I learnt in school that war is what happens
when nations disagree, but the textbooks never told me
that war is also what happens when parents disagree;
and when children throw insults harder than they throw baseballs,
and when I cannot get out of my bed in the morning,
because there is a voice in my head that tells me
I might win the battle, but I will not win the —
War is what happens when teachers call on the students
who don’t have the answers, and they are left
fighting their father once he sees the report card.
War is what happens when it rains so hard
blades of grass bend over, defeated.
I have seen war across some people’s wrists.
I have seen it on bones, trying to revolt the flesh.
I have seen it in eyes, like double whiskey shots
that are drunk of self hatred.
I thought war was loud, it was supposed to be
bombs and a dictator’s speech and the sound of an entire race
being crossed off one by one, like the dates of a calender.
And I can agree, that this is war but
war could also be silent.
War can be as quiet as a miscarriage.
or the therapy sessions afterwards, which are even quieter.
It can be as silent as a gas leak.
They asked me in sixth grade what war meant to me,
I told them about the holocaust, and about the Jews.
I didn’t tell them about the boy across the road from me
whose father used his forearms as ashtrays,
and whose eyeswere the star spangled flag of America.
I didn’t tell them that women have their bodies claimed,
like new worlds, and men who punch walls and wear their bruised knuckles
like honor badges for all the tears they haven’t shed because
they were raised to be soldiers and
soldiers do not cry.
I did not say all this because I was taught that war was big.
It was something that happened between countries
and it happened with armies and guns and nuclear weapons.
But if they asked me now-
if they asked me now
I would tell them war is what happens inside all of us.