The New York Times reports that 200 Iraqi civilians have been killed by U.S. military airstrikes

— Clint Smith

after Hanif Abdurraqib

& the man on television calls it       unfortunate yet inevitable collateral damage       & i wonder what it is that turns mourning into a metonym       or a proclamation of conjecture       & i read his bio & see that he has a wife       & i can’t imagine he would call it inevitable if her body were pulled from the quiet implosion of scattered rubble       & i see that he has a son       & i can’t imagine he would call the boy who bears his name collateral in someone else’s war       & i see that he has a daughter       & i think of what it might mean for someone to render her final breath an inescapable reality of global politics       & i understand what he means       i know he means that war is callous & unforgiving       that a militant can surround himself with a dozen women & children so that the pilot must decide between a target & the soft ache of his own heart’s detonation       i do not misunderstand the cruelty of war       but i regret the way we talk about its casualties       how their lives become tacit admonitions       how the tyranny of a border made out of thin air means that bombs are only dropped on one side of it       but i too have felt the empathy corrode inside the most cavernous parts of me       have taken the quarters from my pocket & used them to cover my collusion       who among us has not used spare change to ornament our contrition       laid a garland of rations atop the bodies of names we do not know       & i’m not sure what it means for us       not to be the one to fire the bullet       but to behave as if the bullet always belonged in that chest & not our own

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