Smithed on the Anvil

The shooter’s got US Flag toothpicks poked in his eyes. He’s got extra white
stars sewn over his ears, got black and red stripes like a seared rare steak

on his back, a posse of long-nailed pain-devils prying open his ribs to attack
his heart, it’s gone on like this for years, and the great hate has entered him,

sealed itself in with a moisture-lock layer like Vaseline spread on his lungs,
seized the root of his tongue, reached up and squeezed the transmission stalks

between his retinas and what his brain sees, so he’s stuck with his twisted vision,
the American warrior prophecy, illustrated by devotees of Stan Lee,

written like scrimshaw carved on the inside walls of his cranium, look at him,
he seethes in the roar of his own packed bone stadium, he believes

a version of doctrine cooked into him, the convergence of triumph and doom,
not unusual among human males, no stranger than a kid’s cowboy heroes

firing into the tissues of Injuns or Japs or Krauts while their own skin ruptures
red spouts, that glorious finish, that getting the hate out, that rubbing it in

with instant lead fingertips making the point at a distance and evading all future
debate. The shooter was made for this, smithed on the anvil of eternal vigilance. He,

alloy of densest emptiness radio talk show righteousness mental ward lingo
satellite TV memes and blank memories, lifts the elongate metallic gift

he bought himself to his head, and now that he’s settled up with the anonymous
stand-ins for family fresh-dead, blows an escape hatch through his own brow. 

[“Smithed on the Anvil” first appeared in The Tishman Review.]