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Poetry

Our speaker has a tongue screw with him, though
it is a replica. He speaks of spectacle, witness,

dying well. One group’s criminals…. Stories
are not preserved by accident. Heroes are made

necessary by the nature of memory. Life is stronger
than death, and that is why we must praise.

I think. Identity depends on memory,
which depends. You might get in the book

if you merely suffered. We strive to maintain
an empathetic view of the oppressors, but we believe

that truth is real and can be known and practiced.
Therefore we praise the martyrs and the beauty

of holiness, even the beauty of rose windows
and artful representations of the cross.

When the grieving villagers sing holy, holy, holy
over the mass grave, surely this is beautiful,

though we cannot clearly say why. We cannot
believe that death is the mother of beauty,

the lovely wound that sends the child in search
of poetry. Surely we shall know the truth,

now and in the place of fire, on the pages
of fire, in the voices and bodies on fire, in the ashes

where the child bends for the tongue screw,
in the moment when he grasps the iron,

still warm, and straightens to show his brother.


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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