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The writer of this poem, Johnny Payne, is the Director, Creative Writing at Mount Saint Mary's University. Check out his book Confessions of A Gentleman Killer.


Don’t blame fresh tears on

Xbox and iPhone.

You were always inattentive

except to a pop song.

A poet of Vietnam once asked,

as joss sticks burned

over enemy soldier remains

whether it’s too late for love.

Back from Afghanistan

you reflect on the fact

that you seldom saw corpses

mostly debris and rubble.

So why do your ears ring

as if a shell had exploded nearby

leaving the anvil

shattered, the stirrup broken?

But no, you’re fine. Ear buds

drench you in death metal

the silver iPod flashing like a flask

on the long flight back home.

Your girl waited for you because

you share the same area code

a 2-year-old daughter

and a rewards card.

Now, in the living room

on a carpet of crushed chips

you sit in a triangle defined by flat

screen TV, laptop and your toddler child.

Carpal tunnel came from messaging

and not, as you expected

from carrying a gun.

Small constant chimes of incoming

messages remind you that there’s

a world outside, as near as

the banyan trees where egrets

step as if over land mines.

Status update once meant

marriage to an empress

another go at world peace

a newly sharpened cutlass.

Today it’s enough

to post you’re at Target

as if you’d bow-hunted

the cunning wild boar.

Cicadas ring, while with

a deer-tailed whisk

you sweep clean the cache

of selfies and porn.

Well, is too late for love?

The whoosh of your latest text

is a sigh of autumn

through an elm’s last leaves.

Warlords of Draenor stand ready

for joystick, cursor, battle, death.

In a rude hut, your lonely body

shivers against wind and sleet.


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