Joshua McKinney

March Ghazal

Under mud and brittle leaves, in a month named for war,
the throes of spring begin, ecstatic and adorned for war.

Behold the hordes stumbling in cracked earth, clutching
their children, torn, numb. They will be blamed for war.

Of the estimated 500 million firearms worldwide, 100 million
belong to the Kalashnikov family, a family famed for war.

Behold the desperate vessel tossed at sea, the tiny body
on the beach. For what are we thus shamed? For war?

The nominee presumed to know the people’s needs. In fact,
he understood their fear. And so he campaigned for war.

Consider the irony in the nomenclature of genocide: Apache,
Kiowa, Chinook, Tomahawk. We use these names for war.

In Belgium, 1915, poppies dotted the shattered fields.
In Kandahar, 2018—a sea of poppies farmed for war.

The slogan reads Our Children, Our Future. But the displaced
children have no future—an entire generation claimed for war.

The ex-soldier cannot sleep. He is afraid of crowds, loud
noises, even trash. Is this what it means to be trained for war?

Who cares that a short-tailed bandicoot rat went extinct
when the Mesopotamian Marshes were drained for war?

The ancient Romans extolled the dual virtues of spring,
a time for planting, a time when earth grew warm for war.

Even I, Kafir, nonbeliever that I am, can see the coming
of a time when all months shall be renamed for war.


Joshua McKinney’s fourth collection of poetry, Small Sillion, is forthcoming from Free Verse Editions in 2018. He is the co-winner of the University of Georgia Press Poetry Series Open Competition, the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize, the Dickinson Poetry Prize, and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative American Poetry. His work has appeared in such journals as American Letters & Commentary, Boulevard, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Kenyon Review, New American Writing, and many others. He teaches poetry writing and literature at California State University, Sacramento. A longtime student of Japanese swordsmanship, he is a member of Senkakukan Dojo of Sacramento.

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