“Enlightenment” by Rose Kelleher

Rose Kelleher


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.

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012


Rose Kelleher: “Why do I write? To be honest, I don’t write purely for the love of words, the way poets are supposed to. Usually I write because I have something to say. When I wrote ‘Enlightenment’ I was feeling overwhelmed, thinking of all the evil in the world. It’s just too much to process. Admitting that, and writing a depressing poem about it, is a lot like praying. You know it’s useless, but you do it anyway.”

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