Jacalyn Shelley

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The Military Calls This Land Management

              for the people of Ukraine, a country the size of Texas.

B52 bombing raids     bomb     bombed     bombing     bombs exploded    

bombing missions     bombardment     steady bombardment   B52s unheard and unseen 

            fighter-bombers     rocketing     cluster bombs     strafing     missile fragments            

bombing missions     crater-producing missiles     missile fragment spread    

                                    aircraft data severely restricted



craters     this cratering of the land     crater     cratered     many generations of craters    

     old craters    21 million craters     unexploded bomb craters     farmers’ plows detonate    

ubiquitous missile fragments   cut the hooves of water buffaloes   we assume displacement of

3.4 billion cubic yards of earth     landscape torn as if by an angry giant     the energy of

450 Hiroshima bombs     like a photograph of the moon   still B-52s creating 100,000 craters

                                    per month    over land slightly larger than Texas      


An erasure of “The Catering of Indochina”
Scientific American May 1972
by Westing, Arthur H. & E. W Pfeiffer


Buffalo Skin

How to excite the rabble? Name an enemy of the people. Today our President is naming the media. Decades ago Nixon compiled his enemies list. Can anyone be an enemy of the people? In a textbook photograph one of our boys tenderly places his left hand on the arm of a Vietnamese woman. She holds a bare-bottomed baby as the trusses of a building burn in the background. And another photograph, a young girl, her back to the camera, stands in the foreground. She’s in perfect first position – heels together, feet splayed open. Her arms are tense, as if in anguish at her nakedness, her skin peeled off her back. In this same picture – not the version I remember of her wailing as she ran like a scarecrow down a road – one Vietnamese man in fatigues wields the TV camera of war. His head tilts away from the eye scope. One American soldier, wearing sunglasses and ear muffs under his helmet, pours water down her back. Did this relieve her pain? Today she calls it buffalo skin – the skin on her back that her son kisses. Now she tells the man behind a TV camera, “After I touched the scars of Jesus, my enemies list became my prayer list.”


As was common practice, the paparazzi, armed with Nikons and Leicas with a will of their own, surrounded General Loan as he interrogated a prisoner. [Click.] As was common practice, the general extended his arm, Smith and Wesson in his hand. The prisoner, a young man who wore a plaid shirt [click] passed through the gate [click] of blinding light [click] his face contorted [click]. A lurch in time without context – con from Latin meaning with or together, and textere from the Proto-Indo-European root to fabricate an image or weave a narrative. Yet, the image was given the caption “execution,” perhaps to win a “competition” – from the Late Latin meaning rivalry. By 1961, it meant entities that compete, especially in business. Before his death [click] the Pulitzer Prize winning shooter wrote, “The general killed the Vietcong. I killed the general with my camera.”

Jacalyn Shelley is a previous contributor to Misfit Magazine. She’s been published in several journals and anthologies including most recently Welcome to the Resistance: Poetry as Protest. You can read more of her poems at JacalynShelley.com.