Monday, May 23, 2022

Tad Tuleja


Two months into the special operation, Mariupol in ruins
and millions exiled, the news shows a clip of a man and a body
lying in the street where the invaders left it. The man—an aid
worker or a neighbor—pauses before rolling it into a bag
to cut the fetter binding the victim’s wrists.

In that small reverence, hope crawls weary from Pandora’s jar
and the dominion of the unholy is briefly undone. I give thanks for
that man’s decency even as I recall that the 20,000 Poles
killed at Katyn died according to the same grotesque formula:
bound then shot in the head by hollow men.

Now, as in 1940, the killers were following orders from afar—
the grey seats of power near Saint Basil’s. I wonder, when they got
home, what icons they kissed, what penances they mumbled, what
words they used when, holding their children’s hands, they spoke
of Mother Russia and righteous battle.

Tad reads "Take No Prisoners":

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Tad confesses: "This poem, inspired by seeing film of a man cutting free the bound wrists of a murdered Ukrainian civilian, asks the reader to consider what a 'no prisoners' policy does, not just to its victims but to the soldiers who are ordered to carry it out."

TAD TULEJA is a Texas-based folklorist and songwriter with interests in the Hollywood Western, honor cultures, and the mythology of violence. He has written or edited thirty books, including novels and nonfiction works on language, history, popular culture, and military traditions. His thoughts on nationalism inform his weekly podcast Skirmishes with Patriotism. The recipient of a Puffin Foundation grant for his song cycle Skein of Arms, he performs his songs on YouTube under the name Skip Yarrow.

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