Saint Just would understand
how violence wants to submit,
to free itself, petty no more, expressing law,
how fun can be a moral affront, love a parasite.
I shall no more, terror asserts, talk tough to empty rooms,
I shall make my mark a slash in time, add blast to the logic of blade.
Would he know them, these believers, his heirs?
They spoke of the holy not of reason, of justice so sacred
they would be cured of their homeland, not merely perfect it.
Though seeing no reason, he would recognize law
that disregards persons, that requires fear.
And would they know him, he who taught the crowd with death,
they who plant death in crowds,
could they think of him, guillotine-wielder,
as they filmed themselves lifting the scimitar,
and would they laugh, as the caliphate,
though they braced to defend it house to house,
retreated toward idea, to hear he returned from the front
to bend his head to the machine?
James Toupin, retired general counsel of the US Patent and Trademark Office, now teaches in the law school of American University in Washington, DC. His poetry has appeared or will appear in dozens of journals, including Virginia Quarterly Review (online), Beloit Poetry Journal, Nimrod, Pleiades, garnering a couple of Pushcart nominations. He is also a published translator, of Selected Letters of Alexis de Tocqueville on Politics and Society (University of California Press), and writer on legal topics.
Photo of a destroyed ISIL chemical weapons factory from Wikimedia Commons.
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