POEM LXXIX: “FEMALE STORMTROOPER”

You can’t see me from the outside.
This armor erases all gender,
all race,
all trace of individuality.

I marched right past my own mother in parade formation one year
She didn’t even know when I had passed.
Fourth block, third row, eighteenth from the dais, that’s me,
and if I fell down dead from aneurysm,
or blew a big pink gum-bubble,
or did jumping jacks until someone tackled me,
it’s the only way you’d know.

A monolithic army is both strong and weak:

I can’t tell you how many times
I’ve come around a corner with five other troopers
and encountered fifteen scared country peasants
laying down their arms.
It’s not the numbers they surrender to,
it’s the numbers we represent.
I am legion because I look like legion.
And legion looks like me.

But by the same token,
I wish my mother had recognized me.

This armor makes me imposing,
but also easier to kill.
Anyone can aim at a faceless drone.
It is harder to shoot a frightened woman,
a crying boy,
a man who is begging you not to shoot him again.

Once I asked my mother who won
some ancient skirmish
on some forgotten shore.
“No one wins a war,” she said.
I thought it glib and silly.
Now, I’m not so sure.

I wear this to make war possible,
but war can be made on me.

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