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Jeff William AcostaAugust 12, 2022

Cops shoot army vet dead; kin say he was unarmed, had mental issues.
—GMA News
, Philippines, April 20, 2020

Like every poem that starts with a symphony
of gunfire—I stand still like a bullet

loaded in the barrel. My fingers refusing
the trigger. In this version, I walked through

the city while it burns with screaming
neon lights. How a brown boy can disguise

his own voice from a swarm of melody
that stings like napalm but cradle

the echo—the many, many sounds
I cannot escape. The names

my father chased away so I can learn
not to say them aloud. How like moths,

I am drawn to things
that destroy me. That on the other side

of this country, beneath the uncountable
stars but still shattered like glasses—the air

heavier than amputated limbs. A brother
dragging his own brother. He watches

his torso dangle like a dying leaf. Pitch black
he sings hymns closer to a held

breath than a prayer. We know this—
the soldier on the TV. He was pulling

Winston cigarettes from his pocket
the way he handles a .38 caliber for a quickfire

of smokes. Perhaps it reminds him of home,
of his brothers, of his name. The screaming

whine of assault rifles. He steps
forward to the sound he has

always known. An answered prayer
for his ghosts. Lightning quick he dropped

naked the way a shattered shell
unhinges from a bullet. Like every poem,

like every man called for wars
not his own, this poem too, ends

with a scope, as if anyone is still looking
for shadows, specters inside us and

the only thing I can do is to kneel—
beg (never pray) that nothing moves.

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