The falling man falls through the feed while, beneath him,
female soldiers serve in a bunker. Then, someone reposts,
and the order reverses, the women behind the blast door
now above the man who plummets. Both make the heart
hammer: the dead man, not yet dead, and the women, living,
but standing ready to dispense death. They are not the same,
yet they are juxtaposed. Coming upon them, our fingers
hover a moment; how much do we want to know, and what
will it cost us? For sixteen years, the falling man has triggered
panic: his knowing, his choosing, his leaping. We carry his death
like a burden we can never put down. We did nothing to stop it.
We think by not watching we are somehow absolved, but he falls
regardless. So too, the missiles. We will not launch them. Neither
can we stop them. Yet we are implicated in our Age, born into it;
its hectic pulse hammers within us. We shake. We tremble.
Our lines quiver across the page. No one wants to claim
the falling man. We refuse him, his helplessness, his nakedness
before our lenses, the wind pulling the clothes off his body,
our eyes doing the same. So too, the women, deep underground.
It was better before we knew they were there, each with her half
of the code, ready to key in the launch, ten missiles on standby.
Maybe their fingers will hover forever, poised for our generation
and for that of our children. We hope our hearts will quiet.
We have that guilty feeling as if we have done something wrong.
—from Poets Respond
September 17, 2017