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Forced March

after Dan Beachy-Quick


The difference between marching and walking is the order
to depart from the barracks, automatic rifles behind us. 
Around their stocks and grips, their barrels and magazines
are the hands of guards, one of whom shouts from the muzzle
of his mouth not a name, not one of our names, just you. 
It is as if he has rolled a boulder away from the entrance 
of a cave and waits for one of us to walk inside, 
to succumb to the curiosity of knowing who is being called. 
Dear lord, it is as if you gave us free will only to know its absence. 
Only to feel it being punctured by the free will of others. 
Instead of stepping out of line I pray this into the lingering 
you, which sounds like bread because I am hungry, 
almost like my own name, which I have tried but cannot eat. 
You, the guard shouts again, hey you, and this time 
one of us turns to face the guard—he steps out
as though into a clearing, without the cover of understory. 
To see whether the you the guard calls out is the same 
his daughter touches when her lips would meet his cheek. 
Which, of course, it is, so the guard raises his rifle, 
aims it at the man’s body and shoots him. 





This poem is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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