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Rubber Dollie

By Scott Hightower

The only permanent thing is the soul,
and what has happened to it.

                               -Patrick Kavanagh

Like a dancer covered in nothing
but white powder, then sponged

with coarse brown makeup;
nothing else in plain sight

but silver anklets; arms
extended to take

the tribute of a guard's embrace.
We are watching from behind;

though, there are no flowers,
no curtain. And it's not a ballet.

It's a macabre charade,
one night in the secret

theater of Abu Ghraib.
The anklets are shackles.

In another, a leashed
dog-loud, black,

and snarling--takes
center stage. And, in others,

real men, looking like oddly
manipulated Kachina dolls

or naked degraded marionettes
in medieval hoods--

their elbows akimbo--
are paraded, strung erect,

wired, collapsed;
are stacked into a pile.

"Save us
from noisy oblivion;

from despair. Save us,
one by one,

from Roman cruelty;
from death

by water;
from death

by fire. Save us
from being eaten alive."

Added: Wednesday, July 2, 2014  /  First published in "I Go to the Ruined Place: Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights" (Lost Horse Press), edited by Melissa Kwasny and M.L Smoker. Used with permission.