If your hand touches a hot enough coal,
it’s your hand that becomes the flame.


Kitty Genovese
(Murder 1964)

She became ash,
gray, smoldering, then cold,
white, windblown.
He smothered her
in blood and semen. Her last breath
in the arms of a woman, I love you. You are not alone.


Evelyn Francis McHale
(The Most Beautiful Suicide 1947)
A slogan, a title like Miss America or DOA?

That final conversation on the ledge
a hawk circling
until it spots the luckless fish
plucking luckless mosquitoes 
off the rim of water that separates
lake from sky.

The photograph, such a personal intrusion on such a public act.
One can’t help but notice the crossed legs
of someone reading the Sunday paper
and the clenched fists of someone angry
or sleeping through a nightmare
after reading the Sunday paper.
 
The note declaring failure
to live up to the picture of perfection,
scratched out – 
a final rebellion or a broken spirit?
 
The absence of blood
not the same as the absence of violence.

 
Phan Thi Kim Phuc
(War 1972)

She is The Girl in the Picture*
Trang Bang, Vietnam
Everyone knows she is naked.
Everyone knows she is on fire.
Does anyone know she is still alive?
Canadian, Christian, forgiving.
Napalm leaves lasting scars
on everyone it touches.
Somewhere a pilot remembers
that awful black smoke and orange heat,
prays his aim was off the mark.
The President, a man of some brand of honor,
wonders if it is all a hoax. As if the purpose
of war is to embarrass him by burning children.


Scott McMillan
(Terror 2014)

He is the child who scribbles outside the lines on one day.
Killed by parents, with a frying pan, the next.
There are the rockets, red glare intact,
dismembering other children where they live outside the lines.
There are other lines, ones to wait in for food and shelter
where the dismembering takes place bit by bit
grating bone to white powder.
Lines in museums dedicated to death camps and ash filled ovens.
Lines in the sand, the siege of Jerusalem, the gulag of Gaza.
Lines in 12 point type tell us day by day, line by line
the history of violence, the story of hands on fire.


* The Girl in the Picture: The Kim Phuc Story, the Photograph and the Vietnam War by Denise Chong