Making Soldiers

A mother spreads newsprint
to make unarmed toy
soldiers from old wooden
clothespins that hang around
in an unused bag
while her dryer tumbles
like a heated argument,
tossing clothes as steadily
as her government
tosses decisions, people, rocks.

Her grandmother used
to wring out the wear,
pin up the worn
cloth like a flag,

but she hides the articles,
spins them with machine-
made ambivalence, presses buttons
easily, so much like an unarmed
soldier who takes orders, so much
like her grandmother’s butcher,

who fills them, disguising
his kill in orange paper.
Grandmother pays more
for a fresh slaughter.

This mother can’t feed
her child red meat,
can’t handle the coolness
of dead parts, can’t remove
herself from premeditation,
cannot read the newspaper.

She paints the toy soldiers
in crimson coats, decorates
a Christmas tree with them,
wonders what history
is like in public schools,
remembers the clothes
in the still dryer,
wrinkling with time.

by Rosemarie Sprouls

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