Volume 24, Number 4

Yeats’ rough beast is outside my window

First, every TV channel looped
like a sequence of action-thriller celluloid:
commercial jetliners slamming into skyscrapers,
great expanses of engulfing flames,
thick clouds of black smoke
billowing towards the heavens
long after the towers collapsed.

Then newscasters and web sites explain that
the hijackers were Middle Eastern:
raised on pop culture where suicide bombers are martyrdom cool,
faces of dead young men adorning village walls,
photos transformed into cult-hero icons exploded for god
(and body count, of course).
Decades of guerilla-warfare tactics
taught to children in religious youth groups,
their only skills for a job market
where mercenary brigades and trench fighters are holy men,
any excuse for jihad.

Last week the media reported
a drive-by shooting on a Christian church in Pakistan.
Stroboscopic scenes from a bad exploitation film
filled with ethnic motorcycle-gang members firing machine guns
flashed through my mind one frame at a time,
and I couldn’t help wondering
how many classrooms full of Sunday-school children
in America knew god was really on their side,
my television screen full of carpet bombs and guided missiles
pounding cities and cavernous mountains in Afghanistan,
distant sirens slicing through the city behind me,
an ever-so-slight nervous jittering in my hand,
wondering just where the hell is Palestine—
the channel suddenly changing to a shot of
Israeli tanks bulldozing neighborhoods
hordes of masked children hurling rocks at them,
the dead littering the streets for blocks.

—Chad Hensley