I've updated my Christmas Tales with a new story for 2012, and also appearing is my first collection of short stories.
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Brent van Staalduinen
I almost wept today.
I almost wept for distant siblings
who packed up most of what they needed,
entrusting it to new brothers and sisters
in filthy tent spaces, ugly places
where God shone first.
I almost wept because I forgot
the kindred souls who picked up swords, rifles, pens
and went to war.
They bruised themselves to pay back
what I had not yet earned, cast down lots
about which brother would deliver the news
to mother, father, uncle, son.
Life, they whispered, is bigger than a sum of actions.
Freedom, they said, as they signed on lines
and cut their hair hair, is more
than expecting others to give
when mostly what gets done is taking.
You, they yelled, mean more to me
than I mean to myself.
That we can love and hate and fear
as much or as little as we want or desire or crave or stand
isn’t a right – it’s a privilege, won by those
who guard my shores even though I don’t ask,
keep safe every delicate mote
of an existence I can’t live without
yet often can’t explain.
So why do they stand in places where
steel rain brings agony and the sun
makes dust that cannot bind
the wounds it creates?
Why do they stand on lines and make war,
humanity’s true negotiation, when all I do
is stare, lost, at numbers and figures
and soft, gentle things and wonder
where everything went wrong
when it isn’t going wrong
It’s right, but only because they refuse to let it be wrong
although I, bathed in choice, try to make it so.
It’s right because their blood, leaking
into soil and paddy and ground and sand
and jungle and hedgerow and ocean and beach
and bamboo prison cage
is the guilty fuel
I fill my tank with.
I might want to weep, yet brush away tears
that might be seen by anyone, even those
whose sacrifice should remind me
that I didn’t get here
You brought me here.
You wept on ground not yet named
and jagged wire not yet holy – you bled
tears and gore and ragged, unheard last breaths
and said that I could work this piece of ground,
if only to borrow it awhile from those
for whom I’d not yet wept.