THE PRACTICAL USE OF AIR ARMS
Some of us took the position
it was impossible to fight in air. Some took
the position of wings, rapid and hectic
our broken hands arguing against the use
of force. Some of us were born lethal, special
in our small, light-moving bodies.
Some of us saw the playground diminish
in size, restricted in the name of self.
Games that once relied upon elaborate signals
were replaced by twin trenches, and by sheer repeated
battering—by bow, by catapult, we learned to live
close to the earth, and score each sparrow’s heart
with a bullet. We were disproportionate,
like a man following pigeons on a bicycle.
Some challenged the state distinctions
between part and principle, how its rose-shaped
logic seemed to advanced a system of conflict
between belligerent leaders and unmanned Author,
who authorized all aerial measures. The individual,
such as he is, shall be employed in conformity
with applicable calibers, recited the law.
Let us imagine thirty men, desperately bent.
Let us imagine the poison heart of future infancy.
Let me be clear as our domestic sky, said some
prayers, sent by ballista to parents the clouds resembled,
and while some saw in the planes a third brother,
some suggested targets: they were dealt new hands.
*note: the source texts of this poem are The Command of the Air by Giulio Douhet, translated by Dino Ferrari; and a speech given by Harold Koh, the Legal Adviser to the US Department of State, clarifying the legality of preemptive drone strikes.
A dictionary hurtles toward you, dropped
from an unmanned drone.
Freedom’s trick is to bury itself
then explode, softly: bomblets:
child-size munitions falling down
—lil’ minibomb, lil’ bomblings—
delivered by nylon, gravity-armed:
this is bloodless combat, no question
of the laser spot spreading. Napalm,
on the other hand—
easy to unpack: naphthene and
palmitate, lit fuse of leaves—
leaflets rain through the roof.
When the lowlanders were driven
to the mountains they transposed
the passes ports: centuries later
our army precedes its materiel with Porta
-filler, -dump, -morgue,
a trail of proprietary language
dots the valley around Camp Echo.
Aerial incendiary—is the word
phosphorous?—it’s right on the tip
of the present, whose origins remain
so obscure who could describe
even if his tongue were intact
how the twin contrails recall
the beginning of a familiar letter
now blurred into a burnt swath of air
I recognize as just what I’ve been
trying to say this whole time.
only the plutonium plume contained less poetry
pushing it over the waters spent fuel rods stacked on the cooling tower
less anaphoric power. If only the days built a house of prayer
over the open oven of ions gone haywire language ceased being
so prone to flowering mutation. If only we could stop watching the waves, leaving
ten thousand replies to each other’s poses stop pointing out
the obvious, that body can’t be real Can it. The hands feel
fake, by feel I mean appear, affixed.
The Malboro hole where the eyes keep returning
each time, the question of the corpse pupil burnt red the flash
at close-range fleshing out the conflict between ideal and
execution. Under the gamma knife the hemispheres glow
like a hillside on fire, each cell’s red swell a trillion livid selves. If only
the cure was being everywhere at once we might bring ourselves
to terms. Fields fallow a thousand years still burn.
ANDREW ALLPORT is the author of the body of space in the shape of a human, which won the 2011 New Issues Prize. His chapbook, The Ice Ship & Other Vessels, is available from Proem Press. His work has appeared in The Antioch Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly and Boston Review, and was nominated by The Los Angeles Review for a Pushcart Prize. He lives in Durango, Colorado.