Russian Airstrike, Homs, January 2016; US Airstrike, Tokhar, July 2016

Brian Russell

Russian Airstrike, Homs, January 2016

He holds the child in such a way, as the video begins,
As to give the appearance the boy is whole

A boy is an alloy of copper and zinc, reds and pinks,
Loose wires, private fires, the blackest bread

A boy begins as an offering to the past, unreconciled
A child is a balloon, full of breath, skin as thin
The ribbon slips from the man’s hand, joins a sky compiled

Of clouds, of men in jets and the undead
Birds that hum and wink while the world shrinks

Hold still shouts the man to time, to the soul
Frame by frame they fall away, the boy within

US Airstrike, Tokhar, July 2016

Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful. Echoes thru the mountains throng.
A whistle somewhere, calling us home, turns our faces like flowers
To the sun. Oleander, juniper, honeysuckle, myrtle.
How can it be, how can fruit be as sweet from trees that grow
From bones. From the solemn garden she tends she severs the stem
Of a single ghost rose. A ticket for admittance. Children in long
White gowns follow one another through an open door, a hem
Catches the threshold, opens like a sail, a boat abandoned in fallow
Fields. Pomegranate, orange, mulberry, bay. Fertile
Origin—love, like the roots of arbutus, grows below ground: ours.
It’s beautiful. Please, god, whatever you do, don’t get me wrong.

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