I live in Norwalk, Connecticut, with my wife, fellow poet Laurel Peterson, and I am a Professor of English at Manhattanville College. I have published two books of poems, Shiva Dancing (Texture Press, 2007) and Riptide (Texture Press, 2016), a chapbook, Between What Is and What Is Not (The Last Automat Press, 2010), and individual poems in various journals.
We’ve stolen your face, Omran Daqneesh,
pasted it onto the front page of the Times,
flashed it across the evening news,
posted it onto Facebook, scanned it
onto laptops, tablets, i-Phones,
sitting on sofas and recliners
in living rooms, studies, cafes,
nibbling at the horror, feeding our hunger,
imbibing, perhaps, some soothing before-dinner drink.
We devour your small body, gray-brown
clump of mud, listless bobble-headed rag doll
pulled from the wreckage, propped upright
on an orange chair, mushroom-cap hair,
one eye widely blank, the other
crusted shut with blood like strawberry jam,
a little boy made perfectly, then torn apart.
We also had you months ago, younger
with a different name, a tumble of rags
knocked about by the surf
then washed up against the edge of Asia.
Again you made the evening news,
social media, The New York Times.
We had you in Fallujah, and before that in Sarajevo,
little bundles ripped and wrapped in dust.
You ran for us naked and burning in Vietnam,
had your skull stripped clean and stacked in Cambodia.
It was you, I’m sure, we couldn’t see,
vaporized and invisible in Hiroshima.
Here boys your age do photo shoots
for Gap Kids, Benetton, Toys R Us,
soft brown hair, gel-styled into mushroom caps
not unlike yours, but obliquely hinting at the Beatles,
performing front flips in sky blue trunks,
sunlit teeth laughing at the camera.
You flipped, I’m sure, when the bomb struck,
flew through shard-sharpened air in mud-caked shorts,
settled with a million particles of dust
in the sunless pit from which they pulled you,
lips shut and sealed and set against the world,
unspeakable knowledge shrouding your silent face.
Your image feeds us again and again,
until sated, we reach for the remote,
pronounce it awful, elect a clown
for President and turn you off.
© 2017 Van Hartmann
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