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The Poet Hears the Voice of the War Reporter

Read by Kelli Russell Agodon

In Princeton the leaves change like bells. Squirrels
pass untouchable girls. Stalking the greens
at night. Worth something. Running in lightning
storms, peeling paint from balusters along
the Victorian porch. Sipping vodka
neat, cooking meat over charcoal. Watching
the unified mind of the swallows come
careering out of the twilight into
our backyard maple tree. I tend to be
solitary. Dinner parties, I prefer
to stay away.
This is you speaking though
it might as well be me. I’ve spent my life
with war reporters, and I’ll count myself
foremost in this group: everyone’s a mess
of insecurities, looking for self
-esteem through risk.
A hangar-sized Whole Foods
beside a glinting field of Priuses,
while you’re off in Kandahar or is it
Baghdad, Paul? I’m sick of being lied to,
so I simply take it as a challenge
to find the truth.
My father cursing me,
There are things you do not know. My mother
not turning her mausolean face to say
goodbye. Picking up our lives at the end
of summer, I swear I heard a demon
hiss, Don’t leave us, please. If something’s risky
and we probably shouldn’t do it I’ll say,
Don’t worry about me, I’m already
The blind mob is calling, You poor man,
who are you?

Dan O’Brien is a playwright and poet in Los Angeles. His play about the haunting of war reporter Paul Watson, The Body of an American, premiered in 2012 at Portland Center Stage. O’Brien’s poetry has appeared recently in 32 Poems, Missouri Review, Poetry Review, and elsewhere.