how the war was won: A poem

Franchesca Spektor/Staff

 a band of warriors takes turns spitting on my tangled hair

they threaten to crack my skull if i refuse to bow down

falling to my knees before cracked suits of bronze armor

begging for the survival of a body ravaged and wrecked

two thousand times already by their hands

(and i still see the world through these tired eyes

within which you pinned jagged needles to squirm out

floods of robbed tears to water your blossoming heart

a lost life means nothing if your soul can bloom and birth

a waltz of wealth over the tombstone you picked out

for the day i’m buried by force without elaborate affairs —

forgotten and a quiet whisper that no one heard

a blemish on the back of a hand that never seems to fade

a scar from childhood that only elders can recall)

kill me once —

that’s on you

kill me twice, thrice

killing me still —

that’s on god

a defunct worshipper is vulnerable on these lands

freedom tastes bitter without chains to tame the taste

from my prison cell of a castle i watch tirelessly

troves of wealth are escorted out by callused hands

beside me are twitching fingers aching to grasp them

(and i don’t know how i can let my cheeks be kissed with rouge

the same color as gentle wine stains bewitched on my lips

while draped in a curtain of a dress flowing over a rusting throne

the picture of vanity embodied before justice arrived

while still knowing that you are everywhere my skin reaches

you are the hitch in every breath i dare rob from divinity —

you and your commander pride

with a battleship fleet on my shores

with allies arriving every day on my shores)

victory remains a gentle dream

to caress when the moon is at its highest point

as silence lullabies a wary and woeful world

i am held only by my own trembling arms of frailty

searching sky patterns for stars that no longer shine

(and i can only think back to that night we prayed together

when the whites of your eyes were hidden by the purple night

your gruff voice pressed against my chilled and chapped ears

you whispered, “if i’m the fate you wished for centuries ago

then close these gates to all that bid you let them in

forbid your hands to all that ask and never leave my side” —

for all the gravity of that moment there was never truth

to be found in the dents of your weathered knuckles

to be found in the scratches left behind by your beastly nails)

these walls still weep in the absence of the wayward ruler

waging this eternal war against former fortitude

i know naught but this never-ending wave of famine

resting on my parched lips and hanging over me

i hear taunts in the bombs dropping mere miles away

kill me once —

that’s on you

kill me twice, thrice

killing me still —

that’s on god

(and here comes the devil sauntering up to me in glory

lips on my forehead and a promise sounding like “i’m god”

i take that promise folded up to store in my heart

because i’ve never known god and never heard god’s voice

i’ve never seen god’s nose and god’s chin and god’s cheeks

i’m not learned enough to spot a lying devil playing god —

in this spot of hell made for wandering travelers and thieves

salvation shouted i wasn’t good enough for her embrace

solace lamented i wasn’t good enough for his mercy)

on the hundredth day of fighting i emerge barefoot

climbing down mountains to meet your army clustered

shapeless and pounding weapons on dead grass

chiseling away at the gates keeping me sheltered

from the shots forever being fired into dusk and dawn

with all the strength that i have ever been granted

i remove the locks and step aside with no conviction

dirt dances in the wind around us and sleeps in my throat

the cries of battle plummet in shock and terror

and i suddenly know the peculiar feeling of being alive

kill me once —

that’s on you

kill me twice, thrice

killing me still —

that’s on god

tonight i sleep soundly in my kingdom having known havoc

bearing the wisdom of what is evil and what is not

my chest thumping to remind me that i belong here

throngs of visitors wish to see the sunrise from this elevation

thousands of flowers curl around their curious ankles

i trail among them to see the world through their eyes —

i sometimes see you with your dystopian eyes

still strangling bullets into misshapen barrels

still sharpening swords on the edges of my shores


Contact Alex Jiménez at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @alexluceli.

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