Permission to Engage

By Eugene Sigaloff

Those twangy voices,
American voices,
Voices like billiard balls,
Voices like crew cuts:
“Request permission to engage.”
“Roger that … You are free to engage.”
Voices like bullets.
Permission to engage is granted,
Permission granted to “light ‘em all up.”

Men below, unaware of the killing machine above them,
Are appraised by dual minds,
Kindly minds,
Minds that love their dogs,
Agonize if doggie’s paw has a boo-boo,
Go weepy if doggie should “pass away,”
And scornful minds,
Minds that jeer the “enemy” when properly instructed,
Us and them minds,
Minds that have been drilled to lose all feeling, all pity:
“Keep shoot’n, keep shoot’n, keep shoot’n, keep shoot’n.”

They run, they scamper, they fall, they slide:
Death as pratfall;
The “fuck’n pricks,”
They die in disarray, comically:
“Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards!”

Legs cannot outrun remorseless bullets,
Flesh cannot thwart implacable steel:
Hearts explode, brains are shattered,
Muscles, good for lifting children, are useless,
Vitality is blasted from a waste of bodies.
“All right, hahaha, I hit ‘em …”

Do the victims have an instant to fear,
To suffer, to know that
Their dreams, their pleasures,
Their thoughts, their loves,
Their precious memories,
Their hopes,
All their joys and pain,
All that the years gave them,
All, their very essence is being reduced to flying atoms,
Atoms as anonymous as those of the bullets that slay them?

The end results of a fertile earth,
Of the life force,
Of a mother’s love or indifference,
Of a father’s pride or dismissal,
Are insentient rags on the street,
Ugly splatters shrouded in dust.
“Good shoot’n.”
“Thank you.”
Permission was granted.

– Eugene Sigaloff contributed this poem to

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