Witness, The Warring Lords and the Forever Price
For we are about to destroy this place; because the outcry against them before the Lord has become so great that the Lord has sent us to destroy it. —Genesis 19:13
In the beginning it was Lot and
his daughters, his unnamed wife,
God and those damnedable angels.
Sodom, Gomorra, Bucha, Irpin –
all the same: slaughter, panic,
This is the stuff of endless lists: the kind and number
of disjointed bones, the chroma tone of burning flesh,
the breadth and width of skin as measured in pain,
kids’ skinned knees not kissed, scabs unpicked,
toys crushed, the unnamable babies who will never
go to war, the named ones who will.
I rip that page from my embattled Bible.
Overhead, a lone goose sounds like like two,
call and response, call and response, so alone.
I look back to the remains of the Terrible Book–
there, the limitless victims and the nameless
wife who I will call Sela—
her life as witness as she considers:
her immolate sisters, the lone goose, the good,
the vagrant, the lascivious and chaste.
Her gaze stays fixed
on the crime, forever tied
to the chasmed sky. She sees
the hands that reach from
the graves, the broken crutches
how blue the fire burns,
how blackened the flesh,
the dirt beneath the fingernails
of the dead, the sins that are not
sins, the sins that are, the gods who
worship their own idols, the idols
made in the image of their savage gods.
Only Sela looks back. She knows
the price. She chooses to be
a pillar of salt.
by Dick Westheimer from A Sword in Both Hands: Poems Responding to Russia’s War on Ukraine (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions 2022)
100% of poet’s proceeds from sales go to https://www.ukrainetrustchain.org/
Cover art: Olga Morozova, Kiev, Ukraine
Cover design: Dick Westheimer