If I had said “Mission accomplished,”
I would have been untrue to the generation of my children.
Yes, I hear the whispering of many—terror on every side!
But my tongue is stuck to my jaw
And all my bones are out of joint
And I can barely stand to speak,
Like a boxer who wanders
From Everlast to Everlast,
Beaten half to death
By the eyes of a child.
The ordinance of their mouths
Outweighs the ordinance of their planes
And the ordinance of their secret prisons
And the ordinance of their training camps
And the ordinance of their FBI and CIA
And the ordinance of their Madrassa
And the ordinance of their pestilential balls
But only by a feather.
Lord, they are like me, I think;
There is no truth in their mouths.
Their mouths chew lies
And their bellies are filled with lies.
And while the food was still in their mouths
Their own tables before them became a snare.
If I were hungry I would not tell you.
I am more angry at George W. Bush,
Lord, Than I am at you,
And I am more angry at Dick Cheney, Lord,
Than I am at your hosts,
And I am more angry at Osama bin Laden, Lord,
Than I am at your 3 times 3.
And I am more angry at my silence, Lord,
Than at all the world.
The first person to ignore
Is the person who says loudest
“Give ear to my words.”
His heart is destruction,
And his throat is an open sepulcher.
Let him fall by his own counsel.
And all who knew their Lord
Wanted their mouths
To be filled
With the mouth of the Lord.
And when they spoke
It was a wish.
And then from the heavens
The helicopter fell.
What profit is there, Lord,
In longing to live in your tent forever?
Everyone knows that even your tent
Is shredded by the suicide’s shrapnel,
Everyone knows that even your tent
Is pounded by the pilot’s bombs.
Let no one dwell in their tents, Lord,
But let those who love your name dwell in it
Where it is written in the shelter
Of your fighter jet’s wing.
One who realizes he is not a believer
May clothe himself with curses as his cloak,
And he may set up the sign of ignorance
As his own sign.
But one who realizes he is a believer
May know you, Lord,
And he may set himself up as your creditor
And seize all that he can,
And he may set up shop
In your name.
Lord, were you not there
And were your minions not there
When fire rained down
Upon heads in the mosque
Like the Pentecost descending
Upon the heads of the Apostles?
Were you not there in the stadium
For the public executions?
Were you not there
When they called?
The law of the mouth
Is now the law of shattered teeth,
Law of swallowed blood,
Hushed voice of common men and women
Checked off in Florida,
Out of range on C-130s,
Suddenly sunk in New Orleans.
I am poured out like water,
For the waters have come up to my neck.
The science behind
Is not clear.
The jury is still out
On the words my tongue
A king is not saved
By his great army,
But by the mercy
Of the last child
I laid a word in my heart
like a lonely bird on the housetop
Lord, if there were an election,
We would name you
Lord of Lame Ducks.
God of statistics.
God of road-side explosives.
Lord of tatter, bone, and rag,
Savior of leg-iron and rifle.
It is not too late.
Be moved by this prayer for action.
Brian Clements is the author of Essays Against Ruin, a book of poems from Texas Review Press, and of And How to End It, a book of prose poems forthcoming from Quale Press. He edits the small press Firewheel Editions and Firewheel’s flagship publication, Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics. He lives in Newtown and coordinates the MFA in Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University.