Lanier poetry winner: “The Barn” by Lee Stockdale

Published 10:25am Thursday, May 2, 2013

“The Barn” by Lee Stockdale

The resistance nonexistent
Phantom ghosts or pathetically inept
They said there’d be one candle in the window
There might as well be a candle
In every window of every house in the village

There’s straw everywhere
They’ve scattered it all over the streets
Like a bandage
To heal them
Make everything all right
To cover the putrid smell

Women shrieking
What are they shrieking for?
This is nothing

Cur dogs licking bones

Children
Wide, terrified eyes
In bombed-out stairwells
What could you do?
Put her in your backpack?
I had nothing
We had nothing

We felt like savages
Not conquering heroes
Pride!
No one had any pride
Dignity, pride
In the sewer

For what?
For pride

We found a barn
And collapsed inside
Tobin starts blabbering
To the pigeons
To the lantern’s waltzing shadows

Tobin!
Shut up!
Go to sleep!

He’s onto the swastika now
Ruminating
Says it’s really an okay symbol
It’s got sty-yle

I got up and took down the lantern
Crashed it across his California skull

The straw went up in flames
We tried to put it out
The Captain says Forget it
Get your gear and get out

We invade these people’s houses
Bully our way in
They feign a welcome
What could they do?

I went into one and turned right around
Eyes so confused
Soldiers!
Americans!
Teeth literally chattering
In unison
Four or five families
Huddled
Cowering in a corner
Waiting to be murdered

That sound
Teeth audibly clicking
I thought
You know
Teeth chattering
It’s just a saying
I still hear teeth clicking

I wished
I was back
In the burning barn

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