Alien War, Human War

by Okla Elliott


      written on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion

      1.
Death is an underwater bird,
not a bird at all;
an eel with wings. It is a metal bird
loaded up with techno-artillery.

War, this war,
war between the eagle and other birds-of-prey
(different prey).

Death is depleted uranium,

radiating strangeness into the cells of our victims.
It is a strangeness we are all born into,
borne by all of us.

It is a strangeness taking many forms,
natural and un-
in equal measure.

Stranger still to be guilty
of murders we did not commit.

      2.
Making ourselves alien to ourselves
we diminish all things.

That curve of a bell, the curve of buttocks
the bell-curve normalizing us all,
the image of a model’s ass that makes us want
to find that image in the flesh of the world.

Making others alien to ourselves
we diminish all things.

The curve of a bell,
the curve of a missile scudding
toward its living targets—
the curve of a line representing
fatality statistics over a six-week period.

When an alien dies, nothing human is lost.
When we make others alien,
we diminish all beings.

      3.
When the bird flies into the storm
it is gone to us. When the bird
swims into the earthquake
it is gone to us until       its perennial return.

      4.
The imbricated self, the implicated subject.
The guilt-threads are tightly knotted.
Imbrication, implication—the nouns sound
so alien, so Latinate
I can’t feel my way into their fact. Abstraction
alienates lived life. To make others alien
we must abstract them to mere ideas,
not particular flesh and thoughts peculiar
to them. To kill others we must       make them alien.

Murder, therefore, is an abstraction abstracted.

      5.
Our appetites and terrors fill the gnawing void
of the world.

Our appetites and terrors fill the gnawing void
of the world.

Our appetites and terrors fill the…
 

Okla Elliott is the author of a full-length collection of short fiction, From the Crooked Timber, and three poetry chapbooks. His novel, The Doors You Mark Are Your Own, co-authored with Raul Clement, is forthcoming in 2015.