Bastardies, Usages, Desertions, and Doubleness
(after Plath’s The Courage of Shutting Up)
The old men lean forward. The lies, the lies, the lies.
The billhooks of their tongues snag the young,
boys sealed in black discs, jettisoned towards the sky.
They fall with their flag in far countries. They dig trenches
in mud, set fire to straw. The generals’ needle journeys
in its groove, digging a trough for tall tales. In mirrors,
the faces that stare back are dead, weeping mothers,
burned babies, those with a pistol to the head.
The old men persist with bastardies, razing forests,
making coffins from tin when the wood is gone,
lead columbariums with ashes from a single foot,
a hand, a gobbet of chest. Oh for the courage
of the shut mouth in spite of artillery. One wishes
they had it, that we could sew theirs closed.
Crosses stretch in long rows. The old men feed
dark engines fueled by slit throats on stone altars.