“Onto the Manger,” by Stephen Elliott


Onto the Manger

You have to be afraid of troop movements
And snipers in windows
Men with guns in churches
The priests saying prayers for the fighters in the Manger
The phone lines to the war zone cut and the noose tightened
Worried about the hatred that rumbles through the desert painting the sand
Cautious around ruling families, swimming in pools full of oil, always questioning where their authority comes from and who they are speaking for
The speakers from the mosque calling the besieged to kneel
Our rulers issuing statements, then warnings, then nothing
You have to stop for the interests of businessmen at the checkpoint into Ramallah as a breeze cuts through the canyon’s purple wall and a missile falls lazily towards the police station
Question deals between men who profit from cars and the war machine built to protect them
Ask first with tax dollars
        What our national interests are
Send a query to the father smoking a cigarette late at night and staring from the window of his jeep
Weary, weary, and watchful of human nature
Doubt anyone who thinks we can save the world with affection, or money, or attention
Doubt anyone who knows the source of this river
        To give, to give
This heated hole full of anger
The leaders that have risen to power on slogans of hate
On the promise of retribution
These mules, these murderers
Who seize the holy lands
And their mountain fortresses
With front lines dancing at funerals the bullets in the air around a corpse like rain
You’ll have your rewards in heaven
Smoke your cigarette first before marching to the edges of your occupation
This high stakes game
Ask questions without answers about the maneuverings of power
Be worried when gunmen sit lazily beneath the sun in Manger Square
        And what they think belongs to them
Waiting for the tanks and the wind to tighten their noose 

Stephen Elliott

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →