Empire of agony

A one-year-old infant
Snatched from its migrant parents
Attempting to cross the border
Without papers
Is taken to court by strangers
For a deportation hearing
And sobs uncontrollably
For its mama and papa.

Other children taken
From their frontier-crossing families
Are housed in cages, tents,
Inside CIA black sites,
Like little terrorists.
It is uncertain whether anyone knows
Who or where
Their parents are,
Or whether they will ever be reunited.

This is America,
Land of extravaganza
And self-congratulation,
Land of football
And the Fourth of July,
Of blockbuster super-heroes,
Super models,
Land of cosmetic surgery,
Air conditioning, artificial lawns and intelligence,
Technological innovation
At the speed of light,
But our greatest national accomplishments
Are in the application of cruelty,
Ever-honing the fine arts
Of inflicting pain
At home and abroad.

This is America,
Trauma is our supreme achievement.
The mangled and maimed and murdered
On whose nightmares and bones
We have built our nation
And our empire
Will testify from their graves
To the thoroughness
Of our good work,
The refugees and displaced and dispossessed,
Adrift on a planet twisted and trashed
By U.S. interventions
Will give witness
To our powers of devastation.
And a one-year-old infant
In a courtroom in Texas
Will remind us
Of how we have fashioned this nation
Out of misery and tears.

Buff Whitman-Bradley's poems have appeared in many print and online journals. His most recent books are To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World, and Cancer Cantata. With his wife Cynthia, he produced the award-winning documentary film "Outside In," and with the MIRC film collective, made the film "Por Que Venimos." His interviews with soldiers refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan were made into the book "About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War." He lives in northern California. Read other articles by Buff.