The world’s first films were violent –
the fictional execution of Mary Stuart,
the real execution of an elephant,
and Le Manoir du Diable,
in which a chevalier defeats the devil
with a sword and crucifix. Life is cruel,
but you don’t tell this to children anymore.
You laugh at cartoon hunchbacks and pretend
your little masks are anything other than rituals
for the dead. You know the world is shadow,
and that no darkness is ever safe.
For every bird, there is a stone in someone’s hand.
You’ve tied your victims to their stakes and burned
the villages around them. What kind of world is this?
You’ve walked in its lonely places at the edge of dread.
You’ve been to its ghost-riddled crossroads, your head
full of questions you know you’ll never ask.
Because you’re still listening, I’ll tell you a story.
It’s about a forest path, a lake scattered with bone-
thin branches, and kids who scurry into the woods
to grow up too fast. Is it necessary to always
speak of trees? Why do I tell you anything?
When I have nothing to say, I simply walk away.
I’ve kept my word. I’ve promised you nothing.
If we all disappeared into fog-machine mist
and sat quietly in our seats, nothing would change.
You say the wicked will always be punished.
I think that someday a child will murder me,
as they always do. There’s enough cruelty
to last forever. When I’m gone
you’ll still remember something about rain,
and a wheel spinning, with a serpent
being crushed beneath it.
Jonathan Minton lives in central West Virginia, where he is a Professor of English at Glenville State College. He is the author of Technical Notes for Bird Government (Telemetry Press, 2018), In Gesture (Dyad Press, 2009), and Lost Languages (Long Leaf Press, 1999). He is the editor of the journal Word For/Word (www.wordforword.info).