War Crimes


I was born a war criminal
Flesh knit together
By uncounted trespasses
Cartoon unending u scrolling charge sheet
Packed tight with neat black scrawl
Names, places, dates, times
Converting to LED numerals
Etched blinking beneath my wrist,
Some grisly odometer ticking over rhythmic
Billions served, starving, strangled
Unable to breathe.

Thick blood drips from my hands,
Smears across my daughters’ cheeks
Stains pass from generation to generation
Heirlooms of hatred, cells remember
All the other slaughtered babes
They sleep uneasy within them
What innocence can possibly exist
With the rape of continents unaccounted for
So many voices rendered silent
Yet still wailing lamentations for the fable of justice?

No amends can be made
If I flayed the skin from my bones
Forsaking any privilege built upon broken backs
This would not suffice
There is no true means to be found
Even if every child I could ever have
Was stolen, their blood used to water greedy soil
Only to have the ripe fields sown
With the salt distilled from all mothers’ tears
So that the sacrifice was rendered fruitless
Would not begin to cover the debt.

With each passing day
My eyes cannot meet themselves in the mirror
Cannot face the prosecution of my reflection
Guilt seethes beneath the skin
Veins boil, impotent rage turning limbs to charcoal
Maggots and worms leave abattoir stink
The morning news daily adding
To a bill I already can’t afford
With smug indifference
Another portion stolen
From mouths so long denied even crumbs
The table before me groaning under bounty
Falling to waste and ruin
Despite such vulgar, rapacious gluttony.

This is the legacy left me,
What pride is there in whips and ovens,
With chains dripping from under my fingernails
My belly swollen, distended
Not unlike the stinking holds of ships
Packed tight with sweat and fear and death
Swallowing whole nations
I am the furthest twisted branch
Of a tree adorned with tiny doll corpses
Of lynched children dangling barefoot
Hung forever beyond the reach of their mothers,
Deaf ears ringing with their unabated grief.

If I could be given breath enough
All the days given me would be spent
Reciting every name ever denied further breath
Every one recited like a prayer
Because they were holy, because they were and are now not
Speaking on, unstopping
Until my voice failed
Until my lips cracked, parched and bloody
Until my body withered, taking the shape of sorrow
Until I was nothing at all
Just a voice and penitence
For all the sins of my fathers.

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