The knowledge that napalm exists,
that it was designed to do what it does
and that we use it knowingly, can’t be
unlearned. Such knowledge burns itself
into the brain’s soft tissue, a burn so slow
it can last for 40 years and keep on burning.
Down through the complex network
of surface squiggles, into the mind’s meat
it sinks like a live coal, and keeps on sinking.
It burns through philosophy, it burns through art.
Wet sentiment yields with a hiss; a wisp of mist,
then nothing. The knowledge of napalm eats
Dostoyevsky for breakfast and keeps on eating,
burns every cross there is and keeps on burning,
the unthinkable, once thought, forever thinking,
more merciless than the Viet Cong, tunneling
down to the part of us that’s hard and lasting.

2013 © Rose Kelleher