Sound & Light Show, poem by Robert Hill Long

      County fair August, windless sunset:
      Robinson can’t hearing Hoobastank
      pounding their overamped, unvarying fortissimos
      a mile away to girl-screams.
      Overhead, silence of jet trails

      connecting Miami to New York.
      What diff between power-chord riffs
      and bombardment supported by heavy
      machineguns, between commercial jet vapor
      and vapor of fighter-bomber sorties?

      The screams at each end
      are the same: girl-women finding
      themselves alone in a chorus
      of survivors, luckless or lucky.
      Luck’s imperial: sandals, cotton candy,

      ferris wheels neoning the background.
      Lucklessness equals rubble, dead babies,
      after-effect of mortar and rocket.
      Robinson on his condo porch
      feels like a journalist perched

      at Saigon’s Hotel Continental, auditioning
      the Tet Offensive. He’s anchored
      a band this loud, backed
      by speaker-stacks canted like artillery:
      he understands their passionate damage,

      why survivors surge forward, embracing
      or condemning the all-conquering weaponry.
      They’re either ecstatic or destroyed
      according to the war zone.
      His privilege was imperial safety,

      girls warring with absent parents
      for the right to masturbate
      his sweaty weapon outside Charleston.
      He can only imagine Baghdad’s
      sound-and-light shows, young widows rushing

      machinegun emplacements powered by Hoobastank.
      At some point they reach
      the same barrier, elevated stage
      on which the warriors perform,
      armored by Kevlar or guitars,

      are thrust back by roadies
      or concertina wire. Robinson’s sick
      of either/or, which makes no
      difference. In greater Atlanta’s dark,
      he hears the diminishing screams—

      girls riding the Zipper, victims
      of the Octopus, boys BB-machinegunning
      midway bullseyes. White flatline of
      jets overhead. Robinson dozes, Hoobastank’s
      done. Ambulances take center stage.

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Melanie Faith