There are no better angels
here. They brag like planters
of their lands—Vietnam
Panama, Guatemala, Iraq, Iran.
They boast of overthrow,
special forces, shock and awe,
fire and fury, and bomb
bomb bomb. A toast is made
to the southern strategy
which at first I take to be
for the taking of Chattanooga
and the campaign on Atlanta,
but they laugh and raise a glass
to states’ rights in Mississippi.
They look my way as if the joke’s
on me, as if the war is lost.
I know I will become a ghost.
I mull the drift of my dreams,
and know the night’s worst
hours can be spent walking
dark halls of a white house.
I am at a loss for words
when the one across from me
says I moved on her like a bitch
and the rest laugh and take a sip.
And I am troubled how I can
gaze on myself from behind
as if through the eyes of a man
holding a pistol, or paint brush,
a man with the power to consign me
to history’s trash, to this confederacy
of men who keep swearing
that they, too, are the favored sons
of my grand party, that I am but the first.
Matthew Murrey is a poet whose writings have appeared in various journals such as Poetry East, Poets Reading the News, and Rattle. He received an NEA Fellowship in Poetry a number of years ago, and his first book, Bulletproof, will be published by Jacar Press. He is a high school librarian in Urbana, Illinois where he lives with his partner. They have two grown sons.
Painting by Andy Thomas.