Sarah Hirsch

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You wear a highly decorative uniform. In it, you are visible. Among the masses. In the front lines, you are seen. When you fight, when your arm muscles ripple like the men beside you, you are seen. You wave to the commanding officers, exhaustion making you forget. G’night. Excuse me? What did you say, soldier? Goodnight, sir. Watch your tongue. Your “aggression” makes you visible. Your eyes focus on a fly trying to escape as the commander devours you. Your breasts try to hide. The fly hits the glass, falling onto the windowsill. So close. Only when his belly swells, full, do your eyes leave the small black body.

Your feet are so numb they do not feel the itch of your wool socks. You walk back to your room and just sit on the bed. You wiggle your toes to make sure they are still there. You’ve had trouble sleeping. Tonight will be no different. How many bodies did you watch fall to the ground? Thank God you could not hear the sound they made. They will rot like fallen trees in far away forests. How many bodies make up the soil we walk on? You rub infinities into the left side of your temple. Nameless and far away. You think about the almost made-up college diploma. 365 multiplied by three. 1095 days. Now 1094. Your toes fade into the dust beneath your bed.

“caught in the crossfire”

These days and nights will bite at your ankles for years to come. This morning is no different. Fallen bodies wade in your oatmeal. You poke a chunk of banana. Your appetite and stomach are gone. You hum Duke Ellington to remember simpler days of blowing out music, the taste stuck in your cheeks.

Angelo comes into the kitchen and sits down. He takes your bowl and finishes your past.

“No one to talk with
All by myself
No one to walk with
But I’m happy on the shelf
Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ my love for you”

He talks and talks about something or other, your mind is focused on his fingers. They’ve parked themselves in the crook of your elbow. Warm and rough. Just like the man who owns them. You breathe him in. It’s time to go, he says. You wish you could sit in this moment just a little longer. But baby is pulling you up. I got him, spills out of your mouth.

“caught in the crossfire”

You pick up your son from his white crib. Four months. Still so small. You are afraid that one of these days you will wrap him too tightly in your arms and break him. You are afraid that one day he will be broken. You are already thinking about what age you should teach him to walk, not run. On the playground, on his way home from school, on the way to the grocery store. Your lip quivers and disappears. Your teeth bite on air. One by one they fall out of your mouth. Fallen trees in a far away forest. When will he learn to talk? How will you teach him to speak?

“caught in the crossfire”

Your body is a bottle to be broken against the pavement. Intentional. But mostly pieces of a second thought. Try to pick up your pieces without getting cut. You try. Blood bubbles up on your finger tips. There has been so much blood in your life. You bleed for your country. Your ears pop and blow away with the wind.

“caught in the crossfire”

Today’s to do list:
Call mama, she’s worried about you
Buy diapers
Dry cleaning
Get guitar from baby brother’s house
Stop by 7-11 on the way home
Diet coke, orbit spearmint gum, peanut butter, ooh cheerios
Get home
What officer? Your elbows unlock from the rest of your body. Angelo shoots at the policemen. Your mind twists around itself, confused. Your knees buckle and leave you with your strength and understanding.
Your legs are ripped off and pulled into the pavement. Your lungs cave in, crushing your spine into powder.
Get in the car
India! I said get in the car!

Where are you?

“caught in the crossfire”

The pain of losing yourself drains as you feel the open space embrace what is left of you. The rest is gone. You do not exist.

On September 5th, nameless baby boy lost his mother and father.

“Why didn’t they wait until she exited the car? That’s the question…If they were surveilling her, why didn’t they wait and just wait until the baby and India were safe, away from whatever they were planning to do?”




“Virginia Beach Police Department and our officers believe in the sanctity of life. We do everything we can to mitigate violent conflict.”



“caught in the crossfire”

Only took fifteen seconds to kill the invisible Madonna. Where is your child, Madonna?

He is in the backseat, crying. His ears hurt from the noise. His left arm cut from broken glass. He cries and cries and cries until, finally. He is seen. Four faces peer down at him from the broken window.

“caught in the crossfire”

“Did they find any weapons on India? Did she pose a threat? Why did [police] shoot into a car with a baby and woman who had nothing to do with their investigation?”