Volume 23, Number 2

Collateral Damage

We’ve shot an amazing number of people.
—General Stanley McChrystal, while discussing the “escalation of force problem” and civilian casualties in Afghanistan

Fleeing from mower blades, one safe margin
to the next until tall grass touches road,
the frogs live peacefully and do not ruin
the yard with burrows, dining on the mosquitoes
I despise. Yet I must cut the wild lawn
and can only witness so much, can only pause
so long before the work powers on.
        We’ve shot an amazing number of people.
May I say that in a poem about mowing
the lawn, with frogs the pastoral collateral?
May I include the monstrous B-52s stretching
overhead, as long as sky, and leave out the yard birds
who land and gorge, sated by my little wars?

From the unpublished manuscript What I Did During the War

—Chuck Rybak