“We are certainly capable of performing better.”
—Pentagon official reviewing drone strikes on civilians,
in FOIA documentation as reported by Azmat Khan
Like the first hot pepper sears,
then the tongue’s alarm slows
to a prickly, pleasant buzz. Barely registers.
Like the nose stops sending the message to the brain
when steeped in the same stink for a while.
The stream of bombers overhead
blends to a low buzzing in the body
constant enough to ignore.
Can’t hear the drone coming.
No flag. No uniform.
No one can see who
is shooting anymore.
Who hates us and why?
the children might have asked.
Who will survive me
without my part in their lives?
the grandfather thinks.
Problem solved when all twenty-one family members
gather, then explode.
* * *
The operator wearing desert camouflage
(for no apparent reason, as he is sitting
in front of a console in Virginia)
does not think he will suffer from trauma:
“never saw combat,”
he’ll tell his grandchildren.
What he does see is no more horrific than
his favorite movies;
the controller is smaller than
his childhood video games’.
the keyboard is one he can use
to write a letter home
that will not mention what he saw.