CASCADE OF FACES
Five seconds of fame drag them down
the screen, ranks, names, faces, ages:
Staff Sergeant Hannah Nagel, 24.
Private Tom Abeel, 19.
Major Luís Moreno, 33.
Lance Corporal Rafiq Ibrahim, 20.
Captain Roger Kean, 31.
Candid American faces, unblinking,
unafraid, unvenal, snapped
a year, two years ago, not yet reviled
or revered, the newscast’s evening crop.
Images swallowed up, transfigured,
launched into an unlived future.
On the Oval Office desk,
dead center, one hot white spot
lights the briefing’s final page.
A chief executive is working late,
behind him, tall windows onto
a sky petroleum black,
strewn with trembling sparks.
In another hemisphere noon towers over
a desert city where his signature ignited
hair, skin, and eyes of the unknown civilian.
One by one, for how many terrorized
hundred-thousands the precedent was set,
roofs, walls, thundering down on their screams.
He reaches to snap out the lamp, ambles
to a door that closes on his steps.
Official darkness. Clockwise stellar bodies,
in their long-term impartiality, continue
rinsing the blackboard,
rinsing the blackboard—
which in a decade, or a century,
will free itself from any obligation
to save a chalked-up tally of the cost.