out at night, so I read secretly
about O’Brien’s water buffalo & how to tell a true story,
& other narratives from war’s point of view:
the Gestapo, the slave holders, the guillotine masters.
I saw my dad’s picture of his parachute, snapped
right through his eyes, the sky so calm,
& the famous one of the screaming girl
running from the napalm, whose expression I would see again
in other photos, in different times & places –
After, I wanted to know how the skulls
in the Murambi School in Rwanda
got accumulated & stacked,
the Western World’s cameras shuttering their lenses,
& why Alexander the Great, the king of Macedon, carried the blind poet
Homer’s words on his person as he conquered his known world –
So many armies moving like lava about the earth,
each commander carrying within them their own
private-Odysseus, their own Manifest Destiny.
I held my eyes open, am still
holding my eyes open
for the image of SS guards after liberation
who were made to clean up what they had done–
In the picture, I think the body they’re holding
like a taut jump rope is of a starved woman –
the place where her pelvis & legs meet
so flat & sharp I am embarrassed to say
I saw her bones overlaid with her skin
& thought she looked more like the hinge
of a barbecue tong than a daughter–
I think that’s what my father didn’t want me to know:
how easily a body can become a sharp instrument,
that even my dad had allowed himself to be a blade.
As I left childhood,
Agent Orange came for him,
like a sleeper cell in my dad’s throat,
& I remembered his forbiddance,
was happy I had ignored it,
he needed me to know him then
& his certainty, he said as he died,
that no good god could forgive him.

Devon Moore is the author of the poetry collection, Apology of a Girl Who Is Told She Is Going to Hell, which was released in 2015. A former Syracuse University Fellow and Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts Juried Fellow, she has an MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. Her poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, Meridian, The Cortland Review, New Ohio Review, Mid-American Review, Juked, and elsewhere. She currently lives in Syracuse, NY where she teaches writing at Syracuse University and the State University of New York at Oswego.

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