On Bucha: A Poem
Why? Why, when a mother and child are commanded
To come out from their basement shelter and surrender,
Only to be shot for their compliance;
Why, when suburban dads are shot, on the mere suspicion that
They may have, once upon a time, served in their nation’s military;
Why, when some unfortunate pilgrim, exhausted from sheltering,
Is shot for the bad idea, and worse timing, to go for a bike ride;
Why, when these crimes against innocent and oh-so-ordinary humanity
Begin to amass, documented in images telegraphed to a stunned world,
With advisory, of course, “Graphic content, viewer discretion advised”
— a body crumpled on the sidewalk, another fallen headlong into the street,
Two more bodies lying sprawled around the corner with the hedgerow,
Three other bodies filling a tiny backyard
Where, by all that’s just and right, only a new variety of lilac should grow.
Why, then, does a great portion of the rest of their fellow human beings,
Not all, but a great vocal portion, clearing its throat with caviling authority,
Fall immediately, or faster if it can, into the semantic trap of argle-bargle:
Was it a “war crime”? Or a “crime against humanity”?
In the sequencing of crime, there are distinctions to be made, don’t you know,
Benchmarks to be met, intent to be determined.
Or, does all this crime fall under the broader rubric of “crime of aggression,”
Pointing past those who coldly pulled triggers,
Back to the mad mastermind in Moscow
Who, sick on curdled dreams of restoring Mother Russia,
Ordered his Crusade to commence?
Add to the mix: Are we seeing a “genocide,” which gets us into
A whole other ethnic bog?
Meanwhile: Lamentation for the dead is drowned out
By argument, definition, legalism — argle-bargle —
So as not to mourn, see deeper, be deeper. Act.
Meanwhile: In Moscow, images of the mastermind’s butchery
In “brother” Ukraine are labeled “fake,”
Argued away as a blood libel perpetrated by the West.
To quote another mad prince: “Words, words, words….”
Onto the crime scene, masses of “human rights” investigators surge,
Gathering evidence — the evidence already incised on our brains —
Evidence for trial in an as-yet-to-be-determined international tribunal,
Which international tribunals the West’s chief guarantor (the U.S. of A.)
Does not support, because what if one of its own were hauled up for trial?
(Memo to the U.S. of A.: Amend thy hypocrisy.)
Bless their hearts, though, the “human rights” investigators:
Diligently investigating that which may never come to trial,
Or may not come for a very long, long time,
So long that….what was all that hullaballoo about?
The investigators cannot say it, nor can we: They are too late.
The dead of Bucha already lost
Their most fundamental human right — to life.
Meanwhile: The evidence lives forever in the hearts of Ukrainians,
Fighting on in Ukraine, fleeing in diaspora, cold in the ground,
And in the hearts of those in the world’s Chorus, who can hear, still,
The shrieks of the mother and child trying to dodge the bullets;
The suburban dads whose last anguished words
Went out to families they could not protect;
The unfortunate pilgrim, whose bicycle lies atop him,
Wheels still spinning….
Mind, though, the aesthetic trap of a poem:
We cannot leave atrocity at “Wheels still spinning….”
With action strangled in image, in excuse-making ellipses.
For in mourning’s inward communion, conviction soon comes:
“This must stop, this inhuman carnage, and it must stop now.”
Clarity comes, too: Turning to actionable use the awful evidence —
The innocent and oh-so-ordinary human beings cut down in Bucha —
We see — we see — the rhetorical trap set by Moscow’s mad mastermind,
Daring the world not to “provoke” him to unleash his deadliest weapons
When Bucha is all the provocation Civilization needs to stay his hand.
In an unholy world, to reconsecrate life — holy life.
In a dark night of History, to manufacture a New Dawn.