O They Are Used to It,


the killing, O they jubilate at it, the tsar,
a miter, a cross attached to it, on top of his head,
his announcement in the Cathedral of The Holy
Armed Forces he will cleanse the world
of a diabolic infection, ten arms of five fat
dead rats are his fingers, pointing at the bulge
in his groin, he whispers, “Boom!” Age-thick
breakdown comparable to the end of the era
Anno Domini nineteen hundred and … Black Sea
oil, investors are rattled, the benchmark MOEX
Index down ten percent Tuesday morning, losses
in Asia, in Africa, wheat is being smuggled
onto barges on the Danube, the klepto-theocratic
siege tightening, a week it takes to remove
bodies impaled on metalwork, lists of the number
of nameless dead are being compiled, evil so large
you can’t get around it, in times of abomination
consciousness replaces imagination. I loathe
them, the sick-brained distributors of murder,
I talk to my heart to try to calm it, I say it,
sing it, a lament, a lamentation, a dirge, I don’t
genuflect before abstractions, this is no concept
of despair—despair is useless—no strategy
of disjunction, this hollow place they place us in,
history’s angels blown apart. A severed head
looks up at the blade, cognizant of what’s happened.
Truth is in the screams, the shattering glass, in smells
inhaled in decompositions of entangled things.


Lawrence Joseph‘s most recent book of poems, A Certain Clarity, was published in 2020. He is a professor emeritus of law at St. John’s University School of Law and lives in New York City.

[Purchase Issue 26 here.]

O They Are Used to It,

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