Secret War

U.S. Air Force photo, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Phelps
U.S. Air Force photo, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Phelps

Daddy, don’t you know
you’re fighting a war?

You stand on a battlefield draped
in razorwire like Battenberg lace

Where are your wire cutters?

Don’t you see the barbed wire
wrapped round
your wrists
your ankles
your throat

ready             and             willing

to squeeze?

Forge ahead toward the trenches

tight are the defenses
yet no hymn of bullets
no galloping war cry

Why are the trenches silent?

The concertina wire is tight round your throat
waiting to slice the veins
at the slightest sign from me

but my voice is still

my fingernails are radioactive green
a grenade is lodged in every tooth
but I do not claw
I do not bite

and you don’t even know you’re being


cut the wire
throw a grenade
it would be easy to overrun the perimeter
but you don’t even know we’re waging war

I fight myself for silence
more fiercely than I fight you

I grapple with a tedious mousy fear
with a complete inability
to show my face
shoot a bullet or two

and tell you to
go to hell

I’m a silent bystander now
in my own war
watching the executioner cart my will away

But I know
I’m not a prisoner
And you? You are not my executioner

I know

You don’t even know what you’re doing

Winning. Losing.
It hardly matters when

What you want and what I need
Are two entirely different things

You can’t have my love
Just take my pain and be content

And this? This is war!
But it’s supposed to be poetry
not a criminal charge

I’m not supposed to condemn you
but bury your faults in teasing smiles and easy charm
when all I want to do is bury you

where you can do no more harm

Silent Sister


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